INTEGRATE fosters cooperation for industrial transition towards Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) in the Atlantic Area

The INTEGRATE pilot actions are running

Three pilot actions are jointly conducted:

  • Pilot 1 aims to test new eco-friendly technologies and high value seaweeds (Codium tomentosum, Palmaria palmata, Porphyra purpurea, Himanthalia elongata and Ulva spp.) applied to IMTA.
  • Pilot 2 focuses on near-shore eco-friendly developments of the integrated Porphyra spp. + oyster system.
  • Pilot 3 tests and develops an IMTA eco-friendly standard model for land-based semi-extensive aquaculture industry. This will explore different combinations of fish, bivalves and seaweeds.


PILOT 1: new eco-friendly technologies and high value seaweeds

Pilot 1 studies innovative IMTA systems to find alternatives to organic and inorganic extractive components for Atlantic IMTA. Experiments will monitor performances of different IMTA associations in controlled systems. Also, IMTA’s underdeveloped benthic component will be assessed to develop suitable technologies to support it. The market potential of Atlantic IMTA seaweeds will be improved by developing production techniques for new high-value species.

Pilot 1 partners are AGROCAMPUS OUEST and CEVA (France), NUIG and ISC (Ireland), SAMS (UK) and ALGAPLUS (Portugal).


  • NUIG: Ulva/lumpsucker recirculating systems

The 8 recirculating systems we have been building are very close to completion and we are ready to begin the first growth trials in January.

NUIG’s Ulva/lumpsucker recirculating systems

Coming in 2019 we will begin the growth and nutrient uptake assays for the ulva and analyse the harvested ulva for metals, protein, CHN.


  • ISC: Cultivation Himanthalia elongata:

Sea Spaghetti is ready to go to Sea!

The Irish Seaweed Consultancy (ISC) is cultivating Himanthalia elongata (Sea spaghetti) as a potential new species in an IMTA system.Eggs and sperm were continuously released from August until end of October. Throughout this time scallop shells were used as a seeding substrate , with good attachment results. Shells covered with fertilised Himanthalia eggs are now in aerated tanks, waiting to be moved to the IMTA farm this winter.

Scallop shells seeded with young Himanthalia buttons
Himanthalia buttons seeded on scallop shells growing in the nursery tank


  • CEVA : Definition and optimization of culture conditions for Codium tomentosum and Palmaria palmata

Assays for at-sea cultivation: Because at-sea cultivation of Codium tomentosum is forbidden in France, only the hatchery stage is operated. Different materials have been seeded with either C. tomentosum or P. palmata.

C. tomentaosum and P. palmata seeding materials

After a 1 month cultivation in hatchery, Palmaria palmata materials were transferred to CEVA’s at-sea farm. The at-sea cultivation will run until June 2019. C. tomentosum is kept in hatchery tanks.

Coming in summer 2019: analyses of biomass and chemical contents (Pigments, proteins, amino acids, heavy metals, polysaccharides).

Land based assays: The objective here is to test the efficiency of current materials used by other aquaculture sectors (Mussel and Oyster productions) as supports for seaweed aquaculture.

Design of CEVA’s land-based C. tomentosum and P. palmata systems
CEVA’s land-based C. tomentosum and P. palmata systems

Coming early 2019: analyses of biomass and chemical contents (Pigments, proteins, amino acids, heavy metals, polysaccharides).


  • ALGAPLUS: Porphyra and Codium optimized methods for cultivation in earthen ponds.

Assays were started in September 2018 and are still running.

Although there are occasional problems with epiphytes, especially during summer. A parallel project has been set up to look into how light can be used to control epiphytes.


  • AGROCAMPUS-OUEST: Integrated cultivation of Ulva, mussels and Sea cucumbers.

Experimental cultivation was designed and assays are expected to be launched early 2019.



Pilot 2: near-shore eco-friendly developments of the integrated Porphyra spp. + oyster system.

Pilot 2 seeks to develop efficient management techniques for Porphyra-oyster IMTA systems. The wild collection and hatchery production of Porphyra are being assessed in order to provide oyster farmers with new tools to support their diversification efforts, and to bring new supplies to the seaweed industry and new hatchery best practice.

Pilot 2 partners are CEVA and AGROCAMPUS OUEST (France) and Algaplus (Portugal).



ALGAPLUS has started different trials with Porphyra in tanks and earthen ponds.


  • CEVA: Porphyra purpurea strains collection and cultivation trials in French oyster farms

7 French oyster farms have been identified where Porphyra purpurea naturally settle on oyster pockets.

13 strains from these 7 farms were collected and isolated. Vegetative cultivation is in progress in order to build one strain collections of conchocelis.

