Friday, June 10, 2016
The interview - Professor Brett Glencross
However, prior to his most recent appointment, Prof Glencross has worked closely with several major international aquaculture feed companies throughout Australia, Asia and Europe. He also has Honours and Masters Degrees in Biochemistry from the University of Western Australia and a PhD in Animal Nutrition from the University of Queensland.
Since moving to Scotland, his work has focused on species such as Atlantic salmon, chinook salmon, barramundi and shrimp.
As the Director of Research of one of the world’s leading Aquaculture research centres, how do you view your role and responsibility in the institution and the industry?
The Institute of Aquaculture enjoys an unrivalled reputation as a place of excellence in both research and teaching related to aquaculture; to me that was part of the attraction in moving here to Scotland from Australia. My role as Director of Research has many elements to it, but perhaps principally is to oversee the research we do and help the institute move forward by helping our extremely talented group of staff do the best work they can, in a way that delivers real world impact whilst applying cutting edge technologies in doing so. As an applied science Institute our first and foremost responsibility is to the industry.
For over forty years the Institute has been at the forefront of delivering real impact in the aquaculture industry both here in Scotland and across the world. It’s amazing when you look at the alumni we boast, as well as how far the Institute’s influence across the globe has been. How we attract students and industry partners from across the globe on the back of that legacy, is also a real credit. I see it as a real honour to be handed the responsibility to continue to build that legacy and our links to industry I see as key to that moving forward.
How do you think Aquaculture will answer the challenge of providing enough protein to feed the estimated 9.1 billion people by 2050?
As we approach 2050, there are a suite of global megatrends shaping the world we live in. One of those is the impending population of nine billion plus. Another is the growing level of affluence across the world. With this increase in wealth people are responding with an increase protein and meat consumption as they seek to eat better quality foods that they enjoy, not just subsist on. Estimates of the meat consumption across the world suggest that as affluence (USD$ GDP/capita) increases that there is an increase in meat consumption to about 60 to 80 kg/person/year.
Within this meat consumption it has been noted that at least a quarter of this is fish derived protein. A simple analysis of these factors shows that as we go from seven billion to nine billion people that we’re going to need at least 30 percent more seafood than the 120 million tonnes we presently produce and harvest. That’s another 36 million tonnes of seafood that simply can’t be provided sustainably from wild fisheries. There is in all reality no other answer to sustainable and responsible seafood production than aquaculture.
Do you believe that the aquaculture industry is currently well positioned to either reap any potential rewards, or are enough measures in place to avert any potential disasters?
Like any industry, aquaculture has its fair share of challenges ahead. Some of these are specific to our region, while others are global issues. I tend to see the glass as half full and believe that the industry IS positioned to reap the rewards going forward, but there is still a serious amount of work to be done before we get there. A constrained amount of fishmeal and fish oil is an obvious challenge, but our scientists have been leading the charge on finding solutions to the fishmeal and omega-3 trap for almost 30 years.
We’ve been working on a range of projects looking at vegetable sources of both protein and omega-3 and how this can fit into the Scottish salmon industry moving forward. I wouldn’t say we’re “out of the tunnel” in this area yet, but we can see some light in the distance for sure. Another challenge we have a big focus on is the threat of sea lice to the North Atlantic salmon industry. We manage a series of projects looking at different strategies to deal with this problem, from the use cleaner fish to understanding mechanisms of treatment resistance. It’s another big area of research for the Institute and we’re making some real progress in this area.
What is your opinion on the FDA approval of Genetically Modified Atlantic Salmon in the US?
This is a fantastic piece of science. Whatever way you look at it and whatever your opinion is on the use of genetically modified food, you can’t deny that the science here is pretty cool. However, as it is often said, “the devil is in the detail”, the impact here will be interesting to watch going forward to see how society deals with what is arguably the biggest move forward in terms of genetically modified animals for food. Humans have been consuming genetically modified crops for over two decades now, so I guess this is now the next “brave new world” frontier?
What role is the University of Stirling taking in ensuring the sustainability of aquaculture practices – can you tell us a bit about how you have been aiding aquaculture practices in developing countries?
So much of the work we do at the Institute of Aquaculture is directed at ensuring that future development of the Scottish and global aquaculture industry is done on a responsible and sustainable basis. Cutting edge work in our vaccines lab is helping minimise chemical use in aquaculture across the globe. We have projects in Southeast Asia exploring the use of probiotic strategies to minimise antibiotic use in aquaculture.
We have many of our staff working on projects in developing countries in both Africa and Southeast Asia looking at things like disease management, feed resource development and social sciences to understand the bigger picture situations now and on the horizon. With close to 90 percent of the world’s aquaculture activity occurring in the developing world, I see this area as an important one for the Institute moving forward.