Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Photo of man in front of a railing, squatting on a metal grate above water holding cluster of hundreds of mussels. Behind the railing is a circular pond several 10s of feet in diameter.
Blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) cultivated in proximity to Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in the Bay of Fundy, Canada. Note the salmon cage (polar circle) in the background.

Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) provides the byproducts, including waste, from one aquatic species as inputs (fertilizers, food) for another. Farmers combine fed aquaculture (e.g., fish, shrimp) with inorganic extractive (e.g., seaweed) and organic extractive (e.g., shellfish) aquaculture to create balanced systems for environment remediation (biomitigation), economic stability (improved output, lower cost, product diversification and risk reduction) and social acceptability (better management practices).[1]

Selecting appropriate species and sizing the various populations to provide necessary ecosystem functions allows the biological and chemical processes involved to achieve a stable balance, mutually benefiting the organisms and improving ecosystem health.

Ideally, the co-cultured species each yield valuable commercial "crops".[2] IMTA can synergistically increase total output, even if some of the crops yield less than they would, short-term, in a monoculture.[3]

Terminology and related approaches[edit]

"Integrated" refers to intensive and synergistic cultivation, using water-borne nutrient and energy transfer. "Multi-trophic" means that the various species occupy different trophic levels, i.e., different (but adjacent) links in the food chain.[2]

IMTA is a specialized form of the age-old practice of aquatic polyculture, which was the co-culture of various species, often without regard to trophic level. In this broader case, the organisms may share biological and chemical processes that may be minimally complementary, potentially leading to reduced production of both species due to competition for the same food resource. However, some traditional systems such as polyculture of carps in China employ species that occupy multiple niches within the same pond, or the culture of fish that is integrated with a terrestrial agricultural species, can be considered forms of IMTA.[4]

The more general term "Integrated Aquaculture" is used to describe the integration of monocultures through water transfer between the culture sysyems.[3] The terms "IMTA" and "integrated aquaculture" differ primarily in their precision and are sometimes interchanged. Aquaponics, fractionated aquaculture, integrated agriculture-aquaculture systems, integrated peri-urban-aquaculture systems, and integrated fisheries-aquaculture systems are all variations of the IMTA concept.

Range of approaches[edit]

Today, low-intensity traditional/incidental multi-trophic aquaculture is much more common than modern IMTA.[3] Most are relatively simple, such as fish, seaweed or shellfish.

True IMTA can be land-based, using ponds or tanks, or even open-water marine or freshwater systems. Implementations have included species combinations[3] such as shellfish/shrimp, fish/seaweed/shellfish, fish/seaweed, fish/shrimp and seaweed/shrimp.[5]

IMTA in open water (offshore cultivation) can be done by the use of buoys with lines on which the seaweed grows. The buoys/lines are placed next to the fishnets or cages in which the fish grows.[6] In some tropical Asian countries some traditional forms of aquaculture of finfish in floating cages, nearby fish and shrimp ponds, and oyster farming integrated with some capture fisheries in estuaries can be considered a form of IMTA.[7] Since 2010, IMTA has been used commercially in Norway, Scotland, and Ireland.

In the future, systems with other components for additional functions, or similar functions but different size brackets of particles, are likely.[2] Multiple regulatory issues remain open.[8]

Modern history of land-based systems[edit]

Ryther and co-workers created modern, integrated, intensive, land mariculture.[9][10] They originated, both theoretically and experimentally, the integrated use of extractive organisms—shellfish, microalgae and seaweeds—in the treatment of household effluents, descriptively and with quantitative results. A domestic wastewater effluent, mixed with seawater, was the nutrient source for phytoplankton, which in turn became food for oysters and clams. They cultivated other organisms in a food chain rooted in the farm's organic sludge. Dissolved nutrients in the final effluent were filtered by seaweed (mainly Gracilaria and Ulva) biofilters. The value of the original organisms grown on human waste effluents was minimal.

