As a worldwide reference in aquaculture, specifically in salmonids production, Chile counts with a mature industry and well positioned in the international markets. However, this situation also shows some problems: being mono-producer, an excessive geographic concentration and an arguably environment sustainability. In this scenario, Northern Catholic University (UCN) and Fundación Chile (FCh) had joined in the challenge of creating the “Center of Innovation and Development for Sustainable Aquaculture” a modern scientific and technological platform for Atacama, Coquimbo and Valparaíso regions.
As per FAO estimates, the population growth and the increasing consumptation rate of seafood will generate a deficit of about 30 millions tons of marine products for year 2030. Considering the stagnation in growth affecting the global fisheries for about 10 years now, this deficit could only be resolved by aquaculture.
Therefore, Chile should have to initiate major changes looking to diversify its marine matrix production, growing in different aquaculture products for internal consumption as well as for international markets, keeping in mind that, global demand of products intended for human and animal consumption will require an increasing environmental sustainability-framed production, diversified and regionally decentralized.
Attending this need for developing an environmentally sustainable aquaculture, with a frontier technology and oriented to achieve more productive efficiency in marine products resources selected to diversify the country’s aquaculture, this new technological center will stand for obtaining products with a high nutritional value and low environmental and economical impact. The challenge will be led by UCN y FCh, two institutions that have been facing the aquaculture challenge in the North of Chile for more than 25 years. Likewise, this project will be developed in collaboration with Austral University of Chile, international institutions and associated companies.
The total cost of the project rises to about $10.800 millions, where $6.000 of them will be given by Corfo, while the beneficiaries of the project (UCN and FCh) will contribute with $4.219.800.000, the co-executers (Austral University of Chile, University of Chile and international institutions) with $164.400.000 and the associated companies with $380.041.830.
The new center of technologies will make use of the aquaculture, science and technology infrastructure that the Catholic Northern University together with Fundación Chile have in the Coquimbo region, where new productive technologies for the commercial valuable species will be developed. Both institutions have the necessary expertise to domesticate different shellfish, crustaceans and fishes, so they can transfer them to the private sector in order to diversify and increase the production of marine resources. The UCN having more of a scientific outlook, approaches cross-cutting aspects from basic biology oriented towards the aquaculture production to the developing of technologies for experimental crops and FCh, with more of a closer approach to productive scaling and commercial pilot production with the final purpose of evaluating the aquaculture issues from a private producer perspective.
“Ultimately- highlights Alfonso Silva, dean of the Faculty of Marine Sciences UCN- the creation of the Center for Innovation and Development for Sustainable Aquaculture is based in a necessary and powerful strategic alliance that observes the salmon industry experiences we have had on the south of our country, in order to learn from its accomplishments as much as its failures and unresolved challenges; that wants to position itself as a worldwide leader in generating aquaculture technologies that will allow to contribute in solving the global protein deficiency problem denounced by FAO; and that will stimulate the aquaculture diversification on the north of our country in order to have clear productive and social effects within the coastal communities.
For his part, the Aquaculture manager of Fundación Chile, Andrés Barros, indicates that “the aquaculture development in the north is a diversification opportunity for species and geography, nowadays concentrated with salmon in the south of the country. This Center will support the consolidation of a new fish and shellfish export industry, through the applied development and technology transference for small and medium scale aquaculture, where the Northern Catholic University and Fundación Chile have a vast experience”
The five pillars
The center will be underpinned in five scientific-technological pillars that will interact and strengthen each other, with the purpose of developing productive technologies based in scientific knowledge and answering the demand of technological companies that are interested in farming with a high level of domestication and productive stability.
The five pillars match with equal number of subprogrammes: 1) Basic Applied Sciencies in areas such as nutrition, pathology, engineering and cultivation technology, genetics and environment sustainability, conducted by UCN specialists; 2) Co-Execution, developed in alliance with Austral University of Chile, University of Chile and international institutions, to complete transferable research and development processes. Also to generate and introduce capabilities into the same technological center; 3) Productive Scaling of the experimentally developed technologies, responsibility of FCh. This subprogramme will allow to estimate in economic terms the effects of the newly created technologies and make the necessary adjustments in order to achieve interesting productive yields for the sector stakeholders; 4) Liaison and technology transfer, together with training of human capital, development of outreach programmes and generation of technological demand from the already settled companies or new productive ventures, task that will be managed by a centrally-operated independent unit and a 5) Economic Sustainability subprogramme, with a long term view, based in the products and services that the programme will generate itself: productive technology transfer; complete technological packages; aquaculture training programmes, supply of seeds and several juvenile species of molluscs and fishes sanitary certified; supply of selected genetic material; license for the application of genetic selection programmes, design at detail engineering level of productive aquaculture projects with modern technology; patenting and licensing formulas for the elaboration of a specific-species food.