The AdriAquaNet project, funded by the EU Interreg V Italy-Croatia Program 2014-2020, is led by a group of researchers from the University of Udine and brings together six other research institutions, including the University of Trieste, the Association of fish farmers from Croatia and four companies operating in Italy and Croatia. This community, which has about 100 experts, will work for two and a half years in the first ever technical-scientific cooperation initiative, with the aim of transferring advanced knowledge and new technologies throughout the aquaculture supply chain, from the management of the production plants up to the market of processed products.

The project was presented to government authorities and companies on the occasion of two inaugural ceremonies, held in Spalato on May 31 and in Udine on June 24, 2019.

The objective of involving work communities related to aquaculture and the authorities responsible for territorial management on both sides of the Adriatic Sea has been fully achieved.

Mr. Marin Miletic, who is following the project within the Managing Authority of the Interreg V Italy-Croatia Program 2014-2020 in Venice, stated that AdriAquaNet perfectly corresponds to the objectives of the Program of bringing aquaculture companies to technological excellence.

The academic authorities of Udine, represented by prof. Roberto Pinton, elected to the rector's office for the period 2019-2025, and Paolo Ceccon, director of the Department of Agri-food, environmental and animal sciences who administers the project, gave ample emphasis to the opportunity that this project offers to transfer knowledge and technologies from research laboratories to companies, noting also that the project will lead to the realization of a concrete example of a circular economy, where production wastes are reused in order to reduce the environmental impact and production costs.

Ms Agnès Monfret, who is in charge of the communication department of the Directorate-General for Regional Affairs of the European Commission, sent her greetings from Brussels and expressed her appreciation for the commitment to involve the working and government communities both in Croatia and Italy and to inform citizens about the benefits of European funding for stimulating technological and economic development.

Mr. Andrea Fabris, director of the Italian fish farmers' association, gave a long speech to list the numerous factors of interest for the companies that the project will address. First and foremost, the new technologies that can be easily adopted by companies, then the training of employees and the certification of new skills, the analysis of product quality and clear information for consumers, so that the prejudices associated with farmed fish are defeated by the data, and finally the transfer of data and information to the government authorities to adapt the legislation to the new potential offered by the fish farming production sector.

It is noteworthy that the Association asks on behalf of its members, about 300 companies operating in 500 production sites, that the certification of the quality of the work also includes the certification of the quality of job contracts, so to prevent any form of exploitation of workers, especially if they are minors.

Prof. Ivan Katavic, one of the leading referents in the field of mariculture for the Croatian government, explained in Spalato the growth prospects of this productive sector, given both by the greater interest of consumers for the nutritional qualities of the fish and by the impossibility to increase catching fish at sea. Therefore, to respond correctly to the needs of consumers, it is necessary to continuously develop new production technologies that guarantee the well-being and health of farmed fish and new product transformation processes.

 The partners have started all the project activities and the pilot tests will start soon in the plants. "We have been working with fish producers for years and have gained extensive experience in applied research, also thanks to our participation in major European projects on emerging issues concerning aquaculture and vocational training", says prof. Marco Galeotti, professor of animal pathology at the University of Udine, and project coordinator. "We know that companies are hungry for scientific knowledge and new technologies, because they see that the market is growing. Therefore, they are interested in collaborating with us" says Prof. Snježana Zrnčić, one of the leading European fish pathology experts, who works at the Croatian Veterinary Institute in Zagreb and a member of the scientific committee of the project.

The Italian partners are: UNIVERSITÀ DI UDINE - Department of Agricultural, Food, Environmental and Animal Sciences (Coordinator). UNIVERSITY OF TRIESTE - Department of Life Sciences. ZOOPROFILATICAL EXPERIMENTAL INSTITUTE OF VENETIANS, Padua. NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL - Department of Chemical Sciences and Materials Technology, Padua. AZIENDA AGRICOLA ITTICA CALDOLI srl, Foggia. FRIULTROTA DI PIGHIN srl, San Daniele.

The Croatian Partners are: CROATIAN VETERINARY INSTITUTE, Zagreb. INSTITUTE OF OCEANOGRAPHY AND FISHERIES, Split. UNIVERSITY OF RIJEKA / FIUME - Faculty of tourism and hospitality management. KLASTER MARIKULTURA - association of Croatian aquaculture breeders, Split. FRIŠKINA d.o.o., Split. ORADA ADRIATIC d.o.o., Cres.

The THREE BIG THEMES of the project are: The fish farm, The fish doctor and The fish market.

The fish farm. Partners will work to transfer greater sustainability and quality to fish farming with innovative solutions in feeding farmed fish and saving energy in production plants.

The fish doctor. To improve the management of health aspects through the preparation of new vaccines and the development of therapies based on natural products. A method will also be set up to monitor the welfare of farmed fish, which can be directly applied by farmers.

The fish market. The sensorial and hygienic-sanitary quality of fresh fish will be improved and new processed products will be studied, also assessing consumer satisfaction.

These innovations are essential for an ever greater integration between the environment and aquaculture activities, making fish farms compatible with the landscape and tourism, to provide the market with healthy, controlled fish and in appetizing preparations with high nutritional power, and for the social and economic sustainability of the supply chain. Indeed, aquaculture can offer specialized and profitable job prospects.

The Faculty of Tourism and Hospitality Management, represented by Prof. Greta Kresic, Prof. Dina Loncaric, Ana Cuic Tankovic, Anamarija Buneta and Nikolina Liović will participate to the project by investigating the impact of the new feeding protocols, vaccines and natural compounds on the nutritional composition of the fish meat. Besides that, the project team will carry out consumer research to assess how the new products are perceived.  Based on these data, the team will design promotion campaigns to encourage consumers to include fish in their meals.

Details

Priority: Blue innovation
Duration: 01.01.2019-30.06.2021
Coordination: University of Udine
Funding: € 2 740 MLN from the European Regional Development Fund and € 483 600 from national co-financing.