The GAIN Consortium includes a wide range of complementary expertise and a well-blended mix of research institutes and industrial partners, which will ensure the achievement of the following specific objectives:

  1. develop and optimize sustainable feeds, without increasing the pressure on land and fish stocks;
  2. add value to cultivation, by means of innovative processes, which turn both by-products and side-streams into valuable secondary materials, thus increasing profits and minimizing the environmental footprint;
  3. improve the management of finfish and shellfish farms, in terms of FCR, fish welfare and reduction of wastes, through the use of sensors, biomarkers, Big Data, IoT (Internet of Things) and predictive mathematical models;
  4. support integrated policies and address current barriers to the implementation of the principles of circular economy in aquatic production.


Strategic Impact

GAIN will deliver products to support the European aquaculture industry and market, develop and optimize sustainable aquaculture intensification (eco-intensification), and create high-quality jobs in the blue economy, by combining cutting-edge social and natural sciences, state-of-the-art technology, and market proximity. GAIN products will be engineered to match specific needs, and the project defines appropriate targets and quantifiable indicators (see below) to ensure objectives are met. We will have key impacts25,26 on the eco-intensification of European aquaculture by making significant improvements in:

  1. feed sources and sustainable alternative aqua feeds;
  2. sensors, KPIs, and Big Data;
  3. policy support for integrated aquatic production;
  4. improvements in biosecurity and welfare;
  5. product traceability and certification;
  6. market access for small-scale producers.


  • Cressey, D., 2009. Aquaculture: Future fish. Nature 458, 398-400.
  • Polo, D., Feal, X., Varela, M.F., Monteagudo, A., Romalde, J.L., 2014. Depuration kinetics of murine norovirus in shellfish. Food Research International 64, 182-187.
  • Winterbourn, J.B., Clements, K., Lowther, J.A., Malham, S.K., McDonald, J.E., Jones, D.L., 2016. Water Research 105, 241-250.
  • Zaharia M., Chowdhury M., Franklin M.J., Shenker S., Stoica I., 2010. Spark: Cluster computing with working sets. in Proceedings of the 2nd USENIX Conference on Hot Topics in Cloud Computing, Berkeley, CA, USA.

Commercial Applications to Support Producers

GAIN will support producers by providing access to large-scale data on environmental conditions, using a combination of sensors, including satellites, drones, and probes. Input data on key variables will be complemented by the outputs of mathematical models, simulating water circulation, environmental and growth performance. These comprehensive data sets will be processed by means of tools such as the Spark framework (Zaharia et al., 2010), and distributed on mobile platforms using the Internet of Things (IoT).

This will enable finfish, shellfish, and seaweed farmers to make quasi-real-time adjustments to stocking density, harvesting, or positioning of structures. This Big Data platform is enhanced by the option of running mathematical models of water circulation and environmental performance, providing further added value to producers. The GAIN consortium includes IBM, a world-leading company in the areas of Big Data and artificial intelligence, and under the Galway Agreement we will work with Canada’s Ocean Frontier Institute, which brings together the University of Dalhousie, Cooke Aquaculture, and IBM Canada to further guarantee the positive impact of this work in supporting European producers.

Bivalve shellfish make up 56% of EU aquaculture production, compared with 21% worldwide (Cressey, 2009), and compliance with EU shellfish directives is a major issue for farmers, including for problems such as norovirus (Polo et al., 2014; Winterbourn et al., 2016), which have important public health implications and condition export markets: by providing a higher resolution of temporal variability for water body classification (sensu EU Shellfish directives), e.g. linked to rainfall events, GAIN will allow farmers to better address depuration requirements and improve product safety while optimising economic performance.

GAIN will test these products in Northern, Eastern, and Southern Europe, for finfish (salmon, gilthead bream, bass, trout, carp) and bivalve (mussels, oysters, clams) farms within the consortium, to validate their usefulness before deployment to the wider market. The Galway component of the project will execute additional validation. GAIN will reduce asymmetries in first sale, wholesale, and import-export price discovery across the primary and secondary EU seafood hubs by providing a smartphone application which structures price information from EUMOFA, FAO, and GlobeFish. This will create a level playing field for economic actors across the supply-chain to make informed decisions concerning target markets, both spatially and with respect to product volume.

