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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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What is IMTA?

© IMTA-Effect project

IMTA is based on, the integration of complementary species of the trophic chain living in different compartments of the ecosystem. Inorganic and organic wastes from fed aquaculture species (e.g. finfish) are respectively assimilated by autotrophic species (e.g. phytoplankton, macroalgae, plants) and heterotrophic species (e.g. oysters, mussels, sea cucumbers) that are co-cultured with the fed aquaculture species. Thus, the generic concept of IMTA covers a large set of practices based on the complementarity of productive compartments and is applied for many groups of species inhabiting different ecological niches. Different types of integrated rearing systems have been proposed in temperate and tropical areas, such as  the association of Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar), macroalgae (Saccharina latissima) and mussel (Mytilus edulis) in Canada (Barrington et al. 2010) or the association macroalgae-scalops, urchin- gilthead seabream, seabream-mullet in Israel (Neori et al. 2007). Another design of IMTA can be realized using water macrophytes for purifying water and for providing an alternative source of feed for fish. The improvement of water quality by macrophytes in aquaculture is well studied and tested in field condition (Hasan and Chakrabarti, 2009).

Aquatic plants are a source of proteins and microelements and are well accepted by omnivorous fishes (El Shafai et al., 2004); however their nutritional properties can vary depending on species and environmental conditions. Plants can also be incorporated in fish feed (at least in homemade feed) and thus replace other source of feeds in part or totality (Hasan and Chakrabarti, 2009). Feeds are widely acknowledged as the inputs having the highest economic and ecological costs in aquaculture.

Basically, IMTA systems have been designed in order to:

  • Optimize the use of nutrients and energy in the production loop, in order to decrease the dependence on external inputs, and increase the system efficiency
  • Decrease the waste effluent and bio-deposit impacts by limiting the loss of nutrients (in water, sediments and air)
  • Diversify farm- products and generate a more robust source of income (less dependent on mono-product markets)
  • Generate and use different types and levels of ecosystem services

Implementing IMTA approach would contribute to better integrate and root the production system in its territory, particularly in the ecosystem, and the socioeconomic environment.