Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
The Digital Salmon

The Digital Salmon

Salmon farming in Norway generates
billions of euros annually, and has grown into one of Norway’s biggest export industries. The value of a single salmon has on occasion
surpassed that of a barrel of oil. But salmon are carnivores by nature, and fish oil and fish meal have become scarce resources in producing fish feed. Thus, sustainable growth in salmon farming requires salmon to eat stuff it isn’t evolved for. Through years of trial and error, researchers have developed feeds made from 75% plants, such as soybeans. But this has not been easy, as soy by itself causes inflammation of the gut. Today this problem is alleviated by feed processing and additives, but getting there took a lot of time, money and struggle. And still it isn’t particularly sustainable, for the soy fields could instead
have produced food for humans. Researchers are now trialing feeds
derived from grass, sawdust and seaweed – – resources unfit for human consumption. These novel feeds pose new challenges
for the salmon body. Can we solve them quicker this time? Can wecomputehow to compose a feed
that is good for fish, folk and for business? Systems biologyaddresses complex interplays
in biological systems. TheDigital Salmonresearch programme aims to build a collection of mathematical models of the life processes in the salmon body, such as metabolism. Based on how salmon breaks down feed ingredients and converts them to fish meat and bodily waste, we compose a model to compute likely outcomes of feeding various possible diets to salmon. If salmon is fed yeast instead of fish meal, will it require vitamin supplements? Could novel feed ingredients cause inflammation? If so, how can we prevent this? To tackle these questions mathematically, we must describe theactorsin the system, such as feedstuffs, cells, hormones, and the organs of the body. and theprocesses, such as breakdown of feed and building of muscle, or triggering of inflammatory hormones by certain substances. The model will shed light on how
a multitude of potential diets may affect the salmon body,
and point to factors that may mitigate inflammation
or improve feed utilization. The grand aim of this digitalization of the salmon body is to accumulate a library of various models of life processes in the body, to quickly construct suit-tailored computer simulations to compute effective use of resources, for food security, fish welfare and human health. Such a “Digital Salmon” knowledge base
will enable faster response to new challenges, such as climate change, new diseases, or scarcity of key feedstuffs. In the future, fish farms will stream data
to the Digital Salmon, making aquaculture more adaptable and sustainable.

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