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Last update: May 2021

Menu Logo Principal Agricultural University of Athens Alga + Agricultural Research for Development Hellenic Center for Marine Reasearch French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development Asociaţa Naţională a Producătorilor din Pescărie Universitas Galatiensis

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Project results summary

Final project summary

Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) is a promising perspective to develop efficient and environmentally friendly aquaculture. The IMTA-Effect project, supported by EU ERANET-COFASP, intended to provide new knowledge to support the IMTA development using experimental and modeling approaches. The project involved two main groups of IMTA’s designs: (i) the first one where species were reared all together (e.g. in pond polyculture) and where interactions could be diverse (nutritional, attitudinal…); and (ii) the other where each species was reared in separated enclosures (compartmented) to better control the nutrient flows. These systems were conducted in two water types: (i) seawater pond (fish + filter-feeders+ deposit feeder or macroalgae) studied by IPMA in Portugal and by HCMR in Greece, and RAS (compartmented fish and macroalgae IMTA) in Greece by AUA , and in France, by ISEM and Ifremer (marine fish, phytoplankton, oyster, and ragworm); and (ii) fresh water ponds, in rice-fish culture studied by ISEM in Madagascar, and in semi-separated ponds for carp polyculture by UDJG and Romfish in Romania, or for Gourami/Azolla in Indonesia. Compartmented IMTA (fish pond polyculture + macrophyte pond) was studied in France by INRA.

The different case studies revealed that in IMTA, adapted management of the interaction between species of different trophic groups permits to improve the aquaculture system. The overall productivity of the integrated systems compared to the reference fish monoculture can be increased by the production of other products and/or services. It globally increases the efficiency of fish feeding by recycling within the system loop and therefore, limits the environmental impacts as shown in Romania. IMTA permits also diversification of the aquatic products, contributing to aquatic farm robustness. The key role of primary producers (plants, micro and macro algae) as the engine for nutrient recycling was documented. Their role in the regulation of gas (CO2 and O2) and water quality was shown as they can dramatically reduce the water concentration in nitrogen and phosphorus in pond and RAS. Primary producers can also be a major contributor to the nutrition bivalves in RAS, or being an alternative source of feed for fish and decrease the dependence on formulated feed ( in RAS in France or in pond system in Indonesia). A positive effect was also demonstrated on the welfare of fish in RAS system in Greece. Conversely, the positive effect of fish and bivalves on the productivity of primary producers overpass the simple exchange of nutrients. As examples, the bivalves can increase the water transparency and favor photosynthesis and oxygen availability in coastal ponds in Portugal, and the burrower activity of carp permits an increase of rice filed up to 20% in rice-fish culture in Madagascar.

During the IMTA-Effect project a step forward was achieved in system modelling. An effort was made to characterize the energy distribution (DEB) in rag worms, and to model the food web structure in pond systems using Ecopath with Ecosim in parallel to the use of C and N isotopes, which sign the fate of nutrient in the food web. These studies will permit to better build the associations of species in IMTA systems. Moreover, environmental assessment was conducted using Life Cycle Assessment and Emergy accounting, showing that the improvement in productivity and the limitation in pollutant emissions leaded to better environmental profiles. Nevertheless, the energy consumption has to be considered in RAS.

The surveys conducted in the different countries showed a lack of knowledge on IMTA but a good perception of their potential as a sustainable perspective for aquaculture. IMTA provides an increase in the ecosystem services and this can be used to promote its application.

IMTA-Effect project was a good opportunity to strengthen the basis of knowledge and the diffusion of new practices in the aquaculture sector, opening new perspectives of development.

Get the brochure of results

For more information : long version