University System of Maryland (USM) scientists have developed an environmentally sustainable and cost-efficient system to increase the world's supply of high-quality seafood. The new technology has formed the basis of a licensing agreement to Maryland Sustainable Mariculture (MSM) LLC, a biotechnology start-up company in Baltimore.
The technology, known as the Recirculating Marine Aquaculture System, was developed at the former University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI) and its Center of Marine Biotechnology (COMB) by then-COMB Director Yonathan Zohar, Ph.D. , and his team. Zohar is now chair of the newly formed Department of Marine Biotechnology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).
"As our oceans run out of fish, the world is in dire need of a consistent supply of high-quality seafood," Zohar said. "The development of this technology marks the culmination of a multi-disciplinary effort, spanning a decade, to develop the next wave of aquaculture technology that produces healthy and clean seafood while having no adverse effect on the marine or coastal environments."
Under the direction of Zohar and former UMBI Director of Technology Transfer Jon Gottlieb, M.B.A., Ph.D., several USM scientists - Harold Schreier, Ph.D., Kevin Sowers, Ph.D., Allen R. Place, Ph.D., Yossi Tal, Ph.D., and Keiko Saito, Ph.D. - developed during the past decade a new generation marine aquaculture system. The system is designed to solve many environmental and biological concerns of current practices.
The breakthrough relies on a recirculating marine aquaculture technology that is environmentally sustainable and protects species from disease. The system's core uses filtration units that incorporate naturally occurring microorganisms to clean the tank water using recurring processes already found in oceans. A byproduct of the manner in which the microbes remove waste products is methane, which is captured for use as a supplemental energy source.
The technology enables a marine aquaculture facility to be located in urban or rural locations or next to airports or markets, thus reducing the carbon footprint of seafood production.
"As a result, clean and healthy fish can be made available wherever there is a demand," Gottlieb said.
As part of a reorganization by the governing University System of Maryland Board of Regents that aligns UMBI centers with other USM institutions to increase technology transfer from research discoveries, the regents have formed a new center, the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET). IMET, a partnership of three USM research institutions with strengths in environmental and life sciences, will expand on the former COMB's assets.
UMBC will collaborate with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and the University of Maryland, Baltimore to advance discovery and technology commercialization in marine and environmental fields. IMET will be based in downtown Baltimore at the former COMB facility.
Unlike the current net-pen aquaculture practices, the USM technology enables the farming of any species of marine fish. It also provides optimal farming conditions that result in faster growth of the fish to market size. The technology was successfully tested at the former COMB facility for the production of the high-value Mediterranean fish seabream (orata) and seabass (bronzini).
Posted: July 19, 2010, 12:00 PM