Aquaculture Europe 2021 Conference 
Attending our first in-person conference in almost 2 years

29.10.2021 - 12:37 pm

This week Associate Professor Morten Limborg, also one of the scientific managers for HoloFood, takes over the blog to talk about his first in person conference in the past few years: the Aquaculture Europe 2021 conference in Madeira, Portugal.

With an impressive lineup of speakers and participants the Aquaculture Europe 2021 conference aimed to expand on the “Oceans of Opportunities” aquaculture provides, in terms of long-term sustainability, environmental protection and innovation policies within Europe.

Associate Prof. Morten Limborg from the Center of Evolutionary Hologenomics

Hi there!

Greetings world! My name is Morten Limborg and I am one of the two scientific managers on the HoloFood project. My work focuses on Applied Hologenomics within Aquaculture. I was asked to “take over the blog” about a recent trip - an actual trip outside of Denmark where I live and work at the Center for Evolutionary HoloGenomics - for a large conference on aquaculture in beautiful Madeira, Portugal. 


It felt odd making travel plans for an in-person event - we were very fortunate that we could transition relatively smoothly to online virtual settings but we did miss that communication that comes with in-person events. My group prepared their talks and posters and I prepared my own talk all while thinking in the back of our minds that this might not actually happen. But it did and we were very grateful that the conference ensured that all Covid-19 restrictions could run smoothly.  

Oceans of Opportunity

I really do enjoy attending these conferences as it gives myself and my students an opportunity to step out in the “real world” and hear what the industry is actually facing right now. Events like this - with a strong scientific and industry component- are always beneficial as it becomes necessary to build those bridges and find solutions together.

All of us are perhaps quite aware that we and our future face incredible challenges regarding environmental issues and sustainability in our food resources, all the while with an increasing population growth. Aquaculture has a place in leading the way in providing sustainable solutions within Europe, and engaging the public, policy, industry and research stakeholders is crucial to achieve this.

Photo of Varsha Kale at work where she is analysing the datasets generated from the HoloFood project

A picture of me during my talk - this time not behind a computer camera!

What we talked about

Everyone in my group gave their talks on the third and last day of the conference. My own talk was titled: ‘Applied HoloGenomics: Leveraging Microbiota Services through holo-omic analyses in farmed fish’. It was a great way to summarize the hard work we have achieved so far in HoloFood - especially as we are now focusing our efforts into the applied industry trials. There was a wide interest among the audience as it became clear how our hologenomics approach can be applied to any type of questions related to host - microbiota interactions. Indeed, Sam Martin, an experienced salmon genomicist from Scotland, expressed great interest as his own group is also challenged by the need to co-interpret multi-omics data sets.  

The first slide from the presentation from one of the PhD students in my group, Jacob Agerbo Rasmussen. He focused his talk on his project which is on host-microbe interactions in rainbow trout.
Image courtesy of Jacob:

Some final thoughts

The conference was a great experience and we all learnt a lot. My students also benefited from it - as for some it was their first ever scientific event. In fact, their posters were so well accepted and led to many interesting discussions. The conference trip also gave me an opportunity to socialise with my team - we haven’t really had many opportunities for this these past two years and it was a great way to get to know them a bit more.

Conferences bridging research scientists and application specialists are essential - we cannot stay in our parallel lanes without speaking. In HoloFood we understand this (hence why we are an Innovation Action - combining both Industry and Academia) and for the salmon project we are fortunate to have Harald Sveier from Lerøy on our team (who was also at the conference as well!). HoloFood datasets will go on to be utilised beyond the project duration and our holo-omic framework can be applied to many different aquaculture contexts - and conferences like these help us spread the information and lessons we have learnt so far.

Attending this conference further convinced me how unique our potential is to help push forward more sustainable food production in the future as we offer a new approach rooted in basic evolutionary biology but that has direct relevance to the applied life sciences at large.

You can read more about my group and their research here: or follow me on Twitter for more updates @MortenLimborg. You can also find Jacob Rasmussen here: @kid4_j

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This project has received funding from the European Unionʼs Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 817729.