Physiology shapes the happy salmon – a systems approach to sustainable feeds for stimulation of growth, welfare and survival (Happy salmon)

The "Happy Salmon" project aims is to contribute with knowledge and solutions for a successful Atlantic salmon smolt production using novel sustainable feeds and that are applicable in modern recirculating landbased farming systems. Smoltification is the life stage transition when the young salmon changes habitat from a life in freshwater to seawater, and includes a spectrum of physiological changes for the fish to be able to cope with increased salinity. Smoltification is regarded as a stressful process, and the current smolt production protocols used by industry often lead to depressed appetite, stunted growth and impaired health and welfare of the fish, as well as a major production cost for the industry. In order to overcome these problems, the project will troubleshoot smolt production bottlenecks by targeting the underlying physiological mechanisms to salmon performance during different production cycle stages.

We will follow the fish through the freshwater stage, smoltification, when moved to seawater, and as post smolts in seawater, in both flow-through and recirculating systems. We will test if alternative feeds based on marine raw materials, directly using marine microalgae and side streams or indirectly using insects, will lead to a robust smolt prepared for a life in seawater, with high appetite and growth, health and welfare. The project will deliver new scientific knowledge about the fundamental biology of the fascinating smoltification process, in addition to applicable results for the industry. One major potential impact is a more ethical salmon production as well as increased production efficiency of the sector, through innovative prototype feeds and smolt production protocols.

The Happy Salmon consortium constitutes Nordic research and industrial partners, gathering four world-renowned academic research environments from Norway, Sweden and Iceland that have teamed up with the aquaculture production and feed industry represented by one large, multinational feed company, Skretting, two large salmon producers, Laxar Fiskeldi Ltd and Arctic Fish Ltd, as well as two SMEs and entrepreneurs, Swedish Algae Factory and Rena Hav AB. A major goal of the project is to ensure a high societal engagement and relevance through the duration of the project by integrating an array of industry stakeholder and interaction with the public.