The Catholic University of the North (UCN) has developed a Program for the Outreach of Technology Transfers, for the Atacama, Coquimbo and Magellan regions, with co-financing from the Government through InnovaChile, which is part of the Corporation for the Promotion of Production (CORFO).
Proponents of the initiative seek to diversify aquaculture through the cultivation of sea urchins (Loxechinus albus) in a controlled area.
Farmers in the three regions will learn techniques for developing Chilean culture of sea urchins in terrestrial systems, similar to those used by the abalone industry.
Currently, Chile is responsible for approximately 44 per cent of the supply of sea urchins worldwide. But local producers get lower prices as the supply market is obtained 100 per cent by capture fisheries, which prevents control over the quality and size of the resource.
In this situation, the Director of CORFO in Atacama, Irma Oviedo, considers it essential to seek new alternatives for aquaculture production.
"Firstly, together with the UCN, we are delivering new information, techniques and technologies to the sector, and secondly, over the coming years, we will be able to be more decisive in terms of aquaculture diversification." said Oviedo.
The program includes the installation of pilot structures for testing: two in Atacama, four in Coquimbo and two in Magallanes, said Corfo.
Within these pools, they will experiment with various types of feeds and conditions to evaluate the behavior of sea urchins.
Juan Enrique Illanes, director of the program, explained that "one of the advantages of this technology is that you can make an improvement in the quality of the species in a relatively short period."
"In 12 weeks, this system can improve the size, color, texture and quality, which is what is being sought," he added.
Moreover, it is possible to cultivate on land "and manage to have urchins during closed seasons, allowing for continuous production throughout the year and also a continuous income for the sector," said Carlos Letelier, alternate director of the Program.
The project will receive funds of CLP 115 million (USD 230,800), of which CLP 85 million (USD 170,600) will be provided by the central government.
According to Customs of Chile, in July 2010. 363.9 tonnes of sea urchins were exported for more than USD 9.2 million, which is 39 per cent less than in the same month in 2009 (USD 15.1 million).
During July, 363.9 tonnes of sea urchin were sent abroad, a figure that represents a decline of 31 per cent over the same month in 2009 (530.3 tonnes).
- Report Date: Tuesday, September 14, 2010
By Analia Murias