Towards the Digital Salmon (DigiSal)

DigiSal. Towards the Digital Salmon: From a reactive to a pre-emptive research strategy in aquaculture

Systems biology will aid sustainability in salmon farming. Scarcity of fish oil has forced development of novel feedstuffs, challenging the salmon's metabolism as well as our understanding of it.

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About the DigiSal project

Salmon farming in the future must navigate conflicting and shifting demands of sustainability, shifting feed prices, disease, and product quality. The industry needs to develop a flexible, integrated basis of knowledge for rapid response to new challenges. Project DigiSal will lay the foundations for a Digital Salmon: an ensemble of mathematical descriptions of salmon physiology, combining mathematics, high-dimensional data analysis, computer science and measurement technology with genomics and experimental biology into a concerted whole.

DigiSal will focus on challenges of novel feedstuffs, collaborating with the Foods of Norway centre for research-based innovation at NBMU. Salmon are carnivores but today aquaculture provides more than half their fat and protein from plants, challenging the metabolic system and affecting fish health and nutritional value of salmon meat. The newly sequenced salmon genome and related resources will enable a tightly integrated theoretical-experimental study of mechanistic interactions among genetic and feed factors.

Systems-oriented mathematical and statistical modelling will be central, using existing and novel knowledge e.g. on metabolic reaction networks to guide design of experiments through multiple iterations. Metabolic function of fish will be characterized via multiple omics technologies in feeding trials and in vitro tissue-slice culture. Gut microbiota will receive particular attention. The resulting massive data will be summarized via multivariate models to deliver a predictive understanding of a whole range of possible diets, much more efficiently than by traditional feeding trials alone. Data and models will be annotated using bio-relevant ontologies, so that new knowledge automatically connects to that which already exists. Future challenges will be met by quickly reanalysing existing information and understanding of salmon biology, identifying knowledge gaps, acquiring new data and incorporating it into a unified whole. Thus, we begin a shift from a reactive to a pre-emptive R&D strategy in aquaculture.

Project objective: Establish a systems biology framework for adapting salmon breeding and nutrition strategies to modern feedstuffs, blazing the trail for a Digital Salmon endeavour.

  • Provide and validate a framework for a model-based account of genetic and environmental variation in salmon metabolism
  • Unravelling the systemic role of gut microbiota in adapting to new feeds
  • Provide and validate a theoretical framework for systematic identification of targets for steering EPA/DHA metabolism through concerted use of nutrition and genetics
  • Provide the foundation for a Digital Salmon knowledge base enabling adaption of a transformative pre-emptive research and development strategy

DigiSal is part of the Digital Life project by the BIOTEK2021 biotechnology programme of the Research Council of Norway.

DigiSal in the news

Deltagende NMBU-forskere

Scientific coordinator. Leader of WP3: Omics and imaging. RNA sequencing expert.

MSc student, biotechnology/metabolic modelling.

Leader of WP1: Feeding trials. Heads the nutrition part of Foods of Norway, with which DigiSal interfaces closely.

Head of the ELIXIR node at NMBU, focusing on the salmon genome.

Eksterne deltagere

AquaGen (salmon breeding company)

Dr. Jacob Torgersen, leader of WP2: In vitro studies. Molecular biologist.

Dr. Nina Santi, research director of AquaGen.

Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Prof. Per Bruheim, metabolomicist.

Dr. Zdenka Bartosova, metabolomicist.

Dr. Marit Hallvardsdotter Stafsnes, metabolomicist.

Dr. Per Winge, gene editor.

Prof. Trygve Brautaset, systems biologist.

Prof. Stig Omholt, visionary.

University of Bergen

Dr. Eivind Valen, bioinformatician.

Prof. Inge Jonassen, bioinformatician.

Institute for marine research

Dr. Anna Wargelius, functional genomicist.

Dr. Rolf Edvardsen, molecular biologist.

University of Tromsø

Prof. Nils Peder Willassen, head of the ELIXIR node at UiT, focusing on marine metagenomics.

University of Stirling

Prof. Michael Leaver, fish-nutritional geneticist.

Wageningen University and Research Centre

Systems and synthetic biology group:

Prof. Vítor Martins dos Santos.

Prof. Peter Schaap.

Dr. María Suárez-Diez.

Jesse van Dam.

Dr. Jasper Koehorst.

EWOS (feed producer)

Dr. Dominic Nanton, senior scientist.

FAIRDOM (consortium for findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable data, operations and models)

Dr. Natalie Stanford, director of community communications.

Dr. Stuart Owen, director of technical development.

Relatert innhold: f.eks omtaler og nyheter


Project leader and leader of WP5 (Modelling) and WP6 (Biocuration). Systems biologist.

01-01-2016 til 31-12-2019