Article by Erik Malta, CTAQUA
The European SIMBA project team continues to advance its mission to harness complex terrestrial and marine microbiomes for sustainable food production. This initiative focuses on two interconnected food chains: agriculture and aquaculture.
SIMBA started in 2018 and has a consortium made up of 22 multidisciplinary partners, dedicated to basic and applied research and the business sector, with extensive experience in bringing science closer to the food industry.
The pandemic and active restrictions in the 11 European countries that are part of the project have had a significant impact on the work plan; however, much of the plan of activities has already been executed and progress has been very significant. Most of the experimental work has been carried out, and in most of the work packages the main focus is on data analyses. Likewise, there is still important work to be done, “only the results of the analysis of the bacterial communities in the Ulva macroalga occupy 20 gigabytes of data!” explains Erik Malta, head of the SIMBA project at CTAQUA.
“It shows that we are entering the final stretch of the project. Although much remains to be done, many interesting results are already being obtained and various scientific publications and transfer activities are coming to light”, he notes.
An important sample of the advances achieved by SIMBA could be seen at the sixth meeting of the consortium, which under an interactive hybrid format was held at CTAQUA during the third week of June. 34 representatives of almost all the organizations that participate in the project gathered at our facilities, in El Puerto de Santa María. In addition, 35 people connected to the online event .
In this meeting, the general progress of each of the eight work packages was presented, to later give way to 12 presentations by individual researchers who detailed the specific results of various tasks of the project. In addition, an interactive workshop of work package 7 (Assessment of sustainability and possible adoption of new technologies/products) was organized and the general assembly of the project was held.
Advances and results in marine microbiomes
The work framed in work package 3 “Marine Microbiomes” is well advanced. Partners NIVA (Norway) and LUKE (Finland) presented the first results of nutritional tests with juvenile and adult salmon fed more sustainable and healthy feed. “CTAQUA finished the same work last year, but in our case with sea bass and sea bream. Now the results of the intestinal microbial community that the Icelandic partner, MATIS, is finishing are still to be analyzed”, explains Erik Malta.
Another important task of the SIMBA project is focused on the analysis of the microbial communities associated with micro and macroalgae cultures, whose ultimate goal is to formulate a minimum microbiome to boost its industrial production. Tamara Santos, pre-doctoral fellow at the University of the Algarve, in collaboration with the Portuguese partners ALLMICROALGAE and Necton, presented the first results with the microalgae Tisochrysis lutea , Nannochloropsis oceanica and Chlorella vulgarisin different industrial farming systems. “The first analysis of the microbiome of microalgae has yielded some 500 species of bacteria. Now a deeper analysis is going to be carried out to see what species of bacteria the microalgae have in common, and if correlations can be found between the production and chemical composition of the microalgae and their associated microbiome”, he explains.
At CTAQUA we are in the same phase with the cultivation of the Ulva ohnoi macroalgae in our facilities. The results of the microbiome analyzes carried out by NWO-I (The Netherlands) and MATIS have just been published, and the chemical composition of this macroalgae is currently being analysed. “When we finish these analyzes and the Dutch partners finish organizing the microbiome data, we will be able to look for correlations between algal growth, chemical composition and bacterial species, to see if we can identify a minimal microbiome that can support the production of algae. this macroalga”, explains Erik Malta.
“In the Netherlands they have carried out additional sampling in cultures of another species of Ulva . Comparing them with our results will also give us an idea of the differences and especially the bacteria they have in common”, he adds.
Advances in other areas of the project
The other work packages also showed great advances on topics as diverse as sustainable substitutes for artificial fertilizers in agriculture (University of Parma, Italy), the fermentation of pulses as a tool to promote healthy foods and nutrition (University of Copenhagen, Denmark), agroecological transitions, the role of microbiomes and innovation indices (Wageningen Universities, the Netherlands and ENEA, Italy), and other topics related to food, health and agriculture and aquaculture.
To deal with the effects of the pandemic, the project has been granted a one-year extension and will end in October 2023. The next consortium meeting will take place in March in the German city of Bielefeld. Then, in the autumn of the same year, the project will be closed with transfer conferences to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark.