NTNU has been given the national responsibility for graduate engineering education. Through prioritizing ‘Marine science and technology’ as one of six focus areas for research, the university is encouraging the integration of knowledge from a wide range of engineering and bioscience disciplines. NTNUs special competence is related to open ocean cage systems, land based recycling systems, and hatchery technology and logistics.
The Centre for Aquaculture and Fisheries at Sealab was established in 2006 with hatchery and recycling aquaculture systems. Its laboratories are equipped with a wide variety of instruments, such as a spectrophotometer and a spectrofluorometer (both including temperature control and a microplate reader), a Gas Chromatographer, a HPLC, a coulter counter and an algae incubator. At the morphology lab one fluorescence microscope and one light microscope with a computer-assisted stereological toolbox for making 3D-calculations from histological sections, are available.
The new facilities of Centre of Fisheries and Aquaculture at NTNU were established in 2007 in order to stimulate interdisciplinary research and education in the fields of aquaculture and fisheries. The Centre houses laboratories for the cultivation of both marine and freshwater organisms under controlled conditions.
The automated start-feeding CodTech rig consists of 18 tanks of 160 l each. It is suitable for experiments on a wide range of freshwater and marine species, and the rig is especially designed for controlled experiments with pelagic fish larvae. Continuous in-house cultures of live prey organisms (rotifers, Artemia, copepods) and microalgae provide a good basis for nutritional and developmental studies of marine fish during larval and fingerling life stages. Environmental variables, such as temperature, light, dissolved oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nutrient concentration are monitored and controlled electronically. The installations thus provide a unique degree of flexibility and automation, which can guarantee optimal cultivation conditions on a continuous basis. Incoming water undergoes a microbial maturation process whereas effluents are submitted to an advanced disinfection procedure. The latter makes the facilities particularly attractive for experiments with different bacterial communities and possible contaminants. In 2008, the laboratories were upgraded to an experimental facility with automatically controlled feeding, water exchange and light, and online measurements of live feed density. All tanks are equipped with underwater cameras for remote observation. This combination makes the facility one of the most advanced cultivation hatchery units in Europe.
Services currently offered by the infrastructure
NTNUs automated start-feeding rig provides a stimulating and integrated environment for applied research in the field of marine aquaculture technology, fish biology and environmentally related issues. It serves as a principal facility for the development of intensive methods for the production of marine fish larvae. There are well established laboratories for experimental studies of fish cultivation, developmental biology, larval rearing and live prey production, and well equipped laboratories for molecular analyses, histology, microbiology, and biochemistry.
The aquaculture research group has been pioneers in developing biological knowledge and technology for intensive larval rearing of coldwater species, with numerous national and international research projects, and major international involvement in R&D. The group has a long experience in innovating and improving start feeding techniques related to the cultivation of marine fish species, in particular cod, halibut and cod, but also for more tropical species such as cobia and Asian sea bass. The group has published more than 400 scientific, refereed publications directly related to larval rearing, and more than 20 PhD- and 100 MSc-students have graduated in the field. A major expertise has been built up on the establishment of a stable tank environment, through the use of microalgae, reduction of opportunistic bacteria, and the stimulation of a balanced microflora, both in the fish gut and in the live prey organisms. Specific attention has been given to the function of probiotic bacteria in intensive aquaculture. During recent years, the facility has also contributed significantly to the development of methods for cultivation of continous lines of copepods (Calanus finmarchicus and Acartia tonsa). These organisms are considered to be important alternative larval feed sources in mariculture, as well as being increasingly used as model species for environmental and toxicological studies.
Marine fish require different types of live prey during the first stages of their life. NTNU has the capacity and experience to produce different types of live feed, depending on the species cultivated and the specific needs of the experiments: microalgae, rotifers, artemia and copepods. These prey organisms can also be enriched in various ways, in order to provide fish larvae with requested nutritional contents according to experimental design.