In 1976, Huguenin proposed adaptations to the treatment of intensive aquaculture effluents in both inland and coastal areas.[11] Tenore followed by integrating with their system of carnivorous fish and the macroalgivore abalone.[12]

In 1977, Hughes-Games[13] described the first practical marine fish/shellfish/phytoplankton culture, followed by Gordin, et al., in 1981.[14] By 1989, a semi-intensive (1 kg fish/m−3) seabream and grey mullet pond system by the Gulf of Aqaba (Eilat) on the Red Sea supported dense diatom populations, excellent for feeding oysters.[15][16] Hundreds of kilos of fish and oysters cultured here were sold. Researchers also quantified the water quality parameters and nutrient budgets in (5 kg fish m−3) green water seabream ponds.[15][17] The phytoplankton generally maintained reasonable water quality and converted on average over half the waste nitrogen into algal biomass. Experiments with intensive bivalve cultures yielded high bivalve growth rates.[18][19][20][21][22][23] This technology supported a small farm in southern Israel.


IMTA promotes economic and environmental sustainability by converting byproducts and uneaten feed from fed organisms into harvestable crops, thereby reducing eutrophication, and increasing economic diversification.[3][5][24]

Properly managed multi-trophic aquaculture accelerates growth without detrimental side-effects.[8][25][26][27] This increases the site's ability to assimilate the cultivated organisms, thereby reducing negative environmental impacts.

IMTA enables farmers to diversify their output by replacing purchased inputs with byproducts from lower trophic levels, often without new sites. Initial economic research suggests that IMTA can increase profits and can reduce financial risks due to weather, disease and market fluctuations.[28] Over a dozen studies have investigated the economics of IMTA systems since 1985.[3]

Nutrient flow[edit]

Typically, carnivorous fish or shrimp occupy IMTA's higher trophic levels. They excrete soluble ammonia and phosphorus (orthophosphate). Seaweeds and similar species can extract these inorganic nutrients directly from their environment.[1][3][5] Fish and shrimp also release organic nutrients which feed shellfish and deposit feeders.[5][26][29]

Species such as shellfish that occupy intermediate trophic levels often play a dual role, both filtering organic bottom-level organisms from the water and generating some ammonia.[5] Waste feed may also provide additional nutrients; either by direct consumption or via decomposition into individual nutrients. In some projects, the waste nutrients are also gathered and reused in the food given to the fish in cultivation. This can happen by processing the seaweed grown into food.[30]

Recovery efficiency[edit]

Nutrient recovery efficiency is a function of technology, harvest schedule, management, spatial configuration, production, species selection, trophic level biomass ratios, natural food availability, particle size, digestibility, season, light, temperature, and water flow.[3][5][29] Since these factors significantly vary by site and region, recovery efficiency also varies.

In a hypothetical family-scale fish/microalga /bivalve/seaweed farm, based on pilot scale data, at least 60% of nutrient input reached commercial products, nearly three times more than in modern net pen farms. Expected average annual yields of the system for a hypothetical 1 hectare (2.5 acres) were 35 tonnes (34 long tons; 39 short tons) of seabream, 100 tonnes (98 long tons; 110 short tons) of bivalves and 125 tonnes (123 long tons; 138 short tons) of seaweeds. These results required precise water quality control and attention to suitability for bivalve nutrition, due to the difficulty in maintaining consistent phytoplanton populations.[3][17][21][31]

Seaweeds' nitrogen uptake efficiency ranges from 2-100% in land-based systems.[5] Uptake efficiency in open-water IMTA is unknown.[32]

Food safety and quality[edit]

