ImprovAFish: Improving aquaculture sustainability by modulating the feed-microbiome host axis in Fish

Funding source:Project no:
Main Objective:
July  2020 – December 2024
Simen Rød Sandve and Phillip Pope
HAVBRUK2 (Research Council of Norway), BlueBio Co-Fund (ERA-Net)
~14.0 mill NOK
Our main objective is to decipher how (or if)  the fish the fish genome, the intestinal microbial (meta)genomes and their inherent metabolic processes are holistically connected. We will do this by examining the response of the holobiont (i.e. fish and microbes collectively) to pre-biotic fiber and test if we can exploit these connections to improve the fish growth and health.








As the human population surges towards 10 billion, the production and consumption of aquaculture products such as fish is expanding. Efficient and environmentally sustainable practices are therefore required to ensure long-term food security. To solve these challenges, attractive solutions include developing new feed ingredients and better broodstock genetics to improve fish production and welfare. Intriguingly, it has been shown that both feed and host genetics can modulate the microbiome of animals and thus influence its integral connection to host phenotype. The ambitious aim of ImprovAFish is to decipher the intimate functional coupling along the feedmicrobiome-host axis in an applied context, with the emphasis on a promising ‘next generation’ functional feed ingredient (beta-mannan) that is known to promote beneficial microbiota in production animals, including promising preliminary data in fish. Our approach is to jointly analyze how diet affects the metabolic function of the host and its microbiome as a single unit of action, using a novel and powerful framework called ‘holo-omics’. This entails monitoring how changes in enzymes and metabolites produced by microbiota, correlates with uptake and metabolism of nutrients in the gut and liver of the fish. By doing this across life stages, different feeds and with recordings of key performance indices, we aim to identify exploitable interactions between specific feed components and microbiome functions that can be used to improve fish phenotype. In addition, associations between broodstock genetic variation, microbiome composition and diet will be determined, which will facilitate selection for fish with preferred gut microbiota. Ultimately ImprovAFish will facilitate optimization of improved and sustainable feeding strategies that are specifically tailored to host genetics (or vice versa), with an emphasis on socially responsible outcomes facilitated by a dedicated Responsible Research and Innovation process.

Outcomes and impacts

The outcome of this project will be an encyclopedia of microbial genomes present in salmon gut across life stages and which enzymes they express which potentially could interact with host metabolism or gut homeostasis. Assessment of the novel prebiotic feed ingredient beta mannans in selecting for beneficial gut microbes that result in improved salmon growth/welfare. Development of novel computational biology approaches to study host microbiome interactions.

Results from this project could improve food production sustainability through improving fish health and feed conversion efficiency, decreased aquaculture production costs, and contribute to solving global societal challenges related to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

CIGENE researchers involved: Simen Sandve, Phillip Pope

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