INTRODUCING FIONA AND ELISA
Fiona Provan and Elisa Ravagnan are very pleased to be leading the SUREAQUA Centre of Excellence out of their home institute, the International Research Institute of Stavanger. “SUREAQUA brings together industry and researchers to maintain a competitive industry while preserving a healthy environment and ensuring a low footprint of the bio-based industry,” says Fiona.
“SUREAQUA brings together industry and researchers to maintain a competitive industry while preserving a healthy environment and ensuring a low footprint of the bio-based industry." (Fiona)
Fiona came to IRIS in 2004 as a postdoctoral researcher to investigate stress biomarkers in salmon, a project that was funded by Skretting. She credits this project as sparking her interest in the aquaculture industry as she became more aware of the challenges involved. Since then, Fiona has led a number of projects related to sustainable food production, with her main interests being in the realm of aquaculture ranging from fish feed to fish health and the use of by-products. Throughout her time at IRIS she has been able to gain valuable insight into the feed industry. As Fiona highlights, “There is a great deal of research and development within the feed industry and other sectors of aquaculture. It is inspiring to work with industry in finding solutions to their challenges.”
"The Bioeconomy ... was naturally interesting to me as it couples sustainable production with effects on the environment, society, and the economy" (Elisa)
Elisa also came to IRIS as a postdoctoral researcher in 2006 to develop an index for marine environment quality related to the effects of pollutants on marine organisms. She has always been interested in working with complex datasets, connecting physical, chemical and biological data, and she has participated in many projects within the oil and gas, aquaculture and climate change sectors. Over the years, she has become increasingly involved in interdisciplinary approaches through projects such as AquaAccept
, linking natural science with economics and social science. Elisa notes that, “When we started talking about the bioeconomy at IRIS it was naturally interesting to me as it couples sustainable production with effects on the environment, society, and the economy. In the sciences it is equally important to delve deeper within each discipline to identify and understand ecosystem mechanisms and effects, but at the same time it is also necessary to take a step back to try to connect the pieces of the puzzle,” comments Elisa.
A Holistic and interdisciplinary approach
The bioeconomy focusses on the generation of resources based on renewable biomass and as Fiona notes, "IRIS Environment has a great deal of competence within the marine environment and industrial biotechnology." She goes on to explain that she saw the bioeconomy as a really nice way to facilitate work across different disciplines both in the broader community and within IRIS itself. Elisa adds that, although the Centre is led by the Environment department at IRIS, “it has been natural to involve the Social Science and Energy departments as well.” As Fiona points out, “Not many institutions have this mix as well as experience in working with industry, but it is quite a natural role for us. This is how we’ve been trained to think.”
“We like to be solution-oriented and I think in the work we’re doing we can provide concrete solutions to some of those challenges.” (Fiona)
Significant challenges exist in relation to the sustainability and environmental impacts of aquaculture, which is a booming industry. “We like to be solution-oriented and I think in the work we’re doing we can provide concrete solutions to some of those challenges,” Fiona says. Both IRIS and the SUREAQUA partners are already working on sustainable blue growth solutions, such as limiting sea lice and other pathogenic infections, recycling waste, and enhanced use of by-products (for example through NOVOFEED
, which is investigating novel feed ingredients). The Centre will also be looking for opportunities to facilitate spin-off initiatives in the industry, contributing to potential job creation as well. As Fiona comments, “We are interested in spin off initiatives and job creation, with a focus on knowledge-based solutions so that we can ensure that these initiatives will actually produce something viable, in every sense – environmentally and socioeconomically.”
"It is important that we have shared knowledge.” (Elisa)
Elisa also highlights the communication role that the Centre will play. “I really like that we are finding ways to get the different players to communicate, as well as to make scientific results available for everyone. It is important that we have shared knowledge.”
FOCUS ON THE NORDIC REGION
Both agree that Rogaland as a region is an ideal place to drive the growth of the blue bioeconomy as the region is already a centre for food and feed production. As Elisa notes, IRIS’ existing partnerships with research institutions as well as industry formed the basis for building the Centre, and this has been further expanded within the Nordic region and beyond. “We were able to draw upon some of the successful partnerships we already have with people we know and like to work with.” says Fiona.
“We expect this Nordic centre to support a healthy aquaculture industry that can grow, be profitable, and at the same time have controlled or positive impacts on the environment and society. We will also be looking for opportunities to expand internationally,” conclude Elisa and Fiona.
Centre leader Fiona Provan and co-leader Elisa Ravagnan, both Senior Research Scientists at IRIS, will lead the SUREAQUA Centre of Excellence. Fiona is a biochemist with a PhD from the University of Bergen, and many years’ experience with sustainable food production. Elisa has a PhD in environmental science from the University of Venice, with a specialisation in statistics and modelling of marine ecosystems, and a focus on working across disciplines.
Image acknowledgements: http://ec.europa.eu/research/bioeconomy/images/bioeconomy_graphic_full.jpg