Feeding the wastes of one species to another has the potential for contamination, although this has yet to be observed in IMTA systems. Mussels and kelp growing adjacent to Atlantic salmon cages in the Bay of Fundy have been monitored since 2001 for contamination by medicines, heavy metals, arsenic, PCBs and pesticides. Concentrations are consistently either non-detectable or well below regulatory limits established by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the United States Food and Drug Administration and European Community Directives.[33][34] Taste testers indicate that these mussels are free of "fishy" taste and aroma and could not distinguish them from "wild" mussels. The mussels' meat yield is significantly higher, reflecting the increase in nutrient availability.[26] Recent findings suggest mussels grown adjacent to salmon farms are advantageous for winter harvest because they maintain high meat weight and condition index (meat to shell ratio). This finding is of particular interest because the Bay of Fundy, where this research was conducted, produces low condition index mussels during winter months in monoculture situations, and seasonal presence of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) typically restricts mussel harvest to the winter months.[35]

Selected projects[edit]

Historic and ongoing research projects include:


Japan, China, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, etc. have co-cultured aquatic species for centuries in marine, brackish and fresh water environments.[1][3] Fish, shellfish and seaweeds have been cultured together in bays, lagoons and ponds. Trial and error has improved integration over time.[3] The proportion of Asian aquaculture production that occurs in IMTA systems is unknown.

After the 2004 tsunami, many of the shrimp farmers in Aceh Province of Indonesia and Ranong Province of Thailand were trained in IMTA. This has been especially important as the mono-culture of marine shrimp was widely recognized as unsustainable. Production of tilapia, mud crabs, seaweeds, milkfish, and mussels have been incorporated. AquaFish Collaborative Research Support Program


Bay of Fundy[edit]

Industry, academia and government are collaborating here to expand production to commercial scale.[2] The current system integrates Atlantic salmon, blue mussels and kelp; deposit feeders are under consideration. AquaNet (one of Canada's Networks of Centres of Excellence) funded phase one. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is funding phase two. The project leaders are Thierry Chopin (University of New Brunswick in Saint John) and Shawn Robinson (Department of Fisheries and Oceans, St. Andrews Biological Station).[8][34][36]

Pacific SEA-lab[edit]

Pacific SEA-lab is researching and is licensed for the co-culture of sablefish, scallops, oysters, blue mussels, urchins and kelp. "SEA" stands for Sustainable Ecological Aquaculture. The project aims to balance four species.The project is headed by Stephen Cross under a British Columbia Innovation Award at the University of Victoria Coastal Aquaculture Research & Training (CART) network.[37]


The i-mar Research Center[38] at the Universidad de Los Lagos, in Puerto Montt is working to reduce the environmental impact of intensive salmon culture. Initial research involved trout, oysters and seaweeds. Present research is focusing on open waters with salmon, seaweeds and abalone. The project leader is Alejandro Buschmann.[39]


SeaOr Marine Enterprises Ltd.[edit]

SeaOr Marine Enterprises Ltd., which operated for several years on the Israeli Mediterranean coast, north of Tel Aviv, cultured marine fish (gilthead seabream), seaweeds (Ulva and Gracilaria) and Japanese abalone. Its approach leveraged local climate and recycled fish waste products into seaweed biomass, which was fed to the abalone. It also effectively purified the water sufficiently to allow the water to be recycled to the fishponds and to meet point-source effluent environmental regulations.

PGP Ltd.[edit]

PGP Ltd. is a small farm in Southern Israel. It cultures marine fish, microalgae, bivalves and Artemia. Effluents from seabream and seabass collect in sedimentation ponds, where dense populations of microalgae—mostly diatoms—develop. Clams, oysters and sometimes Artemia filter the microalgae from the water, producing a clear effluent. The farm sells the fish, bivalves and Artemia.

