New call for proposals: Collection and processing of particulate organic wastes from net pens


by Sam Houston

Knowledge Exchange Officer

SAIC announces grant funding for a collaborative industry-academia project, to explore practical and applied systems which could collect and process particulate organic wastes at a sheltered fish farming location, and thereafter, subject to the success of the trials in sheltered locations, potentially to assess the feasibility of collecting wastes at higher-energy farming locations. This work is supported by the Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

Competition opens: 9th December 2019

Competition closes: 31st January 2020

Budget: The total available grant is £288,333, of which £75,000 is reserved for capital expenditure on the waste capture system. Therefore, there is £213,333 (£266,666 assuming 80% FEC) available for scientific validation of the waste capture system.


Deposition of faeces and uneaten feed is a well-described environmental impact of fish farming in net pens, albeit that natural assimilation of such wastes occurs. Under current aquaculture legislation in Scotland, biomass allowance per farm is calculated based on predicted and observed environmental impacts of deposited organic particulates.

Referring to the recently published SEPA Aquaculture Sectoral Plan, more stringent limits on organic waste deposition are impacting biomass allowance at existing fish farms, as well as authorisation of new sites. This project therefore invites new technologies to be investigated which could collect and reuse particulate organic wastes.

Globally, such technologies are in their infancy. The Scottish aquaculture industry does not currently have the resources or licensing regime to develop or adopt radical new production systems, such as are being tested in Norway. The intermediate approach of capturing particulate wastes from standard open net pens (e.g. this news article) is a novel approach, meriting further investigation in Scotland. To date, one system has been trialled in Tasmania.

Project objectives

The primary purpose is to implement and evaluate a waste collection and recovery system for conventional net pens at a sheltered fish farming location; and thereafter, in light of experience, to assess the feasibility of collecting wastes at marine farming locations with greater wave exposure and stronger tidal currents.

The awarded project is expected to –

  • Implement a waste collection and recovery system in a commercial setting with an industrial partner, in a sheltered location, at a relevant scale;
  • Measure effectiveness of the wastes removal process in terms of –
    • Reducing impact on sediments;
    • Quantifying solid wastes extracted as a proportion of theoretical volume produced;
    • Assessing compatibility with existing farming operations, including potential negative impacts on livestock health and welfare;
  • Calculate the tolerance of system designs to environmental forces (waves, current), via simulation or model experiments;
  • Deliver effective knowledge exchange and embed the approaches by working with and communicating results to commercial partners during and at the end of the project.


The standard SAIC project model will apply, i.e. industry-led consortia, with researchers from Scottish HEIs eligible to claim 80% of Full Economic Costs. Governmental research institutions in Scotland are eligible to participate as subcontractors. Partnerships are likely to incorporate aquaculture supply chain and fish farming companies, supported by engineering and bioprocessing expertise from academia.

Project duration: up to 18 months, beginning as soon as practically possible.

Applicants should omit the expression of interest stage and proceed directly to full project proposal; see application form on this page under the Governance tab.

Contact Sam Houston for assistance.