Cooke and Dalhousie Join Forces


Cooke, Dalhousie join forces to grow aquaculture industry

SHAWN BERRY Legislature Bureau
December 11, 2013

Blacks Harbour-based Cooke Aquaculture is spending $800,000 over the next five years to research ways to improve the sustainability of fish farming.

The company is partnering with Dalhousie University and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to create the new Cooke Industrial Research Chair IRC in Sustainable Aquaculture. The chair, appointed for five years, will be led by oceanographer Prof. Jon Grant.

“We are committed to growing Atlantic Canada’s aquaculture industry in a manner that is sustainable; protecting the environmental integrity of the marine resource upon which we depend to grow healthy and nutritious seafood,” Glenn Cooke, CEO of Cooke Aquaculture, said.

“We understand that this pursuit requires constant investment and innovation.”

He said he hopes the partnership will bring tremendous benefit to the company, its employees, and the communities where the company operates.

One of the biggest areas of interest for the company right now is the issue of area management, a principle akin to crop rotation in fish farming.

The announcement is considered the most significant partnership between industry, university and government with respect to aquaculture and the environment.

Grant’s work will look at environmental improvement of salmon in the ocean’s net pens.

The research will also look at the integrity of cages and moorings; waste management plans; assessment of sediment habitat health; prevention of disease and management of fish health; and planning of aquaculture and wild fisheries.

“The research uses computer modeling of currents and transport of waste, nutrients, and pathogens, as well as their biological and chemical transformation to predict the consequences of farm siting and management,” Grant said.

“This is established in the context of a geographic information system, so the location of cages and farming sites can be simulated, along with feeding regimes, treatment protocols, harvesting strategies, and other husbandry components.”

Grant said the ability to work closely with Cooke Aquaculture on these issues is intended to usher in a new era in aquaculture sustainability.

Students and postdoctoral fellows will work with research challenges unique to the aquaculture industry and have the opportunity for ongoing access to the industrial partner for continued research.

Besides contributing $160,000 annually for five years, Cooke will also contribute in-kind resources like boats and divers toward the project. Cooke also plans to provide employment opportunities in the short term to co-op and summer students and for graduates as they complete their research programs.

Janet Walden, chief operating officer with Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada said Grant’s work will lead to advancements in important areas of aquaculture such as waste management, environmental integrity and maintaining fish health.

“NSERC’s Industrial Research Chairs, such as Dr. Jon Grant, share a unique blend of qualities – they strive for excellence in research; provide a rich learning environment for their students; and build and nurture productive, successful relationships with their industrial partners, applying fundamental research to address industry R&D needs,” she said.

Chris Moore, dean of science at Dalhousie University, said the partnership will add significant new capacity to research into sustainable aquaculture at the institution. A new professor will be added to provide additional research and training capacity.

“This growth will allow significantly more new research as well as additional training of the next generation of experts on sustainable aquaculture,” Moore said.