Poverty alleviation through prevention and future control of the two major socioeconomically-important pathogens in Asian aquaculture.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: School of Ocean and Earth Science

Abstract

Recent estimates predict that the global population will rise to ~ 9 bn by 2050. Of that growth, the majority is predicted to take place within Africa, the Middle East and throughout Asia. As the available land for agriculture becomes limited and as wild fish stocks become depleted, it is essential that aquaculture production is sustainably enhanced to ensure global food security and poverty alleviation for all human kind.
Infectious disease outbreaks are the key limiting factor to the sustainable expansion of the aquaculture industry. Many diseases exist in wild populations but only become problematic when crop species are held at high densities and under stressful conditions. These conditions are often associated with aquaculture. Attempts have been made to meet the challenge of disease by developing vaccines or prophylactic treatments to prevent disease or 'boost' the host immune system. Unfortunately, in the many cases in Asia these strategies have failed; vaccines have proved ineffective, too expensive, or are unrealistic to administer at farm scale. Immune stimulants and probiotics have often failed to provide consistent or sustained protection in shellfish. We argue that the approach to disease prevention must be radically rethought.
We do concede that regulating the culture environment alone will be insufficient to reduce the impact of all future diseases. We also advocate the continued development of novel understanding of the fundamentals of host-pathogen interactions. This knowledge will identify pathways of pathogen infection that could be exploited in the future leading to the development of more universal and cost-effective control methods.
We will quantify the socioeconomic impact of two key diseases of Asian aquaculture. This will inform the design of experiments to quantify the role of the pond environment (e.g.: temperature, salinity, diet, etc) in regulating the occurrence of infectious outbreaks. Outputs will be used to recommend novel Best Management Practice (BMP) for farmers in Low Income Countries (LICs). Through collaborative engagement, these new BMPs will be developed within the farming communities in Bangladesh and India to ensure their efficacy. The proposed approach represents a more economically realistic option for farmers working in LICs and will provide a first step towards poverty alleviation through minimising risk. We believe that this raised awareness of controlling environment quality to minimise disease has the potential to generate highly significant short term positive impacts.
Simultaneously, we will use state of the art molecular methods to develop rigorous new understanding of the host-pathogen interactions in these diseases and use that knowledge in future projects to identify novel universal and sustainable intervention methods and for genetic improvement programmes for high health crops.

Likely targets for our research are the current most socioeconomically devastating diseases in Bangladesh and India: White Spot Disease (WSD) of shrimp, which is caused by White Spot Syndrome Virus (WSSV), and infection with the fungus-like oomycete Aphanomyces invadans (previously Epizootic Ulcerative Syndrome (EUS)) causing large-scale mortalities of farmed fish, especially major carps. Minimising the risk of these disease outbreaks under farm conditions in Bangladesh and other LICs is thus a vital short term priority. We therefore propose that there is an essential and urgent requirement to optimise novel approaches to good BMP.
Our trilateral consortium will facilitate real cross fertilization of expertise and ideas and will build scientific and aquaculture capacity in the three countries presented. We genuinely believe that our collaboration will support the sustainable enhancement of the aquaculture industry and alleviate poverty by developing a holistic view of the importance of a healthy and resilient aquaculture crop and culture system.

Technical Summary

Infectious disease outbreaks represent a key limitation to the necessary sustainable expansion of the aquaculture industry to meet the challenges of Global Food Security and poverty alleviation. For the majority of the socioeconomically devastating diseases in fish and shellfish aquaculture in Asia there is no clear mechanistic understanding of host/pathogen interactions that might mediate disease susceptibility, or systematic understanding of the role of the rearing environment in determining the outcome of infection.
We will systematically identify the evidence for potential environmental regulation of pathogen infection and disease progression. We will do this for two diseases, one of decapod crustaceans and one of fish in Asian aquaculture. Using controlled laboratory exposures in crustaceans and fish, we will expose them to different rearing environments and measure changes in immune gene transcription, immune phenotype and susceptibility to infection. These data will identify critical limits to host immune performance, but also pathogen virulence, which might be exploited by farmers as sustainable solutions for disease management in the short term.
We will also examine host-pathogen interactions for the same two diseases in vitro and in vivo. We will compare the transcriptional response in susceptible and resistant host species, to identify host and pathogen factors that determine susceptibility or resistance to infection. This study is novel in that it will capture both host and pathogen responses. We will be able also to identify the molecular mechanisms that underpin resistance (or partial resistance) both within and between different commodity crop species.
Using these new data as a platform, we intend to develop future research projects to mature new technologies or techniques for intervention and control of infectious diseases, both current and emerging, which are relevant and appropriate to the context of farmers in LICs and elsewhere.

