UK Aquaculture Initiative

Aquaculture logo

The UK Aquaculture Initiative is a joint Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and NERC initiative to support high-quality, innovative research and research translation within a growing community of people working together towards a mutual goal of developing a healthy, safe and sustainable UK aquaculture system.

By funding projects that incorporate both the environmental and biological sciences, this cross-council initiative will bring together diverse expertise, knowledge, skills and facilities to deliver innovative approaches to solving industry challenges. In doing so, it will strengthen the research community to underpin the long-term needs of industry through interdisciplinary research, research translation, and the provision of training.


  • To support high-quality, innovative, strategic research within UK higher education institutions and centres.
  • To build UK academic capability and underpinning capacity to meet the long term needs of industry.
  • To encourage cross-discipline working and draw in new researchers to the aquaculture sector.
  • To support the translation of existing research data and knowledge into new tools, technologies and solutions.
  • To ensure the exchange of knowledge between the academic science base and industry through the support of effective networking between academic groups and businesses.
  • To build a community of people working together towards a mutual goal of developing a healthy, safe and sustainable UK aquaculture system.

ARCH-UK Workshop: Microplastics, aquaculture & fisheries - A risk assessment

10 Jan 2019

Presentations from experts in the field of microplastic research, and group discussion, will hope to establish the scientific consensus on the risk of microplastics to aquaculture and fisheries during this one-day workshop being held in London on 25 March 2019.

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A rapidly increasing global population, climate change and intensified pressure upon vital resources are collectively threatening global food security.

By 2030, 62% of fish eaten by humans is expected to be produced from aquaculture. In the UK, aquaculture is a key strategic food production sector, as production from UK aquaculture is the largest in the European Union.

Sustainable expansion of the UK industry requires improved understanding of the basic biology, health and environmental interactions of farmed finfish and shellfish. In recognition of this importance, NERC and BBSRC, as contributors to the UK Global Food Security (GSF) programme, are acting to turn around the declining investment made by research councils in recent years.

Innovation projects

In 2016, NERC and BBSRC invited proposals for innovation projects to the UK Aquaculture Initiative. Approximately £1·2 million of funding was available for projects that will meet the needs of the UK aquaculture industry and create sustainable, tangible economic or societal benefits.

The six successful innovation projects will utilise the wealth of existing research, data and expertise to enable the development of technologies and solutions for the benefit of practitioners and decision-makers.

Networks in aquaculture

In 2016, proposals were also invited for Networks in aquaculture. Up to £600,000 was available for up to two networks focusing on finfish and shellfish.

The funding was awarded in March 2017 to one Network - the Aquaculture Research Collaborative Hub (ARCH-UK). ARCH-UK will facilitate the development of a community of people that works together towards a mutual goal of sustainable aquaculture systems, and work with the research councils to help ensure their investments support high-quality innovative, research that builds UK academic capability and underpinning capacity and meets the long term needs of the sector. For further information, and to join the network, please visit the ARCH-UK website (see related links).

Collaborative research and innovation projects

In November 2017, BBSRC and NERC opened a call for collaborative research and innovation proposals in aquaculture. This call closed in January 2018 and awards are expected to be made in summer 2018.

For further details on the call please visit the call page on the BBSRC website - external link.

A number of priority areas have been identified at by the two research councils:

  • Aquaculture & natural capital - the relationships between current and projected environmental impacts of UK aquaculture and ecosystem services. How different aquaculture operations can enhance and impact on natural capital, including off-shore developments. How aquaculture operations can work more effectively with other users of the environment.

  • Interrelationships between farmed species (including algae) and wild organisms - including disease transmission, and ways to mitigate introgression between wild and farmed species.

  • Aquaculture & climate change - analyses and modelling of how and where future climate change scenarios are most likely to impact on current and future aquaculture practices, including for invasive species, disease and harmful environmental affects (for example algal blooms) and how we might most effectively monitor and combat these for protecting the industry. This includes climate change resilience of current and potential aquaculture development assessed using life cycle assessment and other tools.

  • Health and disease in finfish and shellfish - investigations into important existing and emerging diseases in finfish and shellfish, including research into stock enhancement and genome editing for disease resistance, host-pathogen/parasite interactions, multiscale modelling, environmental factors that influence disease incidence, and vaccine development (including effective alternative delivery vehicles). The development of novel tools and technologies to tackle diseases in aquaculture is particularly welcomed.

  • Nutrition, feed and interactions with the natural environment - the impact of diet on fish intestinal health, the fish microbiome, immune development and disease resistance. Additionally, the role of diet on reproduction and early life development, and nutritional programming. Sustainable (novel) feed development research is also welcome, particularly where it relates to improving animal health, improving the status of the natural environment or where such feeds improve the security of supply of feed for the UK. Fundamental research on traits responsible for metabolism, health and nutrition, which could lead to improved health of fish stocks (including shellfish) and less waste, is also in scope.

  • Food safety - improving the understanding of the factors that influence food safety, and developing ways to reduce food-borne diseases in fish. Novel technologies that can rapidly monitor, screen and detect foodborne diseases and harmful environmental toxins (for example algal blooms) in aquaculture populations and the wider environment are in scope, as well as fundamental biological and environmental research development.

Cross-cutting themes

Focus will be on the following cross-cutting themes:

  • disruptive technologies for monitoring and predicting risks, and to enhance the capacity of aquaculture
  • data sharing and management.


2016 - 2021

Can I apply for a grant?

No, there are no current funding opportunities.


This programme has a budget of £6 million through the five-year partnership between BBSRC and NERC with additional co-funding from the Food Standards Agency, Food Standards Scotland, the Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute (AFBI), the Centre for Environments, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) and Marine Scotland Science.


UK Aquaculture Initiative: Collaborative Research & Innovation call – June 2018 (PDF, 211KB)

UK Aquaculture Initiative: Innovation call - September 2016 (PDF, 69KB)

The UK Aquaculture Initiative was preceded by a Sustainable Aquaculture capacity-building research call.