Sustainable production, Physiology, Oceanography, Natural products, Genetics and Economics of Sponges
Many marine sponges contain natural compounds that have potential interest to society. Limited possibilities for supply of these compounds from natural resources often delays or even stops further development of a product after its initial discovery. In the proposed project, systems and processes for the cultivation of marine sponges will be developed in order to create a stable and sustainable supply and reduce pressures on natural resources. The development of these applications will be supported by studies on the biology of the target organisms, such as ecology, feeding biology (and the role of symbiotic microorganisms therein) and ATP-metabolism. In addition, the genetic background of growth and secondary metabolism of sponges will be studied in order to rationalise strategies to improve culture techniques. The culture systems to be developed are an integration of innovative technologies of four European SMEs, including novel strategies to feed sponges in closed and half-open systems, a unique technology to control water quality in artificial marine systems, novel spectrometric sensor technology (and corresponding software) to monitor and control the system, an in vitro sponge cultivation system (primmorphs) for testing medium design and specific sponge farming methodologies. A limited number of (commercially interesting) sponge species will be used in the project as model species for technology development. Product formation in these species will be studied in order to optimise productivity of the culture systems. The objective of the proposed project is to initiate a sustainable sponge industry in Europe by combining the efforts of innovative SMEs and leading scientific institutes. The project will strongly improve the competitive position of Europe in marine biotechnology and is expected to generate new products for the market.