Association/Company: Università degli studi di Padova
Sara Faggion si laurea in Biologia Marina nel 2014 e consegue il titolo di Dottore di Ricerca nel 2019. Tra il 2017 e il 2018 è Visiting PhD student presso l’IFREMER (Francia), dove torna come ricercatore post-doc tra il 2019 e il 2020. Rientra in Italia come assegnista di ricerca presso il Dipartimento di Biomedicina Comparata e Alimentazione (Università degli Studi di Padova) e dal 2022 è ricercatore di tipo A (RtdA). L’attività di ricerca riguarda il settore del miglioramentogenetico di specie di acquacoltura, con particolare riferimento alla resistenza alle patologie.
Selective breeding in aquaculture: research progress and practical applications in hatcheries and farms
The rapid expansion of the aquaculture sector over the past two decades (+527% aquaculture products, +30% aquaculture products intended for human consumption; FAO, 2020) has raised serious concerns in terms of sustainability and environmental impact (Henriksson et al. 2012). Genetic selection is considered a useful tool to promote the progress and sustainability of intensive aquaculture systems, through a cumulative and permanent improvement of the traits of interest. The goal can be modified over time or combined with other goals. Genetic selection in aquaculture has the potential to provide excellent results due to:
i) high fecundity of fish species and large stock production;
ii) small generation interval;
iii) phenotypic and genetic variability of the traits (Gjedrem, 2010).
Disease resistance is one of the most appealing traits for hatcheries and farms; in fact, the spread of diseases represents a serious threat, both economically and in terms of sustainability (Gjedrem, 2015). The resistance of the host plays a fundamental role in hindering the spread of the pathogen or in limiting the infectious pressure. The interest in genetic selection as a prevention action is supported by the significant genetic variability estimated for disease resistance in different aquaculture species (Ødegård et al. 2011; Doan et al. 2016; Faggion et al. 2021, 2023). Our research group, referring to the Department of Comparative Biomedicine and Food Science of the University of Padova, combines skills in reproductive physiology, quantitative genetics and genomics in aquaculture species, and, for several years, has been involved both in the study of genetic parameters of complex traits and in the development of genomic prediction tools for such traits.
The group is also involved in projects funded by the European Union:
1) PerformFISH (“Consumer Driven Production: Integrating Innovative Approaches for Competitive and Sustainable Performance across the Mediterranean Aquaculture Value Chain”), aimed at studying genetic and genomic parameters of Nodavirus resistance in Gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata) and at predicting both the phenotype and the genetic merit of the trait using genotypic information;
2) AQUA-FAANG (“Advancing European Aquaculture by Genome Functional Annotation”), whose aim is to incorporate functional data into genomic prediction models of Nodavirus resistance in European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax).
The group is collaborating with several hatcheries, such as Valle Cà Zuliani società agricola s.r.l. (Conselice), the trout farms Erede Rossi (Sefro) and Foglio s.s. (Bagolino). The group can be a support to aquaculture companies and farms that aim to develop selective breeding programs.
This, in turn, will promote the sustainability of the sector, guaranteeing the training of personnel with specific skills, consolidating the economic importance of the aquaculture sector, and implying a cultural and scientific progress that can make Italian aquaculture more competitive throughout Europe.