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New Project to Significantly Improve Efficiencies in Fish Farming

An innovative multidisciplinary aquaculture project led by NUI Galway and Athlone Institute of Technology is set to improve production efficiencies and management of farmed fish at several inland freshwater sites. The project ‘ECOAQUA’ has received €348,781 in funding under the European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF), administered by Bord Iascaigh Mhara, through the Knowledge Gateway Scheme, on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The output of this project will include new information, new methods, and increased awareness. It has built on capacity for, and developed new partnerships focused on, research and innovation in environment and health.

The project aims to test and optimise innovative technologies and processes developed through the linked MOREFISH* project. Led by Dr Eoghan Clifford from NUI Galway and Professor Neil Rowan from Athlone Institute of Technology, with support from Bord Iascaigh Mhara’s technical aquaculture team, ECOAQUA will address critically important needs identified by industry and aquaculture stakeholders including:

  • Analysing the environmental and energy performance of three freshwater aquaculture sites by extensive sampling and remote online monitoring of water parameters.
  • Facilitating the re-use of the treated water, thereby reducing both the volumes of extracted and discharged waters.
  • Enabling the industry to meet stringent environmental regulation while increasing production in a sustainable and cost-effective manner.
  • Piloting technological innovations with industry to ensure the research is easily and rapidly transferrable to the aquaculture sector.
  • Ensuring technological innovations and research results can be leveraged to enable the sustainable growth of this high-potential sector.
  • Enable the industry to leverage the scientific outputs from the project to communicate with government, policymakers and regulators and the public.

Dr Eoghan Clifford from the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway, said: “Aquaculture is recognised to have the potential to address food security concerns in many countries and offer significant economic benefits. Ireland currently ranks as fifth in value and seventh in volume in terms of high value fish species with exports supporting approximately 2,000 jobs. However, the sector in Ireland has remained relatively stagnant and has significant potential to grow, develop export markets and create employment in rural areas. These developments are strongly aligned with Ireland’s FoodWise2025 policy that seeks to grow food exports by 85% to €19 billion by 2025. This research has the potential to introduce innovative monitoring practices, technologies that can enhance the value and sustainability of Irish and European fish stock densities while ensuring the environmental sustainability of the sector.”

Professor Neil Rowan from Athlone Institute of Technology, said: “This exciting cross-cutting project leverages on a critical mass of engineering and scientific expertise, industry stakeholders, policy-makers, commercial operators and international experts established through the MOREFISH platform to respond directly to pressing environmental issues that were informed by industry. ECOAQUA will model and profile the global performance (focusing on algal, microbial and energy) of pilot freshwater aquaculture farms, which will ensure that high potential interventions are easily transferable to the industry sector ensuring the intensive sustainability and viability of this industry.”

Mr Alan Kennedy, ECOAQUA project manager from NUI Galway, said: “This timely project will improve the water quality of freshwater farms through the incorporation of water treatment technologies and energy reduction interventions into existing flow through farms that will also enable seamless transitions to next-generation production formats.”

Damien Toner, Aquaculture Technical Specialist with Bord Iascaigh Mhara, said: “Bord Iascaigh Mhara is delighted to support this innovative and collaborative project. ECOAQUA will provide valuable research into developing improved efficiencies in fish farming that will inform the wider industry on best practice and new technologies to improve sustainability. We are looking forward to working with the teams in NUI Galway and Athlone Institute of Technology on this exciting project.”

For further information about the project contact Mr Alan Kennedy, Project Manager, EcoAqua oon

ECOAQUA Project background

The Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine, recently published the National Strategic Plan for Sustainable Aquaculture Development (DAFM, 2015). The primary aim of this plan is to sustainably grow production of the Irish aquaculture sector to 45,000 tonnes per annum across all species by 2020 (DAFM, 2015) compared to 40,140 tonnes in 2015.

ECOAQUA Project Partners

Marine Harvest (Lough Altan) – traditional flow through tank based salmon smolt production site with drum filters and polymerized belt filter for treatment of effluent water.

Marine Harvest (Pettigo) – traditional flow through tank based salmon smolt production site with drum filters for treatment of effluent water.

Keywater – Pill-pond based farm utilising a full recirculation (approximately 5% make up water per day) system to cultivate organic perch.

IDAS – group of four pond based flow through farms.

Projected Cost (2-year project proposed)

Overall Budget €348,781.


The grant is administered by Bord Iascaigh Mhara on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. This project is co-financed by Irelands EU Structural Fund Programme (ESIP 2014 – 2020) and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

About the MOREFISH Project

MOREFISH is a Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), multidisciplinary aquaculture project that develops and tests new innovative technologies and novel processes to significantly improve production management and efficiencies at inland aquaculture sites. The project addresses critically important needs identified by end-users including advanced aeration, efficient production management and benchmarking, and deployment of next-generation pulsed light disinfection technologies. These innovations will have key impacts including: (i) enhance production efficiency and sustainability, (ii) reducing environmental impacts of aquaculture production and (iii) improved fish health and reduced finfish diseases/mortalities in rearing systems due to improved operating conditions. The project brings together a critical mass of engineering and scientific expertise, industry stakeholders and policy-makers, commercial operators and international experts. Visit: