BIOTOOL: Hátækni til umhverfisvöktunar í fiskeldi

Þróað verður alhliða erfðasameinda tæki til vöktunar botndýrasamfélaga vegna fiskeldis. Tækið er mjög næmt og hefur í för með sér mikinn sparnað í tíma og kostnaði sem er mikilvægt fyrir bæði fiskeldið og opinbera eftirlitsaðila. Verkefnið byggir á einstökum langtíma gögnum og nýjustu tækni í umhverfis erfðafræði. Notast verður við mjög hraða og umhverfisvæna tækni sem nýtir umhverfis DNA (eDNA) til þess að vakta og nema breytingar í botnsamfélögum. Botndýrategundir sem áður hafa verið skilgreindar sem vísitegundir fyrir ástand botndýrasamfélaga í nánd við fiskeldi verða notaðar og sértækir erfðaþreifar þróaðar fyrir þær. Notast verður við nýjustu kynslóð af sjálfvirku umhverfissöfnunar  tæki (Environmental Sample Processor (ESP)) sem getur safnað eDNA og magnað upp erfðaefni valinna botndýra, í þessu tilfelli burstaorma. Umhverfissöfnunar tækið mun geta numið minnstu breytingar í botndýrasamfélögum sem eru tengdar lífrænni uppsöfnun vegna fiskeldis.



An immense growth has been seen in farming of Atlantic salmon in Iceland. This is also the case in the neighbouring countries, Norway, and Faroe Islands and the salmon industry is generally perceived as having a very large potential for growth. In Iceland, new companies have been established with focus on farming salmon in sea cages. If the farming is not done correctly, the aquaculture industry may cause irreversible damage to the natural environment - something that no one wants to happen. The farmers themselves are in the forefront of making aquaculture environmentally sustainable, by constantly looking for best solutions and working closely with scientists in order minimize negative effects of their industry. This project is unique as it for the first time to our knowledge applies a new methodology to detect and monitor changes in environmental conditions during farming. The aim is to develop a cheaper and more effective monitoring system that will benefit, not only the industrial players, but also authorities that are responsible for licensing and monitoring aquaculture activities. In this project, we establish a consortium consisting of an Icelandic  food and biotech company  Matís (, research and consultancy company (RORUM,, Iceland´s largest university, the University of Iceland (Rannsóknasetur Háskóla Íslands á Suðurnesjum, and a leading EU research institute in developing DNA based tools for monitoring, DTU Aqua in Denmark ( The goal of the project is to develop and build a universal tool, as a highly sensitive and cost-effective solution that not only will be extremely beneficial for the farming industry but also for the authorities. This project is based on a unique set of data available within the consortium and the latest technology, using so-called environmental DNA (eDNA) to monitor changes in the environment in a fast and non-invasive manner by detecting and identifying organisms in the benthic environment that are selected based on their bio-indicator ability. The eDNA refers to genetic material from whole microbial cells or shed from multicellular organisms via metabolic waste, secretes, damaged tissue, skin cells etc. that can be detected by sampling the non-living environment (water, soil, air) and provide information about the macro- and microorganisms that are or were recently present. The application of eDNA for aquatic species inventory and monitoring is a rapidly growing field that is particularly useful as an early-warning system for the detection of negative changes at various taxonomic levels of biodiversity. In sources of concern, e.g. aquaculture, or high risk habitats, eDNA monitoring can alert regulatory authorities before the establishment of un-recoverable situation on the farm site. To detect selected indicator species, water samples are collected or filtered on-site, DNA is extracted from the water or filtrates, and the presence of a species is determined with species-specific PCR assays or with community sequencing approaches (so called “metabarcoding”) after returning of the samples to the laboratory. In the project, the focus is on early detection based on eDNA allowing optimal regulation of farm sites, which will be much less labor intensive and therefore less costly compared with conventional monitoring surveys.

The proposed project aims at implementing a next-generation molecular-based autonomous in situ monitoring device, the “Environmental Sample Processor” (ESP). The ESP allows for operational monitoring in fjords to detect environmental changes like the ones this project will focus, and which are directly related to organic loading. The project specifically targets changes in biodiversity indicators, where focus will be on five selected polychaetae worms’ as robust biological indicators of increased organic load. The ESP allows for detection up to five different species and which are selected based on their importance as indicators of changes due to organic loading.

The national and international collaboration included in this project will offer an excellent platform for knowledge-transfer and education, and for strengthening Nordic collaboration among aquaculture-related research institutes, as well as shortening the road to successful and sustainable aquaculture in Iceland.