Russian research institute seeks partners for aquaculture biosensors tested in China

Published on
June 24, 2021

A Russian research agency is seeking partners to develop solutions for water pollution monitoring using “bioelectronic installations” in which crabs, crayfish, shrimps, and bivalves are used as biosensors to monitor problems.

Petr Mashkin, a researcher at the Moscow-based Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences told SeafoodSource his agency is “looking for interested partners and offers … In different countries, to improve bioelectronic devices for working on marine and river farms based on our patents.”

“We propose to create a company that will produce devices for specific consumers, taking into account the specifics of their production,” Mashkin said.

One potential partner with which Mashkin’s institute is talking is the China Agricultural Scientific Innovation Alliance, which funds innovations. The institute has already tested early-warning systems for accidental pollution of China’s Sungari River, working jointly with researchers from the Harbin University of Engineering using shellfish as biosensors, Mashkin said.

In addition to detecting pollutants and microalgae, the biosensors allow stress caused by noise from passing ships – detrimental to shellfish weight gain – to be monitored, he said.

“It is difficult and expensive to control the level of seawater pollution using chemical water analyses. These methods do not allow continuous monitoring of the content of even a few dozen substances,” Mashkin said. “Chemical methods, in principle, do not allow us to predict the result of the simultaneous combined action of many substances contained in water.”

Sensors attached to the body of crustaceans and shellfish register the heart rate and motion of the creatures and allow detection of water-quality issues because biosensors are living organisms that are highly sensitive to water pollution, Mashkin said.

According to Mashkin, the sensors are connected to the devices by a thin cable. The animals are then placed in a special container and placed on farms on platforms or buoys next to other animals. The heart rate and the frequency and aperture of shell opening are recorded continuously in the sea or on rivers over a long duration of time to establish a data baseline. Signals from the devices are transmitted through various channels to farmers, environmental services, and regulatory  authorities, according to Mashkin.

“Shellfish in the installations do not move and feed on their own. Therefore, the installations can operate for a long time without maintenance. If the animals die, you can quickly replace them with new ones,” Mashkin said. “When exposed to adverse factors, animals change their breathing, heart rate, and movement. These parameters are recorded by the settings in continuous automatic mode. In our opinion, it is best to use bivalves as biosensors to control seawater. They have sufficient sensitivity to all types of contamination. When water is polluted, shellfish close the shell and dramatically reduce the heart rate. The procedure for installing optical heart rate sensors and flap motion sensors is performed in the air without damaging the animal.”

Photo courtesy of Nick Kashenko/Shutterstock

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