Coming spring 2019:

  • Optimization of vegetative cultivation of conchocelis
  • Hatchery cultivation of seeded oyster pockets
  • Transfer in oyster farms

Coming summer 2019: Development of efficient harvest techniques for P. purpurea adapted to oyster farming.



Pilot 3: IMTA eco-friendly standard model for land-based semi-extensive aquaculture industry.

Pilot 3 focuses on land-based IMTA systems combining fish, molluscs, invertebrates and seaweed/salt tolerant plants. The possibility of controlling water flow through different compartments makes land-based systems an excellent candidate for successful Atlantic IMTA.



During the first stage of the pilot, CTAQUA has set up its experimental land-based IMTA system and tested the performance of combined oyster (Magallana gigas –Crassostrea gigas) and seaweed (Ulva sp. & Gracilaria gracilis) farming technologies.

Seeding of the upper trophic levels (fish and oysters) in the first culture unit was done in June-July 2018. A total 1500 gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata) with an average weight of 40 grams were placed in the system and are manually fed a commercial fish feed twice a day.

3000 spat of oyster with an average size of T10 –equivalent to an average weight of 4g- were seeded in the same culture unit, i.e. sharing the culture space with the gilthead seabream.

The oysters are grown in the mesh oyster bags typically used in intertidal zones. However, instead of the traditional rack support system, the bags are attached to floating devices arranged on a long-line as per IPMA’s design. This system has so far performed well and is proving to be a good solution for convenient husbandry and cleaning. The pilot started off with 5 oyster bags and is currently running 20.

Oyster bag and floating device
Oyster long-line








Seaweed cages

Seaweeds were first seeded onto a long-line system implemented in an earthen pond. Despite initial promising results, this system soon failed due to a bryozoan (Amathia verticillata, Bugula neritina) invasion which added excess weight to the ropes, thus making them sink below the euphotic zone and causing total loss of the seaweeds. Long-lines were replaced by seaweed floating cage systems that so far have proved suitable for the land-based IMTA set-up. Initial fine tuning was required and some losses were recorded, but from there onwards our seaweeds’ growth rates have been good and bryozoan invasions have ceased to be an issue. CTAQUA has implemented 8 seaweed cages in 2018.

The system is protected from predation by anti-cormorant bird netting.


Sampling strategy

In order to test the performance of the farming systems and the growth of the organisms, we have implemented a biometrics sampling strategy for the fish, the oysters and the seaweed biomass.

The fish will be sampled twice a year so as to prevent unnecessary stress, while oysters are being sampled monthly because they grow faster and the farming system we are using is new to our area. Besides, oyster-rearing in bag systems requires frequent size grading and thinning to ensure uniform growth. The oysters’ condition index is also monitored in the lab for the entire duration of the culture period in order to keep track of their growth and health.

Regarding the seaweed, apart from monitoring biomass we take regular tissue samples to analyse their nutrient content.

Water sampling kit

Finally, it is very important to monitor water quality in the culture units. Vital parameters such as temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen are recorded in situ and water samples are collected twice a month coinciding with spring and neap tides, i.e. periods of maximum and minimum flow between the compartments. Dissolved nutrient levels are recorded (nitrites, nitrates, ammonium, phosphate, Nt and Pt) to monitor nutrient uptake in the each of the compartments of the multi-trophic system.



Coming up in the pilot action

We are now entering the slow growth winter period, which is expected to last until February 2019. Monthly seaweeds & oyster sampling and water quality monitoring will continue while significant growth is registered and then the frequency will be gradually reduced to couple it to slow growth.

According to our sampling strategy, the fish will be sampled in January 2019.

Once the slow growth period is over, CTAQUA will gradually increase the number of seaweed cages until we reach our maximum capacity of 20 cages (16 Ulva sp. and 4 Gracialria gracilis).

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INTEGRATE at the 5th Atlantic Stakeholder Platform Conference

INTEGRATE partners at ASPC 2018. from left to right: Adam Hughes (SAMS), Pierre Eyrolles (AGROCAMPUS-OUEST), Rui Pereira (ALGAPLUS), Clive Dove (CTAQUA), Marie Lesueur (AGORCAMPUS-OUEST)

The 2018 Atlantic Stakeholder Platform Conference (ASPC 2018) took place in Vigo, Spain on 23-24 October, focusing on youth employment in the maritime domain. Stakeholders from all across the Atlantic seaboard gathered to discuss how to provide opportunities to pursue careers in the maritime sector, how to obtain the necessary skills and embrace innovation without negatively affecting employment in the Atlantic area, while at the same time emphasising present opportunities for project development relevant to the Atlantic strategy and to the objectives of the Atlantic Action Plan.

IMTA is based on the simultaneous production of multiple species belonging to different links in the food chain. This approach to aquaculture fits the EU’s Blue Growth strategy, responding to the growing demand for aquaculture products while improving the industry’s environmental performance and creating new jobs that are appealing to young talent. IMTA can therefore be regarded as part of the solution to the environmental and social challenges that European aquaculture is currently facing.