The Netherlands[edit]

In the Netherlands, Willem Brandenburg of UR Wageningen (Plant Sciences Group) has established the first seaweed farm in the Netherlands. The farm is called "De Wierderij" and is used for research.[40]

South Africa[edit]

Three farms grow seaweeds for feed in abalone effluents in land-based tanks. Up to 50% of re-circulated water passes through the seaweed tanks.[41] Somewhat uniquely, neither fish nor shrimp comprise the upper trophic species. The motivation is to avoid over-harvesting natural seaweed beds and red tides, rather than nutrient abatement. These commercial successes developed from research collaboration between Irvine and Johnson Cape Abalone and scientists from the University of Cape Town and the University of Stockholm.[41]

United Kingdom[edit]

The Scottish Association for Marine Science, in Oban is developing co-cultures of salmon, oysters, sea urchins, and brown and red seaweeds via several projects.[42][43][44][45] Research focuses on biological and physical processes, as well as production economics and implications for coastal zone management. Researchers include: M. Kelly, A. Rodger, L. Cook, S. Dworjanyn, and C. Sanderson.[46][47]


IMTA systems in freshwater pond

Indian carps and stinging catfish are cultured in Bangladesh, but the methods could be more productive. The pond and cage cultures used are based only on the fish. They don't take advantage of the productivity increases that could take place if other trophic levels were included. Expensive artificial feeds are used, partly to supply the fish with protein. These costs could be reduced if freshwater snails, such as Viviparus bengalensis, were simultaneously cultured, thus increasing the available protein. The organic and inorganic wastes produced as a byproduct of culturing could also be minimized by integrating freshwater snail and aquatic plants, such as water spinach, respectively.[48]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Chopin T; Buschmann A.H.; Halling C.; Troell M.; Kautsky N.; Neori A.; Kraemer G.P.; Zertuche-Gonzalez J.A.; Yarish C.; Neefus C. (2001). "Integrating seaweeds into marine aquaculture systems: a key toward sustainability". 37. Journal of Phycology: 975–986.
  2. ^ a b c d Chopin T. 2006. Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture. What it is, and why you should care… and don't confuse it with polyculture. Northern Aquaculture, Vol. 12, No. 4, July/August 2006, pg. 4.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Neori A, Chopin T, Troell M, Buschmann AH, Kraemer GP, Halling C, Shpigel M and Yarish C. 2004. Integrated aquaculture: rationale, evolution and state of the art emphasizing seaweed biofiltration in modern mariculture. Aquaculture 231: 361-391.
  4. ^ Ruddle, K. and V. Christensen. 1993. An energy flow model of the mulberry dike-carp pond farming system of the Zhujiang Delta, Guangdong Province, China. pp. 48-55. In: V. Christensen ans D. Pauley, (eds.) Trophic Models of Aquatic Ecosystems ICLARM Conference Proceedings 26, 390pp.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Troell M, Halling C, Neori A, Chopin T, Buschmann AH, Kautsky N and Yarish C. 2003. Integrated mariculture: asking the right questions. Aquaculture 226: 69-90.
  6. ^ "Seaweed/fish cultivation in offshore systems". Archived from the original on 2014-11-13.
  7. ^ Rice, M.A. and A.Z. DeVera (1998). Aquaculture in Dagupan City. World Aquaculture 29(1):18-24.
  8. ^ a b c Chopin T, Robinson S, Sawhney M, Bastarache S, Belyea E, Shea R, Armstrong W, Stewart and Fitzgerald P. 2004. The AquaNet integrated multi-trophic aquaculture project: rationale of the project and development of kelp cultivation as the inorganic extractive component of the system. Bulletin of the Aquaculture Association of Canada. 104(3): 11-18.
  9. ^ Goldman JC, Tenore RK, Ryther HJ and Corwin N. 1974. Inorganic nitrogen removal in a combined tertiary treatment - marine aquaculture system: I. Removal efficiencies. Water Research 8: 45-54.
  10. ^ Ryther JH, Goldman JC, Gifford JE, Huguenin JE, Wing AS, Clarner JP, Williams LD andLapointe BE. 1975. Physical models of integrated waste recycling - marine polyculture systems. Aquaculture 5: 163-177.
  11. ^ Huguenin JH. 1976. An examination of problems and potentials for future large-scale intensive seaweed culture systems. Aquaculture 9: 313-342.
  12. ^ Tenore KR. 1976. Food chain dynamics of abalone in a polyculture system. Aquaculture 8: 23–27.
  13. ^ Hughes-Games WL. 1977. Growing the Japanese oyster (Crassostrea gigas) in sub-tropical seawater fishponds: I. Growth rate, survival and quality index. Aquaculture 11: 217-229.
  14. ^ Gordin H, Motzkin F, Hughes-Games A and Porter C. 1981. Seawater mariculture pond - an integrated system. European Aquaculture Society Special Publication 6: 1-13.
  15. ^ a b Neori A, Krom MD, Cohen Y and Gordin H. 1989. Water quality conditions and particulate chlorophyll a of new intensive seawater fishpond in Eilat, Israel: daily and dial variations. Aquaculture 80: 63-78.
  16. ^ Erez J, Krom MD and Neuwirth T. 1990. Daily oxygen variations in marine fish ponds, Eilat, Israel. Aquaculture 84: 289-305.
  17. ^ a b Krom MD and Neori A. 1989. A total nutrient budget for an experimental intensive fishpond with circularly moving seawater. Aquaculture 88: 345-358.
  18. ^ Shpigel M and Fridman R. 1990. Propagation of the Manila clam Tapes semidecussatus in the effluent of marine aquaculture ponds in Eilat, Israel. Aquaculture 90: 113-122.
  19. ^ Shpigel M and BlaylockRA. 1991. The Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas, as a biological filter for a marine fish aquaculture pond. Aquaculture 92: 187-197.
  20. ^ Shpigel M, Neori A, Popper DM and Gordin H. 1993a. A proposed model for environmentally clean landbased culture of fish, bivalves and seaweeds. Aquaculture 117: 115-128.
  21. ^ a b Shpigel M, Lee J, Soohoo B, Fridman R and Gordin H. 1993b. The use of effluent water from fish ponds as a food source for the pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas Tunberg. Aquaculture & Fisheries Management 24: 529-543.
  22. ^ Neori A and Shpigel M. 1999. Algae treat effluents and feed invertebrates in sustainable integrated mariculture. World Aquaculture 30: 46-49, 51.
  23. ^ Neori A, Shpigel M and Scharfstein B. 2001. Land-based low-pollution integrated mariculture of fish, seaweed and herbivores: principles of development, design, operation and economics. European Aquaculture Society Special Publication 29: 190-191.
  24. ^ Tournay B. 2006. IMTA: template for production? Fish Farming International, Vol. 33, No. 5, May 2006, pg. 27.
  25. ^ Johnson E. 2004. Cleaning up the sea cages. In: Family Jewels. Saltscapes, Vol. 5, No. 3, May/June 2004, 44-48.
  26. ^ a b c Lander T, Barrington K, Robinson S, MacDonald B and Martin J. 2004. Dynamics of the blue mussel as an extractive organism in an integrated multi-trophic aquaculture system. Bulletin of the Aquaculture Association of Canada. 104(3): 19-28.
  27. ^ Ridler N, Robinson B, Chopin T, Robinson S and Page F. 2006. Development of integrated multi-trophic aquaculture in the Bay of Fundy, Canada: a socio-economic case study. World Aquaculture 37(3): 43-48.
  28. ^ Ridler N, Wowchuk M, Robinson B, Barrington K, Chopin T, Robinson S, Page F, Reid G and Haya K. 2007. Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA): a potential strategic choice for farmers. Aquaculture Economics & Management 11: 99-110.
  29. ^ a b Mazzola A and Sarà G. 2001. The effect of fish farming organic waste on food availability for bivalve molluscs (Gaeta Gulf, Central Tyrrhenian, MED): stable carbon isotopic analysis. Aquaculture 192: 361-379.
