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Algae technology aiding aquaculture sustainability and food security

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Publication Date: 
October 2020

Case study from: International research collaboration

Aquaculture is the fastest growing food production sector globally, and in the Southeast Asian region in particular.

L. vannamei, or the Pacific white shrimp, is one of the most produced aquaculture species. It grows quickly and tolerates high salinity and culture density, which is common in Southeast Asia.

Sustainability in intensive cultivation regimes with high density growth cultures is the major challenge to maintaining food security. It is also a challenge for improving livelihoods for agricultural communities.

Inconsistencies in yields and quality lead to economic losses. This affects in-country food supply and export potential.

Factors impacting yield are:

  • poor water quality
  • misuse of chemicals
  • resistant pathogens.

Pacific Bio, an Australian aquaculture and biotechnology company, and James Cook University have developed an algae bioremediation system. It uses local green macroalgae to remove nitrogen and phosphorus from water. The system improves water quality.

In Australia, testing of the efficiency of this treatment took place in:

  • municipal treatment plants
  • aquafarms
  • a range of industrial settings.

The technology was deemed successful, efficient and economically viable.

Global Innovation Linkages program

In 2016 Pacific Bio partnered with Viet-UC, a leading Vietnamese shrimp producer.

This was possible with the support of a Global Innovation Linkages (GIL) grant. The GIL grant was over $850,000.

Researchers from James Cook University and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) also joined the project. They provided expertise in algae and water nutrient analysis.

Domestic and international partners of Bio Pacific contributed more than $1 million to the project. This exceeded the GIL program minimum requirement of 50% matched funding.

Together, the partners tested the bioremediation technology outside of Australia.

Trials ran at the Viet-UC shrimp growing facility in Vietnam. They also took place in the AVA Marine Aquaculture Centre in Singapore.

Testing established that the Pacific Bio technology is safe for shrimp farming.

The technology enables more sustainable farming practices by:

  • including algae (Ulva lactuca) in the feed
  • minimising the use of antibiotics and chemicals.

The technology also boosts the shrimps’ immune system and results in higher productivity and yield per square metre.

The improvement of the shrimps’ health, colour and size leads to a more desirable product.

Two people standing in front of a shrimp farm.

Long-term global partnership

The partnership between the Australian and Vietnamese businesses has generated valuable intellectual property. It also led to globally marketable outcomes for both partners.

The technology will help Pacific Bio establish themselves in Southeast Asian region. It will increase sustainability and improve farm practices. For Viet-UC the partnership means an opportunity to enter the Western market.

The participants in this GIL project are looking forward to further collaboration.

Pacific Bio, the UNSW Centre of Marine Bio-Innovation and the Mark Wainwright Analytical Centre, will continue working together. Their focus will be on bacterial communities in the water and gut bacteria of shrimps.

Pacific Bio also values their relationship with the world leader in algae research, the Centre for Macroalgal Resources and Biotechnology at James Cook University.

The roll-out of the technology will establish new partnerships. Australia and global businesses can work to improve food security and sustainability.

Team leaders

Australian Team Leader:
Dan Mulder
Pacific Bio

International Team Leader:
Lam Dinh,
Viet-UC

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