Aquaculture industry and academia share vision of common knowledge base in salmon biology
The DigiSal research project gathered aquaculture industry, academia and funding institutions at a workshop on “the Digital Salmon” in June. The meeting marked an important step up on the innovation ladder.
– Data becomes more valuable when it’s shared. Using mathematical models to learn from each others’ experiences makes for faster response to industry challenges, says Jon Olav Vik, leader of DigiSal and initiator of the workshop.
On June 5-6 he invited colleagues from the aquaculture industry, research institutions, Innovation Norway, the Research Council of Norway, the Technology Transfer Office (ARD Innovation) at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), the Seafood Cluster and the Centre for Digital Life to a workshop in Ski. The event resulted in the formation of a working group consisting of companies, researchers and innovation clusters, with the Research Council as observer. The project’s vision is a shared knowledge base with data and mathematical models of salmon biology, called "the Digital Salmon". Speakers from the various sectors talked about joining data streams to create value in aquaculture, how to develop reliable data and models, the enabling role of the Research Council, and the DigiSal project in light of «the digital patient», a similar project within medical systems biology.
Equipped for new challenges
The basic idea behind the initiative is that mathematical models of biological processes are necessary to make sense of the vast data available to aquaculture research and development. Lowering the technical and cultural barriers to data sharing will facilitate the combination of new and existing knowledge, yielding new insights more easily.
– This was a very good start to what I believe can become a comprehensive and long-term collaboration. With time, I also hope this can enable a united sector – academia, industry and public organizations – to better meet the challenges related to e.g. sustainable feed, fish health and climate change, Jon Olav Vik remarks.
White paper forthcoming
The workshop concluded with participants agreeing in principle on the need for a shared knowledge base and common standards to support this goal. A working group will draft a white paper describing the need for modelling and data collaboration, charting the motivations of the various participants, presenting role models and possible technical solutions, as well as sketching a road map of biological challenges suitable for being met through “digital biology”.
The working group includes industry representatives AquaCloud and AquaGen, researchers from NMBU and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and the Norwegian Seafood Research Fund. Representatives from Innovation Norway and the Research Council of Norway are observers, and Jorun Pedersen from ARD Innovation and Alexandra Patriksson from the Centre for Digital Life Norway constitute the group’s secretariat.
Photo: Marit Valseth from Innovation Norway, Bente Pretlove from DNV GL, Stig Omholt and Jørgen Vatn from NMBU during workshop discussions. Photo: Jorun Pedersen/ARD Innovation.
Mathematical modelling of salmon's life processes
The workshop and the ensuing white paper are part of innovation development in the research project Digital Salmon – from a reactive to a preemptive research strategy for fish farming (DigiSal).
The project aims to understand the fish as a system consisting of components that influence and depend on each other, described and analyzed by mathematical models. This is the foundation Jon Olav Vik now wants to bring into a common knowledge base.
– The salmon lice forecast service AquaCloud illustrates the potential in sharing data. The idea that your own data becomes more valuable when linked up with others’, and the importance of compatible standards for data management, is new to many. Each participant contributes with their data and in turn receives individual risk assessments, where big-data analyses of lice and environmental data combined with an ocean current model predict which net cages are at risk of a salmon lice outbroak. Developing and calibrating such models requires a more data than any one company can generate on their own. By sharing as much data as possible we can gain insights more rapidly about the biological processes that create value and that must be part of the solution to the challenges, says Jon Olav Vik. He is very happy with the workshop: – The participants all made significant contributions and are united in their ambition of creating a common knowledge base.
The working group's report will be presented to the fish farming industry before next summer. Meanwhile, the DigiSal project is also approaching the general public to discuss ethical and sustainable aspects of salmon farming, initially in a meeting with the social science projects SALCUL and Res Publica. SALCUL is a three-year research project at the intersection between local knowledge, culture and management, led by Stine Rybråten of the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research. Res Publica is a Centre for Digital Life project led by Heidrun Åm at NTNU.
DigiSal received funding from the Research Council of Norway’s call BIOTEK2021 in the first round of the Centre initiative, and runs through 2021.