Aquaculture for all

GOAL Conference 2013: Innovation Award for Israeli Professor

Crustaceans Breeding & genetics +1 more

FRANCE - Dr Amir Sagi, a professor at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, is the winner of the Global Aquaculture Alliances (GAA) inaugural Novus Global Aquaculture Innovation Award, sponsored by Novus International.

Dr Sagi’s innovation — which involves a novel biotechnology application to produce all male populations of the giant freshwater prawn, Macrobrachium rosenbergii, through temporal RNA interference — was selected over 15 other creative innovations to capture the award. The 16 applicants dealt with nine species of marine and freshwater fish and shellfish and originated from 11 countries — Australia, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Ecuador, India, Israel, Peru, Korea, Taiwan and the United States.

Some innovations dealt with the species themselves, such as production of virus-free grouper or endangered Amazonian paiche. Others dealt with improved design of production systems, including cages, ponds and indoor recirculating systems. Still others dealt with cloud-based data collection systems and disease control.

The six judges selected Dr Sagi’s innovation as the winner because its application addressed a key obstacle in the production of Macrobrachium rosenbergii — manual sorting of juveniles by gender. The judges felt that this innovation could stimulate expansion in freshwater prawn production without genetic modification or use of exogenous hormones.

“The GAA Standards Oversight Committee recommended the Novus Global Aquaculture Innovation award as a way of recognizing the integral role of creative advances in driving continuous improvements in aquaculture. BAP standards are routinely revised to reflect these advances,” said Dr George Chamberlain, GAA president.

Dr Sagi, who received an expense-paid trip to GOAL 2013, was introduced by Dr Francisco Gomes, executive manager of the aqua business unit at Novus International, who presented him with a plaque and a US$1,000 cash prize. “Novus is very proud to sponsor this innovation award,” added Dr Gomes. “Aquaculture needs innovation in order to capture its potential.”

Dr Sagi is the past president of the International Society of Invertebrate Reproduction and Development and former Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Ben Gurion University. He holds the Lily and Sidney Oelbaum chair for Applied Biochemistry at the Department of Life Sciences and the National Institute for Biotechnology. He presented his innovation to about 350 attendees at GOAL 2013 on 8 October.

Twenty years of physiological and molecular research on the androgenic gland are behind the biotechnology used to produce all-male crustacean populations. Dr Sagi’s research culminated with the discovery of the insulin-like androgenic hormone in decapod crustaceans. Now, for the first time, this technology is available to commercial Macrobrachium rosenbergii farmers worldwide.

“The beauty of our biotechnology lies in the fact that it represents the first commercialisation of temporal RNA interference with no use of chemicals, hormones or generation of genetic modifications,” said Dr Sagi. “To sustain its rapid growth, the aquaculture industry will need to consistently introduce the latest scientific developments and innovative technologies. I am confident that the R&D community will propose many more such applications in the near future.”

The Global Aquaculture Innovation Award was launched at GOAL 2012 in Bangkok, Thailand, last November, to recognise innovative practices that overcome production challenges or mitigate negative environmental or social impacts at aquaculture farms. All types of innovations qualified for the award, including wetlands conservation, feed management, water-quality management, effluent reduction, energy reduction, staff training, community relations, animal welfare, and health and nutrition.

The judges included Chamberlain; Gomes; Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) Standards Coordinator Dan Lee; Craig Browdy, executive manager of aquaculture research at Novus International; Michael Tlusty, director of research at the New England Aquarium; and Dawn Purchase, senior aquaculture officer at the Marine Conservation Society. Chamberlain, Tlusty, and Purchase are members of the BAP Standards Oversight Committee.