A ground-breaking king salmon research programme is underway at Cawthron Institute. The programme aims to improve the profitability and production efficiency of king salmon and involves collaboration between the salmon aquaculture industry, feed companies, universities, research institutes, and international scientists.
Cawthron Senior Aquaculture Scientist Dr Jane Symonds is leading the programme and explained why the programme is important, “Atlantic Salmon have been heavily researched, but much less is known about the king salmon species farmed in New Zealand.
“It’s important we identify and fill knowledge gaps, because by understanding processes that influence king salmon’s feed conversion, industry can improve their performance, profitability, and sustainability,” said Dr Symonds.
The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment is funding this $12.85 million research programme and industry are providing vital input by sharing their priorities and challenges with the research team, as well as data, staff and infrastructure, and fish for sampling and trials.
Aquaculture New Zealand Technical Director Colin Johnston said, “The research programme aims to convert feed into fish more efficiently, and that can only be a good thing.”
The research follows three broad themes; the indicators of healthy king salmon, on farm performance and environmental interactions, and improving performance and efficiency.
In 2018 experimental trials will begin in a purpose built multi-million dollar facility at the Cawthron Aquaculture Park. In the trials individual fish will be tagged, tracked, and measured; allowing scientists to understand how each fish responds to changes in its environment and feed.
The programme will make good use of emerging omics technologies to decipher the genome, microbiome and metabolome of king salmon providing unparalleled insight into the whole organism at the molecular level. Using an integrated systems biology approach the research will cover many aspects of king salmon biology to elucidate the key drivers of efficiency such as behaviour, health, gut bacteria, genetics, blood biochemistry and metabolite profiles. The salmon industry has established family based selective breeding programmes, so they will be able to use the information we generate in those programmes,” said Dr Symonds.
Ultimately the king salmon feed efficiency programme will equip farmers with the knowledge needed to improve on farm production, supporting the future growth of this sustainable industry.