Since establishment of the laboratory in 2007, a unique cooperation between the aquaculture group from the Department of Biology, Department of Biotechnology, and the Department of Engineering Cybernetics has resulted in significant contributions in the application of control engineering on the marine larviculture process (especially through the recent large strategic research programme CODTECH, funded by the Norwegian Research Council, 2003-2007). These include automatic live feed monitoring equipment, full appetite controlled feeding, and a model based system for estimating larval density from live feed dynamics. The automated start-feeding rig serves as a showcase for these technologies, and offers an experimental environment where more advanced research both on biological and technological aspects of the rearing process can be performed.
An upgrading of the CodTech facilities, including testing and calibration of its monitoring instruments and control equipment has only recently been finalised. Hence, there is no track record yet of its annual use by external users. Still, the start feeding rig is planned to be used for training of students within engineering, biology and microbiology at PhD and MSc levels. The NTNU “International Master Programme in Marine Coastal Development” offers aquaculture studies, where several students already have used the CodTech facility in their MSc thesis projects. Since the first publications and conference presentations about the CodTech system, several external research groups have expressed interest in collaborating through use of the new technological systems.
Modality of access
As soon as a proposal for access is approved by the evaluation panel, the group leader will be contacted and be appointed a contact person at the infrastructure. This person will be responsible for the preparation of the planned experiments. Typically, the group leader will be invited to Trondheim to have a first discussion on experimental set-up combined with a visit to the premises, in advance of the start of the project. Details to be clarified with the facility provider are the number of tanks, species, quantity of eggs or larvae, instruments and analytical labs needed. In addition to the contact person, researchers and/or students working in similar field of research may join the group. This will stimulate the interaction between external and internal users of the facilities, resulting in an expansion of the existing collaborative network and eventually in joint publications. All group members will be offered a work space, from where they will have access to all necessary office amenities, such as telephone, internet, copy and printing services. In addition, they will be given the possibility to access laboratory space where the results can be analysed. A project will typically last about 7 weeks, including preparations and performance of the experiments. Upon request, guest researchers and students can join different educational elements that are part of the International Master of Marine Coastal Development.
We anticipate having 3 projects, with duration of 7 weeks each, adding up to 21 weeks in total. 40 days for the experiment and 1 extra week for preparation/analysis.
The Codtech facilities are organised under the NTNU focus area “Marine Coastal Development”. Monitoring and controlling equipment is designed in-house, and therefore, state-of-the-art expertise will also available to external users. During the transnational access project, support will be offered on a scientific, technical and logistic level:
Scientific support: With marine larval technology and engineering at the centre of research, a wide range of disciplines is represented. The scientific staff involved in the ongoing interdisciplinary research and education activities consists of professors, post-doctoral and senior researchers from several departments and faculties. The presence of experts and broad knowledge in first feeding experiments and cultivation of planktonic organisms, fish physiology, larval development and nutrition, microbiology, functional genomics, biotechnology, marine cybernetics, robotics, control systems and ICT tools in intensive aquaculture systems, provides a stimulating research area for external researchers and students visiting the facilities at Sealab.
Technical support: Dedicated technical staff for operation of 18 tanks, instruments, monitoring and sampling gear, adjustment of systems, temperature, water quality, water exchange rate according to experimental design. Supply of live prey organisms (enriched), microalgae necessary for optimal larval conditions and laboratory assistance to perform standard analyses of samples.
Logistic support: All users will be offered an office space, and will be connected to the wireless communication area of NTNU. They will also have the opportunity to use technical workshops, digital meeting rooms and library services. The university’s Office of International Relations offers professional services to all guest researchers. Accommodation is offered within the city of Trondheim by NTNU, which has 40 furnished and fully equipped apartments and guesthouses allocated for guest researchers.
Unit of Access
The unit of access is one week meaning the occupation of the automated start-feeding CodTech rig -which consists of 18 tanks of 160 l each- during five days.