Planned Impact

This project is applied and impact-focussed. This project will be of direct benefit for poverty alleviation in the short and long term in shrimp and fish farming communities in Low Income Countries (LIC), including Bangladesh.

Firstly, we will provide a novel understanding of key environmental conditions that determine disease outcome from infectious pathogens. This knowledge will be of use, in the short term, to prevent, or minimise, disease outbreaks impacting social and economic wealth creation in LIC farming communities. Secondarily, we will create a step change in our understanding of pathogenicity and host defence responses in key fish and crustacean species that support export markets in LICs and in India. This will ultimately lead to much needed sustainable and context-relevant control strategies and technologies that are currently not available to the farming communities in LICs.

Knowledge exchange, farmer engagement and empowerment are key themes in our project that will create successful outcomes. Knowledge exchange will begin at the start of the project (Task 1). Farming communities will quantify their experience of the socioeconomic costs of disease in their industry, and also the costs of current management or mitigation strategies. In Task 2 farmers will, after training and with assistance, take responsibility for assisting with the epidemiological sampling programme. This will build capacity within those communities and will also provide an important route by which stakeholders (fishers, fishing communities, Fishery Officers and policy makers) will, in part, determine the experimental work programme (Task 3). In Task 4 a series of sensitization workshops will provide the vehicle by which the consortium will first present our findings and then invite stakeholder input to develop, revise or rationalise these recommendations from their own experience and through implementation. Once our recommendations have been revised and tested by the community, they will be rolled out to the wider communities in both countries through liaison with the Department of Fisheries in Bangladesh and through direct consortium contact with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

This project will also build scientific capacity in all three countries. Through collaboration and training, researchers in Bangladesh and India will gain competence in methods for socioeconomic research and advanced molecular biology. Academics in India and UK will gain knowledge and experience of the challenges to aquaculture, and existing solutions, in both India and Bangladesh. Scientific collaboration and training will be fostered through in person visits between the UK and India and Bangladesh and India, through regular on line contact and through yearly consortium meetings that will rotate through the host countries.

The general public will benefit from this research in a number of ways because our work will ultimately safeguard food production, which is important for both the Asian and UK markets. Particularly in the UK, there is a comparative lack of understanding of the joint problems of global food security and poverty alleviation in LICs.

We will exploit existing avenues for public engagement in the UK through the UK partners, including public lectures and through student teaching. We have already set up a Facebook website dedicated to our research. This website (https://www.facebook.com/groups/934358809930397/) will go public from the moment the work begins and all our major findings will be reported here along with the websites of the individual PI's.

Publications

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Title Art work and exhibitions of perceptions of farming from Bangladeshi children 
Description University of Swansea led artistic workshops in Bnagladesh with children from farming communities. These workshops developed understanding of communities perceptions of farming and perspectives of poverty and risk. Workshops were supported by internationally-renowned artists and led to an exhibition at the University of Swansea of Bangladeshi children's artwork, as well as the reciprocal production of artwork by Swansea school children that is to be displayed at an exhibition in Bangladesh in 2019. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact Art exhibition at the University of Swansea, with a reciprocal exhibition planned for Bangladesh 
 
Title Videos promoting the challenges of farming in Bangladesh 
Description University of Swansea have led the production of videos (available on Youtube) summarising the challenges faced by farming communities in Bangladesh. They have also published an article in The Daily Star of Bangladesh promoting the same. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBZxxR09eE0&t=3s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EFSuYI1JQ8 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact Partners at Swansea University were recognised with a Research & Innovation Award 2018, based on their activities in this project, with particular reference to the work carried out in Bangladesh. 
URL https://preventcontrol.org/blog/
 
