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2008 Synergy Awards for Innovation
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

Dr. Thierry Chopin (University of New Brunswick), Dr. Shawn Robinson (Fisheries and Oceans Canada), Mr. Glenn Cooke (Cooke Aquaculture Inc.) and Mr. Jean-Paul Deveau (Acadian Seaplants Limited) were the recepients of the 2008 NSERC Synergy Award for Innovation in the category "Two or more Companies" for their "novel aquaculture techniques that enhance the industry's productivity and environmental sustainability".

Click here to see the Video Presentation of the 2008 Synergy Awards.
The video, as well as a profile of the project, can also be seen on the NSERC website.

Shawn Robinson and Thierry Chopin with the Synergy Award Drs. Shawn Robinson and Thierry Chopin with the NSERC Synergy Award sculpture and the “big cheque”.

An innovative approach for making the world’s aquaculture industry more sustainable and profitable has garnered a team, working through the University of New Brunswick (UNB), and its industry partners a prestigious national award.
Thierry Chopin (professor of marine biology at UNB Saint John), Shawn Robinson (adjunct professor at UNBSJ and research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada at the St. Andrews Biological Station), and their industry partners Cooke Aquaculture Inc. (from Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick) and Acadian Seaplants Limited (from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia) have received a 2008 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Synergy Award for their integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) research in the Bay of Fundy. The research team received a $200,000 research grant and each industry partner has received the prestigious Synergy sculpture and an opportunity to hire an industrial research and development fellow (IRDF) for two years.

Group Photo The recipients of the 2008 NSERC Synergy Award: Mr. Jean-Paul Deveau, Dr. Shawn Robinson, Mr. Glenn Cooke, Dr. Thierry Chopin and Mr. Michael Szemerda.
“Thierry is an excellent researcher and scholar and has been fortunate to work with an excellent inter-disciplinary research team,” said Dr. Gregory Kealey, Vice-President (research) at UNB. “The work of the research team is well known, both nationally and internationally, and they have demonstrated that IMTA is a promising aquaculture practice for the future and are most deserving of this award.”
Dr. Robert Stephenson, Director of the St. Andrews Biological Station, points to the collaborative nature of the project. “This team has successfully brought together government and academic researchers and industry in a project of direct relevance to the sustainability of the aquaculture sector”.
Photos of the certificates The certificates for the 2008 NSERC Synergy Awards presented in four categories: small and medium-sized companies, large companies, two or more companies, and the Leo Derikx Award.
IMTA is rooted in an age-old, common sense, recycling and farming practice in which the by-products from one species become nutritional inputs for another: fed aquaculture (e.g. finfish) is combined with inorganic extractive (e.g. seaweeds such as kelps) and organic extractive (e.g. filter-feeding invertebrates such as mussels) aquaculture. This process allows farmers to diversify their crops and results in an aquaculture industry that is more environmentally and economically sustainable.
“What we’re doing with IMTA is nothing less than recreating a simplified food chain within a balanced ecosystem,” said Dr. Chopin. “This very exciting research with industry is helping the entire aquaculture sector to evolve to the next level of efficiency and sustainability” added Dr. Robinson. “Not only is it helping the fish farmer, it is also helping to develop more effective and advanced management policies”.
Reception Photo Lynda Wood (NSERC Ottawa), Richard Isner (NSERC Moncton Regional Office) and Dwight Ball (UNB Office of Research Services) at the reception.
For the past seven years, the research team has been adding mussels and seaweeds to traditional salmon-only farming operations in the Bay of Fundy. Nutrients released from the salmon pens are captured and used as food and energy for the mussels and seaweeds, while regular sampling shows that these additional crops are free from any contaminants and are of extremely high quality.
Cooke Aquaculture Inc. supplied the salmon sites to conduct experiments at a scale approaching commercial scale. “As a major Atlantic Canadian aquaculture company, Cooke Aquaculture Inc. relies heavily on innovation to compete in the global economy. IMTA is one of our innovative solutions for environmental sustainability, economic stability and societal acceptance. This collaborative project is consistent with our commitment to environmental sustainability and eco-label certification, and I am very proud to be a co-recipient of this NSERC Synergy Award,” said Mr. Glenn Cooke, the CEO of Cooke Aquaculture Inc.
Reception Table decorated Nicely decorated table for the Awards Dinner with the NSERC brochure.
“The presence of seaweeds is an essential part of the IMTA concept as they add considerable value to the biomitigation process,” said Jean-Paul Deveau, President of Acadian Seaplants Limited. “Our role is in the further valorization of the biomass. We are currently determining market acceptance of the IMTA seaweeds as a food for Asian cuisine and/or using the biomass as a source of ingredients for global nutraceutical and functional food industries. We value our long-standing relationship and are very pleased that NSERC recognized all parties for their contributions to this aquaculture practice which we hope becomes widely accepted and adopted.”
Drs. Chopin and Robinson and their team have used what they learned from these experiments and brought it to the Bay of Fundy. “In the Bay of Fundy, we had it all in place to do some innovative inter-disciplinary science, where we could mix biology, engineering, social science and economics,” said Dr. Chopin. “We pretty much have a live experiment in our hands.”
Synergy Award cheques and sculptures NSERC Synergy Awards cheques and sculptures before the ceremony.
With its research results, the team is developing the next generation of aquaculture methods and is keeping Canada on the cutting edge of innovation and discovery in an extremely competitive worldwide industry.
 “One of the great accomplishments of the project has been getting an amendment to existing regulations to make IMTA and innovative aquaculture practices a reality in Canada, while the rest of the world is taking note of our progress,” said Dr. Chopin.
Practices such as IMTA can help the industry meet increasing demands, diversify product lines, replace some of the jobs lost in the wild fisheries, and answer environmental concerns raised by regulators or the public.
Suzanne Fortier, President of NSERC Dr. Suzanne Fortier, President of NSERC, during her introductory remarks.
“It is also gratifying to see that highly qualified personnel trained through our graduate research program are taking positions in the industry and in the regulatory management side of federal and provincial governments. They help spread the concept and the technology,” said Dr. Chopin. “We are also working closely with our colleagues working on similar IMTA systems on the Canadian West coast and in other parts of the world,” added Dr. Robinson.
Since their inception in 1995, the NSERC Synergy Awards have honoured the most outstanding achievements of university-industry collaboration. By working together, award-winning companies and universities have proven that effective partnerships are the foundation of achievement.
Synergy Award cheques presentation Dr. Suzanne Fortier giving the “big cheque” to Dr. Thierry Chopin.
“We are extremely honoured to receive this award on behalf of the entire team,” said Drs. Chopin and Robinson. “But more importantly, we are thrilled that aquaculture research is being celebrated. This is a tremendous recognition that IMTA systems are a promising evolution in the way we will secure our seafood demand in the future.”

