Memorial University Applies Genomics Research to Aquaculture Industry Innovation

News Release: Memorial University Applies Genomics Research to Aquaculture Industry Innovation

Federal and provincial governments invest close to $3.5 million in innovative aquaculture initiative

August 9, 2017– Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove, NL– Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Memorial University is leading a pan-Atlantic research initiative to improve the health and welfare of cultured Atlantic salmon using genomic and other biotechnologies. The project will equip the Atlantic salmon aquaculture industry with the information and tools needed to develop more disease-resistant broodstock and improved vaccines, which will result in a more robust industry.

Nick Whalen, Member of Parliament for St. John’s East, on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), today announced almost $3 million for the project. The Honourable Christopher Mitchelmore, provincial Minister of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation announced a provincial government investment of $500,000 for the initiative through InnovateNL.

These investments will enable researchers at Memorial University’s Department of Ocean Sciences, Faculty of Science, to work with Atlantic Canadian industry and academic partners to mitigate the impact of climate-related challenges on salmon aquaculture. The project will focus on the predicted effects of warming coastal waters and improve methods for protecting salmon from pathogens that can lead to diseases which can have significant negative economic impacts on the industry.

As a result of this project, Atlantic Canadian fish farmers will be able to expand their workforce and revenue and have more disease-resistant broodstock as well as new scientific tools to improve fish health. 

The investment from ACOA is being provided through the Atlantic Innovation Fund, which encourages partnerships among private sector firms, universities, colleges and other research institutions to develop and commercialize new or improved products and services.

Canada’s Innovation and Skills Plan aims to make this country a global centre for innovation—one that creates jobs, drives growth across all industries and improves the lives of all Canadians. Investments in these projects demonstrate the Government of Canada’s new approach to economic development through innovation.

Over the next five years, all six regional development agencies across Canada, including ACOA, will invest a total of $1.5 billion to strengthen innovation capacity and economic growth in each region. Part of these investments will go towards supporting projects such as the one announced today, which is adopting new technologies to boost innovation capacity and competitiveness.

InnovateNL, through the Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation, is a single-window for the delivery of provincial innovation programs and services to clients in a seamless and more efficient manner. In total, InnovateNL will bring the department’s current combined budget for economic development to approximately $40 million.

The Way Forward guides provincial government actions to achieve greater efficiency, strengthen the province’s economic foundation, enhance services, and improve outcomes to promote a healthy and prosperous province.



“Through the Innovation and Skills Plan, the Government of Canada is focussing on skills, research, technology and commercialization in growing sectors of the economy.  This investment will enable Memorial University to work with key partners to lead the way in genomics research which will help develop a stronger aquaculture industry in Atlantic Canada.”

– The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for ACOA

“Through this project, Memorial University is taking a collaborative approach and applying its expertise in genomics research to the aquaculture industry, which is one of the leading sectors in this region. This research and innovation project will benefit local aquaculture companies by creating innovative methods to address challenges in the industry and advance new opportunities for growth.”

– Nick Whalen, Member of Parliament for St. John’s East

“The provincial government, through InnovateNL, is pleased to support the province’s aquaculture industry. This industry has been identified as having high growth potential by the Cabinet Committee on Jobs, which is focused on stimulating new business activity and creating new private sector jobs for residents throughout the province. This project combines regional talent and capacity in both genomics and aquaculture to improve the quality of broodstock and provide for ongoing health monitoring. It also is in keeping with our commitment to fostering an environment where business can excel.”

– The Honourable Christopher Mitchelmore, Minister of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation

“I’d like to thank both the federal and provincial governments for their continued investments in research at Memorial.  It is investments such as this one that enable world-class research to be undertaken and the results of that research to be put into practice.  I’d also like to extend congratulations to our industry and academic partners: University of Prince Edward Island, University of Waterloo, University of Guelph, Cooke Aquaculture, the Centre for Aquaculture Technologies Canada and Somru BioScience. This investment will allow Dr. Gamperl to continue his work to enable the Atlantic salmon aquaculture industry to better prepare for the effects of climate change.”

– Dr. Ray Gosine, Vice-President (Research) Pro Tempore

Quick Facts

    • ACOA is investing $2.9 million in funding from the Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF). The provincial government, through InnovateNL, is investing $500,000. Other funding comes from industry and national academic partners. Total project costs are $4.4 million.
    • The project is co-led by Dr. Kurt Gamperl, professor, Memorial’s Faculty of Science and by Dr. Mark Fast, associate professor, University of Prince Edward Island’s Atlantic Veterinary College.
    • ACOA’s innovation programming, which includes the Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF) and the Business Development Program (BDP), is designed to help bring to market new products, technologies and services that will improve the competitiveness and productivity of the Atlantic economy.
    • In 2016, the Government of Canada, through ACOA’s AIF, invested more than $35 million in 16 innovation and R&D projects in the Atlantic region.


Paul McGrath
Director, Communications

Eric Humber
Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation
709-729-4819, 709-725-9655

Susan Flanagan
Senior Communications Advisor (acting)
Office of the Vice-President (Research) Memorial University
709-691-7876, 709-864-4073