Description We have engaged with a large cohort of poor and marginal farmers in Bangladesh and India to quantify their perceptions of poverty using creative methods. We have identified perceptions of acceptable socio-economic risk amongst farming communities. Using creative approaches we have challenged the 'next generation' of farmers to question negative perceptions of farming to foster a continued, sustainable future.
We have conducted a large number of farmer-based epidemiological surveys in India and Bangladesh. Broadly, disease outbreaks are associated with poor water quality, exacerbated by a failure to observe Better Management Practices (BMPs) that are widely available, at least in India.
We have demonstrated the success resulting from the strict adherence to BMPs to maximise crop production. Through word of mouth, this behavioural change has spread through local shrimp farming communities in parts Tamil Nadu and southern Andhra Pradesh.
To improve farmer training, we have released a Bengali version of the established ICAR-CIBA Shrimp App, called Chingri App. This disruptive technology has been downloaded > 1000 times by farmers in West Bengal. We have created a commitment to a closer working relationship between research institutes in India and Bangladesh for the benefit of farmer stakeholders.
We have identified key molecular targets that mediate the interaction of pathogens with their hosts, for two commercially-devastating diseases in fish and shrimp aquaculture. We have demonstrated significant differences in the response of susceptible and refractory host species, which might permit greater insight of disease resistance, and disease control, for diverse crop species.
Exploitation Route From a technological/scientific perspective, our data has provided new understanding of pathogen host interactions of a key crustacean and a key fish pathogen that are economically damaging globally, but particularly in Asia. Importantly, our data have identified significant differences in the host immune response to infection between refractory/resistant and susceptible species.
However, the implications of these findings require further study and assessment, using techniques such as RNAi or CRISPR-Cas 9, to study the phenotypic consequences of targeted gene knockdown.

We have also identified very important differences in the microRNA responses to virus infection between laboratory experiments and field outbreaks. These differences powerfully reinforce the argument that advances in understanding and control of aquaculture disease require robust field validation under culture/pond conditions. They support the renewed argument for properly controlled field experiments, rather than tightly controlled laboratory experiments prosecuted in isolation. Most importantly, this applies to any potential control methods that are identified from laboratory study

This acknowledgement of the need for future field studies also acknowledges the challenges of identifying intermediate hosts of pathogenic organisms in complex field environments; hosts that present potential foci of reinfection if not fully characterised.

From a socioeconomic perspective, we have identified an imperative for an improved evaluation of poverty beyond "poverty lines", benchmarking and individualising disadvantage. A requirement for a better understanding of the culturally specific contexts for poverty alleviation, such as socially acceptable levels, norms and values. Our work has emphasized a requirement to understand the possibilities for experimental and creative responses to poverty beyond technological solutions.
• Developed research links with other academic institutes in India and Bangladesh (including Khulna University in Bangladesh, and Alagappa University, University of Madras, Thiruvalluvar University Vellore-India, Anna University Chennai-India);
• Developed links to NGOs operating in the region, including WorldFish Bangladesh, and to contacts in ministries and departments in both India and Bangladesh;
• Has created contacts within home institutes (!) working in both India and Bangladesh, but otherwise unknown before this project;
• Has developed stakeholder contacts in the shrimp farming industry in wider India (e.g Prawn Farmers Federation of India; Mayank Aquaculture Pvt Ltd. Gujarat, India);
• It has led to opportunities for funding discussions with other ODA aquaculture nations in the Pacific and Africa (e.g. through GCRF Hub funding discussions);
• It has created collaborations beyond academia with artists and others in Bangladesh and India;
• Created partnerships with local schools and communities in India and Bangladesh;
• For Indian and Bangladesh partners, we have been able to introduce them to UK contacts that might support other research priorities that they have (e.g. plastic pollution, microplastics, AMR).

Lastly, based on the success of this project we submitted a GCRF Translational Proposal (https://bbsrc.ukri.org/funding/filter/2019-gcrf-translation/) to develop a nodal farmer network, based on a new revision of the Chingri App. to support farmers in West Bengal. Although, we were initially successful in funding (ranked 8/38 proposals) we were not able to take up the funding due to the withdrawal of a new project partner to the proposal. Further opportunities for continued translation work await future funding.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

