Tritonia staff at EMSP working with an ROV

Ambition in the life sciences sector – the future is now for aquaculture, animal health and agri-tech, writes Andrea McColl, senior development manager for life sciences at HIE. 

It‘s been a busy few weeks for me – I’ve attended a number of conferences, workshops and meetings with focus on the aquaculture, animal health and agri-tech sectors (AAA for short).  

After two long years of online meetings, it’s been great to meet many people face to face. What’s even more exciting is that it really feels like a lot of momentum is building across the country in the AAA space. 

By AAA I mean every technology or innovation, medication or process that is involved in supporting the agriculture, aquaculture and livestock farming sectors. Good examples are vertical farming systems, fish vaccines, tools to diagnose cattle disease, software algorithms or satellite technology to monitor sheep flocks. 

You can find an overview about AAA on the HIE Life Sciences website and the Life Science Scotland website. 

If you want to get a more detailed feel for what’s happening in the sector in Scotland then have a look at the SEFARI report on the AAA landscape and opportunities – including a list of companies, research institutes and other assets we have here. Or watch this webinar recording that presents the report.  

It’s an exciting space, where innovations will help make major improvements to the supply chain of our food production – enhancing animal welfare, improving efficiencies, reducing carbon emissions. 

The A3 Scotland conference in late April brought together partners in the sector and I took a group of businesses to Oban as part of a post-conference tour. We enjoyed fantastic weather on the west coast but also the hospitality of several marine businesses who shared their impressive operations and innovation with us: Scottish Sea Farms, Patogen, Tritonia Scientific, SAMS Enterprise.  And we also visited the Scottish Association for Marine Science, on the European Marine Science Park. 

The following week, Aquaculture UK in Aviemore brought together over 200 exhibitors from across the global aquaculture supply chain – showcasing innovations in fish farming and fish health. 

Here in the Highlands and Islands, we are working with a cohort of aquaculture and animal health companies as part of our Pathfinder Accelerator programme – supporting them to accelerate their new product or business. 

A few of those Pathfinder businesses are involved in seaweed cultivation – an exciting new industry that is now supported by the Seaweed Academy in Oban.  

Another very exciting development is the new Rural and Veterinary Innovation Centre on Inverness Campus. It’s due to open in 2023 and I am already working with SRUC to engage with businesses who may wish to take space in the available office units in the building.  

I’m excited to see where this partnership will lead us and it’s fascinating working with the Epidemiology Research Unit at SRUC. They have expertise in a number of areas and use software models to predict virus outbreaks. I have an academic background in virus research, so this is clearly an area of interest to me, but something we have all become more familiar with over the last couple of years. With all this innovation and collaboration, this really is an exciting time to be working in life sciences in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. 

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