Helping good ideas grow

OFI Seed Fund now seeking applications from researchers

- March 4, 2019

Dal researchers and OFI Seed Fund recipients Christopher Algar (left) and Allison Chua. (Provided photo)
Dal researchers and OFI Seed Fund recipients Christopher Algar (left) and Allison Chua. (Provided photo)

The ocean research world is not short on great ideas. What it is short of can be the funding required to put those great ideas to work.

And that’s where the Ocean Frontier Institute’s (OFI) Seed Fund comes in. It provides awards that range from $10,000 to $30,000 for innovative projects that have the potential to advance research, commercial or social concepts relating to the ocean. The ideas stem from projects initiated by Dalhousie and Memorial University students or faculty. OFI’s role is to help these unique ideas move forward — and grow.

Christopher Algar, assistant professor at Dalhousie University, has a project that’s benefiting from OFI’s Seed Fund. He’s examining the potential for microbial electrochemical cells to remediate organic matter in the ocean. His focus: use science to reduce the amount of organic waste that gathers in fish farms.

“If we reduce the amount of waste that accumulates, we can help reduce marine pollution and eliminate the risk of disease,” says Dr. Algar.     

And that in turn would support the growth of Canada’s aquaculture industry.

“An effective solution to the problem of organic matter loading would greatly increase the amount of coastline that could support aquaculture facilities in an environmentally sustainable manner,” said Chris. “That means we can put more people to work, responsibly farming the fish the world needs.”

New approaches

Allison Chua, a PhD student at Dalhousie University, is using her Seed Fund award to test the viability of new technology that she hopes will allow scallop harvesters to farm with less of an impact on the ocean floor.

Invented and constructed by Marcel Boudreau, a welder fabricator from St. Andrews, Nova Scotia, the equipment requires further analysis to ensure it can deliver what both the fishing industry and government regulators require: a low-cost technology that equals or exceeds current harvest rates while minimizing seabed disturbance.

“It could be a game changer,” says Chua. “To the best of our knowledge, there is currently no alternative harvesting method available that succeeds in mitigating the destruction caused by scallop draggers yet matches present-day catch rates.”

Chua uses the Seed Fund to work with the engineering and scientific community to validate the concept, building on the invention created by Boudreau.

Apply for funding

A complete list of Seed Fund recipients, and funding application information, can be found on the OFI website.

Applications are being accepted until March 31. To qualify, applicants must be current faculty, staff, and students at Dalhousie University and/or Memorial University of Newfoundland. (Please note: due to university regulations, successful applications submitted by students must be supervised by a current faculty member who would be identified as the grant holder who would assume responsibility for distribution of finances and terms of the deliverables.) 


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