URL https://preventcontrol.org/
 
Description At the outset of the project we instigated a programme of shrimp pond monitoring with 25 shrimp farmers in Andhra Pradesh (village of Mungamur), India. We monitored the pond conditions of the first crop during the winter of 2016, and then advised on the implementation of better practices (including screening of post-larvae for disease, maintenance of a water reservoir, regular monitoring and application of a crop stimulant), which were implemented in nine ponds owned by a farmer to avoid White Spot Syndrome Virus infection. Subsequently, two crops were successfully harvested with high production. Survival and growth were found to be encouraging. Pond production (kg of shrimp) has been doubled through the implementation of better practice. In 2018 we have conducted a number of farmer training and interaction workshops, based on data from the project. These have been held with shrimp farmers in Elavoor, Andhra Pradesh India in March 2018 and with carp farmers in Maharajganj Uttar Pradesh India in December 2018. We will be conducting similar activities with fish and shrimp farmers in Bangladesh (Mymensingh and Khulna districts, respectively) in April 2019. In Bangladesh we have conducted retrospective epidemiological surveys of both fish farmers (Mymensingh and Rajshahi districts) and shrimp farmers (Khulna district) to identify their experience of disease, maintenance of pond conditions and their relative level of traiing/experience. These data have been added to our findings from India to develop training content for farmers. This training (and the launch of the Bengali version of the CIBA Vanami ShrimpApp) will be conducted during the April 2019 workshops. We have also worked extensively with farming communities in Bangladesh (in Khulna and Mymensingh districts) and India (Uttar Pradesh) to understand their perceptions of farming and poverty. This work has been supported by engaging with internationally-renowned artists to join workshops with children in Bangladesh to depict their views on farming and the future, and to create videos describing our project and the work in Bangladesh. These activities have been led by the University of Swansea and have been recognised by the Research and Innovation Awards in the UK (June 2018). These non-academic impact activities also continue and can be followed on our website blog: https://preventcontrol.org/blog/ In addition we have conducted training and capacity building: 1) Workshops with farmers in Bangladesh: Jan 2017, Feb 2018 - developed networks, organised training, and sharing technologies for poor farmers. Outcome: Improved knowledge - 85% of the farmers we trained already applied scientific knowledge and motivated at least 120 other farmers for change. Informed practice: 87% of attendees of the four regional farmer/scientist workshops stated that they were very likely to use the findings of our research in their work. In April 2019, these were consolidated with additional farmer workshops in Mymensingh (carp farmers) and Khulna (shrimp farmers). The Khulna workshop was attended by 120 delegates (95 male, 25 female), including farmers and fishery officers, academics, research scholars and students. During the Khulna workshop we officially launched the Chingri Shrimp App - a Bengali version of the established ICAR-CIBA Vanami Shrimp App. The Chingri App was conceived and developed during this project using project resources. Since its launch in April, the Bengali 'Chingri App' has since been downloaded > 1000 times, and currently has a 5* rating. 2) Art training: We provided art training for children (Feb 2018) and used project data to develop educational and learning resources. Outcome: Built confidence/skills - 80% of attendees of children's workshops felt inspired and excited about using artistic skills they learnt in school science-related activities and happy to act as mentors for others. 100% of the children felt that fish farming is nothing to be ashamed of. This was developed during Feb 2018, through mentoring of researchers and artists in Bangladesh. Outcome - broadened reach: Helped seven Bangladeshi artists to present their works at the international stage (evidenced by further UK and Japan exhibitions). We trained four academics and 13 Masters students from Bangladeshi/Indian universities in novel artistic methods and aesthetics of participatory research. 3) Capacity building in research skills: Collaborations between Southampton, Aberdeen, NBFGR and CIBA have led to the training of Indian scientists in the latest methods for time-course transcriptome analyses. This has included visits to CIBA Chennai by the Southampton team and visits to Aberdeen and Southampton by the NBFGR team. Outputs: This has resulted in the trained CIBA (Vinaya Kumar) and NBFGR (Kumar Verma) scientists, who have completed analyses of the fish and shrimp infections in preparation for publication (e.g. Peruzza et al., 2019, 2020, work in prep.).
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment
Impact Types Cultural,Economic

 
Description Collaborated with the Bangladesh icddr.b in the development of a GCRF Hub proposal 
Organisation International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b)
Country Bangladesh 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Through project contacts, as well as external partners, we established a link with the Bangladesh icddr,b in the development of a research proposal that was submitted to the GCRF Hub call. During proposal development we met with this organisation in Dhaka to discuss how the work with Bangladesh Agricultural University might be enhanced by the involvement of the icddr,b. Unfortunately the Hub proposal was not funded, but the link is maintained.
Collaborator Contribution Facilitated meetings and proposal development.
Impact GCRF Hub Proposal bid with Bangladesh Agricultural University and icddr, b as partners.
Start Year 2018
 
Title Chingri mobile phone app /platform - for shrimp farming advice and content for Bengali-speaking shrimp farmers. 
Description This is a freely available mobile phone app - available for dowlonad from the GooglePlay store. It is a Bengali version of the existing CIBA Vanami ShrimpApp. It provides advice, diagnostics, pond calculators and a Q&A forum for shrimp farmers. The app is a Bengali translation of the Vanami App. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact With the resources of the PaConDAA project we have released a new version of this app in Bengali for shrimp farmers in Bangladesh; the 'Chingri App' (97% of Bangladeshis possess a mobile phone). We formally launched the Chingri App at a shrimp farmer extension workshop in Khulna in Bangladesh in April 2019; this workshop was attended by 120 delegates (95 male, 25 female), including farmers and fishery officers, academics, research scholars and students. Since its launch in April, the Bengali 'Chingri App' has since been downloaded > 500 times. 
 
