Research Projects
NSERC Canadian Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture Network

Research Projects

Project Title: 
A variation on the IMTA theme for land-based, freshwater aquaculture operations: the development of aquaponics for salmon and aquatic plants

Project Description: 

So far, CIMTAN projects have been working on developing IMTA for the seawater grow-out phase of salmon aquaculture (Chopin et al. 2012). However, salmon spends the early part of its life cycle in freshwater and, in the case of aquaculture, in land-based freshwater hatcheries before being transferred to open-seawater sites. If salmon spend between 1.5 to 2 years in seawater pens, they have spent previously between 9 and 18 months in freshwater hatcheries.      

From an economic and marketing perspective, it would be most interesting to develop an overall system where salmon would be IMTA-produced from the egg to the plate, as this would help considerably the Canadian aquaculture industry in certification scheme and obtaining premium prices. The variant of IMTA for freshwater operations is also called aquaponics (as opposed to hydroponics, where organisms are gown on liquid media supplemented with nutrients). In the case of aquaponics, the IMTA concept is applied and nutrients are provided by the fed component (generally fish or shrimps). From an environmental perspective, it would also be the same strategy of recapturing lost nutrients and energy and converting them in biomass of commercial value. Of course, the extractive species and infrastructures will be different from what we have developed so far at open-seawater sites.

Aquaponic systems have been in existence for many centuries, being used by the Aztecs, in China and in Egypt (Diver 2006). Fish species grown in aquaponic systems are most often fish that spend their entire life cycle in freshwater (e.g. tilapia, perch, catfish, trout; Rakocy et al. 2006). A few species of Pacific salmon have been cultivated in aquaponic system, but it has remained at the level of small scale operations. To our knowledge, aquaponics of the early freshwater stages of Atlantic salmon has never been attempted successfully.

It is also interesting to note that the New Brunswick Department of the Environment is very interested in our initiative to develop freshwater IMTA. At a time when regulations for the freshwater fish hatcheries are moving towards a performance-based standard approach, freshwater IMTA could be a very efficient strategy for effluent biotreatment of land-based facilities and could become an important component of their up-coming Environmental Management Program.

Project Leader Name: 
Thierry Chopin (UNBSJ)

Project Leader E-mail Contact: 

Team Members’ Names and Affiliations (Researchers and Students): 
Hamid Khoda Bakhsh (UNBSJ)

Hamid Khoda Bakhsh, Stacy Murray and Thierry Chopin examining growing plants in a model Freshwater IMTA setup

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