  30. ^ "Reuse of waste nutrients as fish food". Archived from the original on 2014-11-13.
  31. ^ Krom MD, Porter C and Gordin H. 1985. Causes of fish mortalities in the semi-intensively operated seawater ponds in Eilat, Israel. Aquaculture 49: 159-177.
  32. ^ Reid GK, Robinson S, Chopin T, Lander T, MacDonald B, Haya K, Burridge F, Page F, Ridler N, Justason A, Sewuster J, Powell F and Marvin R. An interdisciplinary approach to the development of integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA): bioenergetics as a means to quantify the effectiveness of IMTA systems and ecosystem response. World Aquaculture Society. Aquaculture 2007 conference proceedings, pg. 761. (
  33. ^ Haya K, Sephton D, Martin J and Chopin T. 2004. Monitoring of therapeutants and phycotoxins in kelps and mussels co-cultured with Atlantic salmon in an integrated multi-trophic aquaculture system. Bulletin of the Aquaculture Association of Canada. 104(3): 29-34.
  34. ^ a b Chopin T, Sawhney M, Shea R, Belyea E, Bastarache S, Armstrong W, Reid GK, Robinson SMC, MacDonald B, Haya K, Burridge L, Page F, Ridler N, Justason A, Sewuster J, Powell F and Marvin R. 2007. An interdisciplinary approach to the development of integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA): the inorganic extractive component. World Aquaculture Society. Aquaculture 2007 conference proceedings, pg. 177. (
  35. ^ Lander, Terralynn R.; Shawn M. C. Robinson, Bruce A. MacDonald and James D. Martin (December 2012). "Enhanced Growth Rates and Condition Index of Blue Mussels (Mytilus edulis) Held at Integrated Multitrophic Aquaculture Sites in the Bay of Fundy". Journal of Shellfish Aquaculture. 4. 31: 997–1007.
  36. ^ Robinson SMC, Lander T, Martin JD, Bennett A, Barrington K, Reid GK, Blair T, Chopin T, MacDonald B, Haya K, Burridge L, Page F, Ridler N, Justason N, Sewuster J, Powell F and Marvin R. 2007. An interdisciplinary approach to the development of integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA): the organic extractive component. World Aquaculture Society. Aquaculture 2007 conference proceedings, pg.786. (
  37. ^ Cross S. 2007. Making the case: quantifying the benefits of integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA). World Aquaculture Society. Aquaculture 2007 conference proceedings, pg. 209. (
  38. ^ "i-mar Research Center".
  39. ^ Buschmann AH, Varela DA, Hernández-González MC, Henríquez L, Correa J, Flores R and Gutierrez A. 2007. The development of an integrated multi-trophic activity in Chile: the importance of seaweeds. World Aquaculture Society. Aquaculture 2007 conference proceedings, pg. 136. (
  40. ^ "De Wierderij". Archived from the original on 2012-07-30.
  41. ^ a b Bolton J, Robertson-Andersson DM, Troell M, and Halling C. 2006. Integrated system incorporates seaweeds in South African abalone culture. Global Aquaculture Advocate, Vol. 9, No. 4, July/August 2006, pg. 54-55.
  42. ^ "MERMAIDS".
  43. ^ "AAAG".
  44. ^ "REDWEEDS".
  45. ^ "SPIINES2".
  46. ^ Kelly MS, Sanderson C, Cook EJ, Rodger A and Dworjanyn SA. 2007. Integration: enhancing sustainability in open water aquaculture systems. World Aquaculture Society. Aquaculture 2007 conference proceedings, pg. 458. (
  47. ^ Rodger A, Cromey C and Kelly M. 2007. Open water integrated aquaculture - use of depositional modelling to assist finfish/bivalve integration, for growth optimisation and prediction of waste dispersal. World Aquaculture Society. Aquaculture 2007 conference proceedings, pg. 788. (
  48. ^ Television, Diganta. "Integrated Multi-Trophinc Aquaculture (IMTA) Bangladesh". Diganta Television Bangladesh.


  • Neori A, Troell M, Chopin T, Yarish C, Critchley A and Buschmann AH. 2007. The need for a balanced ecosystem approach to blue revolution aquaculture. Environment 49(3): 36-43.

External links[edit]