Adam Hughes (SAMS) discusses the Scottish case study

At ASPC 2018 AGROCAMPUS-OUEST organised Workshop 4B “Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture: Challenges and opportunities for its development on the Atlantic Area”. WP 6 leader Pierre Eyrolles described how consultation with IMTA stakeholders had been implemented during the INTEGRATE case studies and how it has helped us understand national bottlenecks and levers to the development of IMTA in Atlantic Area countries. Pierre then moved on to discuss a selection of the French case studies, while Rui Pereira (ALGAPLUS) and Adam Hughes (SAMS) discussed the Portuguese and Scottish case studies.

INTEGRATE thanks the organisers of ASPC 2018 for their support of the project.

INTEGRATE at the 2018 Atlantic Area Annual Event

On 22 October 2018 INTEGRATE took part in the Atlantic Area annual event “Blue innovation: main engine for sustainable growth in the Atlantic Area” in Vigo, Spain.

The Atlantic Area Programme selected INTEGRATE amongst other projects funded under the 2016 call to put project materials on display at the exhibition area. We sincerely thank the organisers for the opportunity they gave us to showcase INTEGRATE to an audience of 200 experts from participating Atlantic sectors.


Agenda of the 2018 Atlantic Area Annual Event Agenda Atlantic Area Annual Event 2018

NUIG and ISC hosted an IMTA Economic Round-Table with Irish experts

Irish experts gathered at NUIG’s Human Biology Building on 5 December 2018 to discuss the economic bottlenecks and priority areas for the development of IMTA in Ireland.

Participating experts: Marine Institute, Údarás na Gaeltachta (state agency responsible for economic, social and cultural development of the Irish speaking regions) and DAFM (Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine), and also two key speakers with marine economics and agricultural tech/research commercialisation expertise (Stephen Hynes and Paul Flynn).

Programme: Project INTEGRATE_Programme 5th December_IMTA Economic workshop

INTEGRATE partners host second French IMTA round-table in Rennes

French experts dig their brains during the social round-table

CEVA and Agrocampus-Ouest hosted the second French round-table to discuss IMTA social issues on 14 November 2018 in Rennes. The event gathered 16 Atlantic Area stakeholders from academia, the aquaculture industry, relevant French authorities, environmental NGOs and public organisations supporting agricultural trade and industrial development.




The event was split up into three sessions:

  1. Presentations by stakeholders to set the playing ground by introducing some of the recent conflicts related to the implementation of French aquaculture projects.

    Wrap up session
  2. Round-table to discuss social issues around IMTA products
  3. Round-table to discuss the social implications of IMTA development


Sessions 2 and 3 were in turn subdivided into the following topics:

  1. Definition of social best practices concerning French Atlantic IMTA.
  2. Bottlenecks for the development of social best practices.
  3. Priority social areas for the development of French Atlantic IMTA.


Outcome of the discussions:

Session 2:

Promotion of IMTA, creation of an IMTA eco-label and the definition of IMTA’s environmental benefits were the main identified best practices.

Social bottlenecks are i) a non-understanding or even a bad concept of IMTA within local communities, ii) the need for quality standards to govern IMTA production, iii) the difficulties of setting up labels and iv) technical farming aspects coupled to social issues, e.g. ensuring local origin of farmed products, etc.

Priority areas for development are i) a definition of IMTA (scale of the concession, company or bay, etc.), ii) the demonstration of IMTA’s environmental benefits, iii) improvement of the aquaculture sector’s ability to communicate with wider audiences, iv) a clear definition of IMTA’s target market.


Session 3:

Environmental and economic sustainability, improved communication to wider audiences, empowering stakeholders through participatory processes to implement IMTA projects and a focus on regulations to enhance and facilitate the implementation of innovative farming systems were amongst the identified best practices for IMTA development in the French Atlantic Area.

Experts discussed the following as social bottlenecks for the development of IMTA: i) lack of knowledge of IMTA -farming techniques, farming environment, visibility of IMTA products in the marketplace, ii) inefficiency of certain national regulations and management tools governing IMTA, iii) low social acceptability.

The identified priority areas were i) the need for a definition of IMTA, ii) the promotion of IMTA and its products, iii) Skill building through education, training and cooperation, iv) the need for socio-economic impact assessments illustrate the profitability of IMTA systems.

CTAQUA launches video on land-based Atlantic IMTA

SAMS is leading the production of learning materials for our first online IMTA course. CTAQUA’s latest contribution is a video presentation of its land-based IMTA pilot in the southwest of Spain. Check out the video to learn more about the development of sustainable aquaculture techniques in the Atlantic Area.