Management structure and working packages

The GAIN workplan comprises 7 work packages. The first 4 implement the research activities for fulfilling the GAIN objectives and overarching goals. WPs 5 and 6 maximize the impact of GAIN, through training, communication, dissemination and exploitation. WP7 coordinates GAIN. An overview of each WP is provided below.


Production and Environment: this is an RTD WP, with the overarching goal of eco-intensifying the primary sector of production, through significant improvements to feed design and implementation of precision aquaculture. We will:

  1. test alternative feeds, based on fish by-products, emerging ingredients, micro- and macroalgae, on a range of species and systems;
  2. implement an Information Management System that makes Big Data actionable in real time, i.e. the huge volumes of data from heterogeneous sources, including moored sensors, satellite data, autonomous sensors, KPIs and simulation models, which are key elements of precision aquaculture. We will instrument farms with state-of-the art sensors for noninvasive monitoring of environmental variables and fish behaviour. The two components (feeds and precision-aquaculture IMS) will be tested at pilot sites, covering a wide range of aquaculture typologies.


Enhancement of secondary outputs: this is an RTD WP, with the overarching goal of eco-intensifying the secondary sector of production, through significant improvements to by-product and side-stream re-use.

We will test a large range of innovative processes aimed at enhancing implementation of circular economy principles in the aquaculture sector. This includes

  1. capture and re-use of nutrients from fish farm sidestreams, conversion of sludge from land-based fish farms into fertilizer products, and obtaining renewable products from mortalities;
  2. production of animal feed ingredients from aquaculture by-products;
  3. innovative approaches to valorisation of shellfish industry by-products as biofilters in RAS and aquaponics;
  4. development of a framework for implementation of nutrient credit trading in Europe, including shellfish regulatory services in European nutrient management programmes. Large-scale implementation in different aquaculture typologies and geographical contexts will be evaluated by means of techno-economic analyses.


Policy and Markets: this is an RTD WP, with the overarching goal of supporting policy and market development. This includes:

  1. evaluation of policy challenges to implementation of the circular economy, taking into account regulations on food safety and environmental sustainability;
  2. critical analysis of the aquaculture and fisheries sectors, to close the supply and demand mass balance for aquatic products and provide decision-makers with reliable information for setting policy;
  3. analysis of value chains of key European and Asian species to enhance European competitive capacity;
  4. evaluation of social acceptance of aquaculture products developed in WP1 and WP2.


Eco-Intensification of Aquaculture: this is an RTD WP, with the overarching goal of combining outcomes from WP1, WP2, and WP3, i.e. primary and secondary sectors of production, and policy constraints. We will:

  1. assess economic impact of GAIN at the farm and whole value-chain levels;
  2. develop and apply a comprehensive sustainability index, based on environmental and economic indicators; 
  3. develop tools and initiatives for transferring the knowledge generated by GAIN to citizens, policy makers and market operators.


Professional Development: this is an impact WP, with the overarching goal of capacity building, i.e. providing training for a new paradigm of aquaculture eco-intensification. We will:

  1. enhance the capacity of aquaculture companies to implementing GAIN innovations;
  2. provide a solid foundation for further research on aquaculture intensification. We will accomplish this by delivering free online courses on specific topics, on-site demonstration and training courses, and organizing a Summer School. WP1 feeds into WP5.


Dissemination, Exploitation, and Communication: this is an impact WP, with the overarching goal of ensuring that GAIN methodologies and results are used as broadly as possible, and that a robust legacy is achieved. We will ensure our initiatives target: (i) feed producers and food processing industries;

  1. farmers;
  2. policy-makers;
  3. consumers;
  4. scientists.

This WP will assess IPR to guarantee protection through patent applications or other measures. Activities include the wide dissemination of apps for different stakeholder groups, the Good Fish meeting, and the Affiliate Farm Programme. All RTD WPs feed into WP6.


Coordination: this is a cross-cutting WP, with the overarching goal of ensuring that GAIN is appropriately coordinated and managed at all levels, including external interactions our Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) and Reference User Group (RUG), and all other external connections. We will:

  1. put in place a well-tested management structure, with clearly-defined responsibilities and accountability;
  2. Develop and implement a robust Data Management Plan;
  3. ensure all GAIN work areas develop in a consistent and coordinated form and are appropriately communicated;
  4. guarantee that the overall outcomes of the project are more than the outputs of a set of WPs, and that the legacy of this research will endure and expand.