Thematic workshops on IMTA and eco-efficient practices in aquaculture and living labs

The INTEGRATE partners have carried out a series of national workshops to bring together industry, academia and regulatory stakeholders to explain and discuss how IMTA can help the European Aquaculture industry in its aims to further development under an ecologically efficient framework.

The project partners who have implemented pilot actions, as described in previous newsletter, have also organised a series of hands-on visits for the groups targeted during the thematic workshops – allowing interested parties an opportunity to see IMTA in action on the ground and to discuss how IMTA can be practically integrated into the current aquaculture situation in each partner country. In some cases, it has been beneficial to hold the thematic workshops and living labs together in certain countries (i.e. AGROCAMPUS and CEVA held a major IMTA event in Rennes during May 2019, attracting nearly 200 attendees). Each of these events has proved useful in trying to disseminate the IMTA concept, as well as gathering feedback from the stakeholders that will make IMTA a success in the longer term. Most partners have used these events to garner formalized feedback from attendees by use of questionnaires and feedback forms, and where appropriate, this will be included in the formal outputs for each WP. The living lab visits made to partners with practical IMTA facilities has allowed key stakeholders to understand the practical aspects of IMTA, as well as a two-way discussion with the project partners about the view of attendees towards IMTA. It is hoped that the feedback provided in both packages will feed into the ongoing development process of IMTA.


We are very happy to inform our readers that the INTEGRATE partnership has published an article in the March 2020 Volume 45 No 1 issue of the European Aquaculture Society (EAS) magazine.

In the article, Defining Multi-Trophic Aquaculture: a concensus, we describe the approach the INTEGRATE project has followed in order to reach a consenus of a definition of IMTA. For an initial overview of the process please view our infographic before reading the full article, accessible by clicking directly on the magazine cover image below.

INTEGRATE Project article: Defining Multi-Trophic Aquaculture: a concensus
The INTEGRATE approach to defining IMTA

The full pdf of the magazine is available for EAS members under the “Members” menu on their website, after logging in with valid membership password.

The CHALLENGE of quantifying impacts of IMTA on the environment

Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) promotes a new circular economy model since it is based on an efficient reuse of resources, including waste, in traditional aquaculture facilities. Farmers combine fed species with other organisms that capture their sustenance from the farming environment in an integrated waste-recycling marine polyculture system (Fig. 1). 

Fig. 1 – Schematic explanation of IMTA. Excess nutrients from fish farming can be used to cultivate other species of high commercial value

To be able to predict responses of a production system it is important to count with mathematical models that replicate the fluxes within the productive compartments of the system. However, there are a multitude of IMTA systems that can be developed either in marine or fresh water, in open water or land based. Fig. 2 characterizes the different systems within the INTEGRATE project that were considered for modelling. Conceptual models are normally used to reduce the complexity of these systems. On the one hand, it is unrealistic to develop just one model to represent all IMTA systems even if the biological processes are similar; on the other hand, it is impracticable to have one model for each of them.

(a)  (b)


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Fig. 2 – Flowcharts from INTEGRATE case studies: (a) Case study 1 (NUIG/ISC): Carnivore – Macroalgae/Carnivore – Omnivore; (b) Case study 2 (CEVA/ALGA+): Filter feeders – Detritivore – Macroalgae; (c) Case study 3.1(ALGA+):  Carnivore + Omnivore polyculture – Macroalgae; (d) Case study 3.2 (CTAQUA): Carnivore monoculture – Filter feeder – Macroalgae; (e) Case study 3.3 (IPMA): Carnivore + Omnivore + Detritivore polyculture – Filter feeder – Macroalgae.

To summarize the different IMTA systems implemented in the INTEGRATE project (please see our previous newsletter #6 for details of the case studies) a conceptual compartment model was developed for land-based semi-extensive IMTA in ponds that accommodate 5 trophic compartments (carnivores – detritivores – filter feeders – phytoplankton – macroalgae) and displays their structural organization and functioning (Fig. 3).

