£6.2 million is to be shared between 22 trailblazing projects in the latest funding awards from the UK Seafood Innovation Fund (SIF). Designed to boost the resilience and sustainability of the UK seafood sector through a diverse portfolio of innovative ideas, SIF has now provided over £17 million to 116 projects across fisheries, aquaculture, processing, and the supply chain.

The UK Seafood Innovation Fund (SIF), part of the Government’s wider UK Seafood Fund and administered by Cefas, has funded 22 new Research and Development (R&D) projects which apply novel, scalable ideas to enhance the UK seafood sector’s productivity and sustainability. 12 of the new R&D projects have been awarded further SIF funding after applying to a closed call, having previously completed successful Call 3 feasibility studies. The 10 remaining projects were selected from applicants to SIF’s open Call 4.

To mark the announcement of the latest projects to be funded by SIF, Cefas CEO Neil Hornby yesterday visited the headquarters of Mimica, one of the successful awardees. Originally a feasibility study which has now progressed to the research and development phase, Mimica is working to develop a tag which attaches to seafood packaging and goes bumpy when the seafood spoils – providing consumers with a smarter alternative to expiry dates.

Defra Fisheries Minister, Mark Spencer said: “It’s vitally important that we support our seafood sector by providing it with the means to enhance productivity and champion innovation. The Seafood Innovation Fund has now injected £17 million into the industry, and this £6.2 million round of funding will support more novel, ground-breaking development projects that will pave the way for every part of our seafood sector to flourish.”

We were extremely impressed by the calibre of applications received via the open Call 4 funding round,Fiona Lettice, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) at the University of East Anglia and Chair of the SIF Steering Group, said. “We were also delighted to fund 12 additional projects as part of the closed Call 3 following their successful feasibility phases, demonstrating the strength of their ideas. There are opportunities to innovate in every part of the sector, from boat or farm to people’s plates, and we expect SIF to help make this a reality through the projects it has chosen to fund.

The latest cohort of innovations to be funded by SIF boasts 11 projects for aquaculture, four for fisheries, another four for the supply chain and processing, and three for seaweed production. They include an imaging and artificial intelligence system to reduce discards and bycatch during fishing, a label that turns bumpy when packaged seafood has spoiled, and an on-land cultivation system for seaweed. Both the closed Call 3 and the open Call 4 offered uncapped funding, with awards granted to each project ranging from £25,000 to £603,000. The projects will commence by May this year and will take 12 to 18 months.

Heather Jones, CEO of the Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre, commented: “It is great to see such a wide range of projects being selected for the most recent awards from the Seafood Innovation Fund, with research spanning from early-stage SMEs to universities. Sustainability continues to be a core priority for seaweed, shellfish, and finfish producers, which is reflected in the diverse range of initiatives funded in this round. Research will see novel technologies used to increase efficiencies, reduce waste and create new, renewable forms of energy, alongside projects focused on fish health and welfare. We look forward to seeing how the results can be adopted across the UK.

SIF supports both early-stage feasibility studies and large-scale research and development (R&D) projects. One project that was funded in its feasibility stage and has now progressed to R&D is led by Underwater Contracting Limited (UCO), who are developing a Remote Operated Vehicle system for harvesting shellfish as an alternative to dredging. Richard Smith, R&D Manager for UCO, said: “The support from SIF has been vital to progressing our innovative concept; without funding from SIF, this project would likely have stayed on the drawing board. We are extremely pleased to have passed the rigorous SIF review process to gain further support through the Call 3 R&D grant award. This will allow us to advance our technology with significant potential for scaling up, offering a safe and sustainable way to recover shellfish by using remotely operated technology, which we believe to be an industry first in the UK.”

Another project is Sea Mist, which is being delivered by the Cornish Seaweed Company and aims to develop a groundbreaking system for farming seaweed on land instead of at sea. “The support from SIF allowed us to test an innovative seaweed cultivation method to produce a resource-efficient, low-emission food, while delivering a healthy and sustainable diet,” Tim van Berkel, Managing Director and Co-Founder of the Cornish Seaweed Company, commented. “Provided the R&D phase is successful, we believe we will be able to cultivate high-value, edible seaweeds almost anywhere.”

Aoife Martin, Director of Operations at Seafish, said: “There was a high level of interest in the Call 4 funding round, and the SIF Steering Group was pleased with the bids that were received, in terms of their quality and breadth of technological innovation covered. We expect the successful projects to actively contribute to addressing many of the challenges facing the sector – from improving the management of discards at sea via the Smartrawl project, to more rapid biotoxin monitoring in shellfish aquaculture, to using wave energy to power aquaculture businesses. Collectively these projects should help to enhance the seafood sector’s business efficiency, reputation, and environmental sustainability.

Visit the UK Seafood Innovation Fund Website to learn more about the new projects: www.seafoodinnovation.fund/projects.