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The search for disease-free seaweed

April 20, 2017

Dr. Claire Gachon, left, with BMG Labtech’s Catherine Wark. Image courtesy of SAMS

The Fish Site reports that representatives from BMG Labtech have recently delivered a NEPHELOstar to Dr. Claire Gachon, senior lecturer in molecular phycology at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS). The hi-tech piece of lab equipment is being used to help breed disease-resistant algae for the seaweed-growing industry.

In a novel application for this type of instrument, the lab will use the NEPHELOstar to measure biomass and “identify algae that are resistant to disease,” said Dr. Gachon. “We will then correlate the data with genotype information to find out which strains are the most suitable for breeding seaweed.”

“This is important research for the seaweed industry globally; just like in land-based agriculture, disease can be devastating to the production line,” she said.

This pioneering work is part of the GENIALG project, which aims to improve the genetic resources available to breeders for sustainable, large-scale kelp farming throughout the EU. “This device is typically used by drug companies, so the work at SAMS is certainly a novel use of the technology,” said Catherine Wark, applications and business development manager at BMG Labtech.

Dr. Gachon believes that, beyond algae, the technology could become a mainstream tool for non-invasive measurement of biomass of many different types of aquatic organisms.

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