Spanish firms invest in aquaculture innovation


Chris Dove, contributing editor, reporting from Malaga, Spain

Published on
December 7, 2010

Two Spanish companies — Murcia-based Grupo Culmarex and Ondartxo Arraiak in the Basque region — have developed new breeding processes for gilthead bream and sea bass and implemented cost-effective technical water recirculation systems, respectively.

With Murcia Council’s regional certificate of organic farming, Culmarex is producing gilthead bream and sea bass, which the company describe as “a new product in Spain because until now it was not possible to consume ecological gilthead bream and sea bass,” adding that both products are already being marketed in the European Union under brand Ecological Culmarex.

The company said its ecological breeding farms “have a distinct production cycle; fish are fed organic feed made with organic ingredients from sustainable fisheries.” The farms respect the natural growth cycle of both species in compliance with EU regulations on organic production, which came into force in July.

The gilthead bream and sea bass are produced in a marine farm located in Aguadulce (Almería) and analysis is carried out in collaboration with various public institutions.

The company added that production “demonstrates the high quality omega-3 content and is low in saturated fat. The products are particularly suitable for inclusion in low calorie diets and are low in carbohydrates.”

Culmarex has bred and marketed the species for 20 years, producing over 6,800 metric tons annually for domestic consumption, with a staff of 300 employees.  

In northern Spain, Ondartxo Arraiak opened a research, development and innovation facility in the Basque Country town of Getaria to test the technical feasibility and cost-effectiveness of water recirculation systems for aquaculture.

Supported by the EU Structural Funds Programme for Fisheries, the project aims to validate technological know-how of offshore production activities in closed-circuit conditions.

For the breeding of turbot, sole and cod, Spanish aquaculture typically involves closed-circuit technologies and water recirculation systems in the rearing (hatchery) and/or pre-fattening phases only, while the finishing phase is usually carried out in open-water circulation by conventional systems.

Ondartxo intends to implement a water circulation system that responds not only to the biological needs of the fattening phase but is also cost-effective in producing high-value marine species.

The company is a European pioneer in cod aquaculture. Its cod fattening program is pioneering even among Norway, Iceland, Ireland and the United Kingdom, which produce cod via cage culture located in fjords and marine estuaries.

Ondartxo’s project begins in January to better understand the factors regulating growth and profitability, with a view to potential commercialization.

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