Description Farmer Engagement Workshops in Bangladesh - April 2019 - launch of the Chringri shrimp App for farmer training 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact We ran frmarer engagement workshops in Mymensingh and Khulna Districts in Bangladesh. Each workshop promoted Better Management Practice for Crop Health for fish farmers (Mymensingh) and shrimp farmers (Khulna). At both events the project team launched the Chingri App. A mobile phone platform to provide advice and content for Bengali-speaking shrimp farmers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Farmer engagement workshop in Andhra Pradesh, India 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact In September 2016 we held a farmer engagement workshop with ~ 50 shrimp farmers in Andhra Pradesh (Mungamur village) in India. This workshop was used as a first opportunity to meet with shrimp farmers in India and for them to identify their perceptions of challenges to shrimp farming in India. This views were used to support future project planning and stakeholder engagement.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Farmer engagement workshop in Khulna Bangladesh 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact With collaborators from the University of Swansea we held a one-day farmer engagement workshop with carp farmers in Khulna district of Bangladesh hosted by Bangladesh Agricultural University in February 2017. This was attend by ~25 farmers from the region. The workshop was used to interact with farmers and to provide them an opportunity to identify their great challenges associated with disease in carp farming in Bangladesh. This workshop was used as the basis for further engagement activities with fish famring communities conducted by University of Swansea subsequent to this workshop.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Farmer engagement workshop in Uttar Pradesh, India 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact In December 2016, with the ICAR-National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources, we organised a farmer engagement workshop with carp farmers in Maharajganj District, Uttar Pradesh, which was attended by project members from University of Swansea, University of St Andrews, University of Liverpool, and University of Aberdeen. Unfortunately, Dr Hauton did not ultimately attend this workshop - being stranded in Chennai city by a tropical cyclone that closed the airport. Nevertheless, the meeting went ahead and was used to advertise the project plans to ~ 100 carp farmers in the district and to provide an opportunity to carp farmers to identify their greatest challenges. This meeting was used as a basis to focus project subsequent project activity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description International Symposium on Aquatic Animal Health and Epidemiology for Sustainable Asian Aquaculture. Lucknow India 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The UK lead (Hauton) was an invited keynote speaker, and member of the organising committees of two international conferences, of farmers, scientists, and government officials, held in India in 2017.

Keynotes presentations were also made by by Morgan (Liverpool), Van West (Aberdeen), and Salam (Bangladesh Agricultural University). Other keynotes included Sood (National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources, Lucknow) with further presentations by Sahul Hameed (C Abdul Hakeem College, Vellore India) and Pradhan (NBFGR). All project partners.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://enaca.org/?id=924
 
Description KEynote Presentation at Aqua Aquaria India 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The UK lead (Hauton) was invited as a keynote speaker to Aqua Aquaria India 2019, by the Indian Marine Products Export Development Authority, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India, attended by the Vice President of India. Hyderabad 30.8.19 - 01.9.19.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.mpeda.gov.in/MPEDA/news_details.php?pg=aqua-aquaria-india-2019-from-30th-august-to-1st-o...
 
Description UNiversity of Southampton Re: Action Magazine - research article. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Interviewed by a copy editor to produce and article for the magazine (UnNiversity of Southampton Re:Action). Proof read and approved the draft Copy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.southampton.ac.uk/publicpolicy/support-for-researchers/re-action/re-action.page
 
Description WorkGroup Leader (Shellfish Health and Disease) of the ARCH-UK Network 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Through connections developed in this project I have since been appointed as WorkGroup Leader of the ARCH-UK Network, which is engaging with researchers and stakeholders on the future research priorities for UK aqauculture. We have had two meetings thus far, from which a research priority document was developed and used to support the subsequent UK NERC BBSRC Joint Aquaculture call in 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.aquaculturehub-uk.com/
 
Description orld Brackishwater Aquaculture Conference BRAQCON 2019. 23-25 January 2019 ICAR-Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The UK lead (Hauton) was an invited keynote speaker, and member of the organising committees of two international conferences, of farmers, scientists, and government officials, held in India in 2019.

World Brackishwater Aquaculture Conference BRAQCON 2019. 23-25 January 2019 ICAR-Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India (http://braqcon.org/). Keynotes were also presented here by Morgan (Liverpool), Shubin (Swansea), Salam (Bangladesh) and Shekhar (Central Institute of Brackish Water Aquaculture), and a session presentation was given by Peruzza (Southampton)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://braqcon.org/