Fig 3 – General overview of the biogeochemical state variables and fluxes within the conceptual pond IMTA model. Square boxes represent functional groups defined in the model. Arrows indicate fluxes of energy, carbon and inorganic nutrients: red – inputs; green – outputs; blue – internal fluxes.

This conceptual compartment model, developed using the Stella software, will allow us to obtain a list of parameters and data. These will be assessed in order to provide a prediction of the environmental performance of IMTA through a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), which our project partners from IPMA, Portugal, are working on at the moment.

Highlights from the INTEGRATE project Expert Roundtables

The 4 or 5 themed workshops over the course of the last 2 years (environmental, technical, economic, social & regulatory), aimed to bring together key experts from industry, academia, and state institutions in order to develop the concept of best-practice for IMTA in each European Atlantic Area country. Now that these roundtables are almost all completed, it is a good time to review some of the most common themes, and to pick out some of the most salient points made during these discussions. Here we will give you a general summary of the roundtable discussions; for a more complete synthesis of best-practice for the European Atlantic Area as a whole please see the Thematic Roundtables Report, which will be available very soon on the INTEGRATE website.

Aside from knowledge sharing, throughout the 5 Thematic Workshops certain points have been reiterated time and again, thus bringing to light common situations within the European Atlantic Area.

Possibly the first point to make is that we do not yet have enough collective experience of IMTA to understand what constitutes best practice. In every instance it was made clear that we need more trials, more data and more opportunity for training across and between the different sectors.

What is the problem IMTA is trying to solve? As has been pointed out by many, IMTA in its current ‘industrialised aquaculture’ form was conceptualised as a neat way to solve a potential nutrification problem. However, the problem that those who implement aquaculture are trying to solve is first and foremost an economic one. How do we get around this? For Pascal Raux, the real questions are ‘for whom and why to produce?’. From the answers to this the main strategic objectives for aquaculture development and IMTA should be derived…. The questions, ‘what are the goals of IMTA?’, and ‘who is the main proponent?’ should be useful here.

To find out more about the roundtables about technical aspects of IMTA, please see our INTEGRATE project Newsletter #3 from March this year.

One step closer to a definition of Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture

We are now in our final year of the INTEGRATE project and all activities are in full swing!


Following the results of our questionnaire launched earlier this year, and as anticipated in our previous Newsletter #3 from March this year, we organised an event in order to join forces and reach a consensus on what is and what is not IMTA. The specific aims of the event were to operationalise the conceptual definition of IMTA, to decide and agree on what is and what is not IMTA, not fundamentally, but for a definition that would be useful in policy terms, and with a view towards eco-labelling.

To discuss these questions, thirty-nine experts from eleven countries in the Atlantic Area and further afield gathered on May 9th 2019, Europe Day, at the headquarters of the Interreg Atlantic Area Managing Authority, Comissão de Coordenação e Desenvolvimento do Norte, in Porto (Portugal).

Following a warm welcome from Ms. Sandra Tavares da Silva, Executive Manager of the Interreg Atlantic Area Managing Authority, and introductions from INTEGRATE project partners Erik-Jan Malta (CTAQUA) and Bertrand Jacquemin (CEVA), we had the pleasure to welcome a few keynote speakers, including Yuan Xinhua from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, Italy, Amir Neori from the University of Haifa, Israel, Patricia Bianchi from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, UK, and INTEGRATE project partner Adam Hughes from the Scottish Association for Marine Science, UK.


Following the presentations and discussions rounds in Porto, the experts concluded that it is possible and necessary to have a single global IMTA definition, environmental and socio-economic benefits are a very important part of IMTA. They also agreed that an appropriate legislative framework for IMTA already exists; therefore, since the event in May, the INTEGRATE project partners have been working on bringing these elements together in a simple yet meaningful definition, in order to obtain support from key players in the industry and policy-making sectors, and as a basis to increase awareness and knowledge about what IMTA means for the sustainability of aquaculture and thus gain support from the general public.

Introduction of the INTEGRATE project online training material

Lars Brunner, Support Scientist at The Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), introducing the project’s online training material.