NovaEel Inc.

NovaEel Inc. CEO Paul Smith at Dalhousie's Aquatron facility examining female eels inside of a tank

Research Collaborations

NovaEel Inc. is a new aquaculture company that aims to farm glass eels and target the Japanese food and hospitality industries, where eel is a popular item on the menu. Asian eel fisheries are struggling due to overfished stocks, but Nova Scotia’s eel fishery is well-managed and has the potential to support a sustainable aquaculture venture.

Farming glass eels involves breeding the eels in the wild and then raising them in a land-based facility, because breeding in captivity hasn’t been successful in the past. These eels have the ability to become either male or female, and it’s the female eels that hold value in the market because they’re larger than males. However, the majority of eels raised in captivity become male because factors like population density contribute to determining the sex.

NovaEel came to Dalhousie Medical School to collaborate on the research and development of a medication that would ensure the eels raised in their facility would develop into females, resulting in successful yields with high export value. And of course, the medication would have to ensure its effects weren’t passed along to humans after consumption of the eels.

The researchers indeed found a solution to the problem with the development of a medication that uses a form of estrogen called estradiol, and successful feminization using their techniques was possible. The solution will now require FDA and Health Canada approval.

NovaEel also sought the expertise of researchers working in the Faculty of Engineering in a second project. This research collaboration aims to help the company establish clean and efficient aquaculture operations within their facility when they’re up and running, with an emphasis on environmentally responsible wastewater disposal.

Read more on Dal News: Dalhousie researchers help N.S company launch eel aquaculture business