Background information
Dr. Thierry Chopin is recognized as one of the world leaders in the development of integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) systems for providing environmental sustainability (biomitigation), economic stability (product diversification and risk reduction) and social acceptability (better management practices). The research of his team focuses on the eco-physiology and biochemistry of seaweeds of commercial value and their integration in aquaculture systems for responsible management. His laboratory is located on the UNB Saint John campus.
Dr. Shawn Robinson, the other IMTA project co-leader, is developing the concept within the federal governmental science program of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. His team is engaged in applied ecological research on marine invertebrates. They are studying the natural processes by which these animals interact and utilize their environment so that better and more sustainable culture techniques can be developed. He works out of the Biological Station in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.
All the Prize Recipients The recipients: Dr. Thierry Chopin, with the “big cheque”, and Mr. Jean-Paul Deveau, Mr. Glenn Cooke and Dr. Shawn Robinson with their sculptures.
Over seven years, this inter-disciplinary team as accumulated very interesting and promising results. Increased growth rates of kelps (46%) and mussels (50%) cultured in proximity to fish farms reflect the increase in food availability and energy. The kelps recapture up to 40% of the inorganic nutrients and the mussels up to 50% of the fine particulates. Other seaweeds and deposit-feeders, such as sea-urchins, sea-cucumbers and worms, will need to be added to design even more efficient systems. None of the therapeutants used in salmon aquaculture have been detected in the IMTA kelps and mussels. Levels of heavy metals, arsenic, PCBs and pesticides have always been below regulatory limits. Consumers’ opinions on aquaculture improve when the IMTA approach is mentioned. Participants in attitudinal studies felt that IMTA products would be safe to eat and 50% are willing to pay 10% more for such differentiated products. The bio-economic model under development shows that the addition of seaweed and mussel to salmon farming is profitable and helps reduce risks. They are now scaling-up experimental systems to develop commercial-scale IMTA operations.