Bringing the phenomics of aquatic embryos to key challenges in aquaculture

Lead Research Organisation: Plymouth University
Department Name: Sch of Biological and Marine Sciences


Phenomics is the acquisition of high-dimensional data describing an organisms' observable characteristics and can be considered a technology-enabled 21st century approach to measuring the phenotype. Phenomics has the potential to transform biological understanding and to make the phenome accessible to applications within both academia to industry, but a lack of necessary technologies beyond particular model species remains a serious bottleneck to realising this potential. The project team have developed two new instruments for phenomics of aquatic species during embryonic development - the most dynamic period of life, for use in laboratory (LabEP) and dynamic (FieldEP) environments. Both instruments use microscopy and automation to capture this period of rapid temporal, spatial and functional change, and employ computer vision to measure the phenome with high dimensionality, including growth, physiological performance, behaviour and new approaches pioneered by the team for measuring the phenome as spectra of energy values within pixel fluctuations.

Aquaculture is a rapidly growing sector and one of strategic economic and health importance. During this project we will work with the aquaculture sector on both technical and business development for knowledge exchange and to establish key strategic directions for phenomics in the sector to support its resilience, sustainability, and growth. During an initial project meeting with aquaculture project partners (National Lobster Hatchery, RSP/LumpFish Dorset and Guernsey SeaFarms) we will showcase the technologies to establish strategic directions for the technical development and optimisation of the hardware and software configuration of the instruments for different project partners, depending on factors including facility requirements, addressing key operational challenges, species, developmental stages and particular biological endpoints of interest. Software (incl. computer vision pipelines including AI-trained predictive models) and hardware (incl. cameras, lenses, lighting and motorisation) will be tested in the team's laboratories prior to installation of the instruments in the facilities of key project partners, accompanied with the training of these partners' staff, providing opportunities for knowledge exchange in both directions. We will work with partners in assisting them to test the technologies alongside their workflows. The team will be supported by a project partner from the scientific instrumentation sector (Indigo Scientific) who will inform the sourcing of components and the team's business development plan.

Via subsequent meetings with the aquaculture project partners, the team will write a whitepaper capturing the key strengths and opportunities of the instruments informed from the experiences and feedback of project partners. This will be circulated to both project partners, aquaculture networks and sector-specific publications. A business development plan will be produced by the team towards the conclusion of the project to support the identification and realisation of a strategic plan towards maximising the impact of these technologies within the sector.
Description The award has supported the optimisation of an approach to assessing sensitivity during early life stages, to increase its usability and transferability. This approach has direct relevance to key challenges in aquaculture, and this is a focus of ongoing research.
Exploitation Route The technologies being developed are freely available to other researchers, or those working in industry. They have relevance to those interested in assessing environmental sensitivity, particularly during early life. Consequently the relevance ranges from aquaculture to ecotoxicology and environmental science.
Sectors Environment

Description Development of the LabEmbryoCam supported formation of a company.
Sector Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Societal


Company Name Embryophenomics Cic 
Year Established 2023 
Impact - Supporting Christmas Island remote exhibition with a LabEmbryoCam. - Growth of the network of users of the LabEmbryoCam.