Funded PhD Scholarship: Delivering Safe and Nutritious Tilapia to Low Income Countries

Swansea University - Biosciences

This scholarship is funded by Swansea University and Three-Sixty Aquaculture.

Subject areas: Sustainable Aquaculture, Food Security, Fish Welfare, Poverty Alleviation

Start date: 1 April 2018 or 1 July 2018

Knowledge Gaps and Key Challenges Addressed by this Project

World fish consumption is expected to reach c. 200 million tons by 2020, most of which will have to come from farmed fish, as the majority of wild fisheries are either stagnant or grossly over-exploited. To meet future global food demands, aquaculture is expected to intensify production, and deliver fish that will have to thrive on less food and less water, all compounded by increasingly warmer temperatures. The consumption of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) is essential for human health but its intake has decreased worldwide as a result of new eating habits, increased dependence on vegetable oils, and wider availability of processed foods. This problem is particularly acute in many African countries, where the recent adoption of westernized diets has resulted in a nutritional deficit of omega-3 PUFA and a substantial increase in the incidence of chronic illnesses. Tilapia represents one of the main potential long-term sources of fish for many poor countries, but the species is also one of the most invasive ones, and does not naturally contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, essential to human health. Enrichment of tilapia with omega-3 PUFA could improve human health, with clear socioeconomic benefits. However, fish oils traditionally used to enrich commercial tilapia feeds are expensive, unsustainable, and may not be readily available to many low income countries. We propose to increase dietary omega-3 PUFA through the production of sustainably farmed Nile tilapia, reared on improved microalgae diets rich in omega-3 oils, proteins and vitamins. Thus, the key challenge addressed by this proposal is the need to deliver improved tilapia which must be:

  1. Nutritious; enriched with omega-3 PUFA from natural sources
  2. Safe to eat; reared in pollutant-free water, free from dangerous natural pathogens
  3. Sustainable; reared with no waste, and near-zero nutrient loss
  4. Fully bio-contained; unable to escape or introgress with native fish
  5. Water friendly; reared on recycled water, reducing aquaculture’s environmental impacts
  6. Cheap to produce and easy to rear;  thanks to low cost technology, low trophic level
  7. Fast growing; with high conversion efficiency, meeting the needs of poor producers
  8. Accessible; affordable, easy to process and distribute to poor consumers


We propose to address the above challenges through innovation with our research partner in Wales (360 Aquaculture). More specifically, during this PhD we propose to:

  1. Develop a low-cost, integrated algae-tilapia RAS to produce safe, omega-3 enriched tilapia for use in low income countries
  2. Characterize, for the first time, the gut microbiome associated with high omega-3 assimilation in tilapia, and
  3. Develop novel dietary biomarkers in tilapia that can be used non-destructively 

Please visit the Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research (CSAR) webpage for more information.


Academic requirements:

Candidates should have a 2.1 or above undergraduate degree or an MSc (Merit or or equivalent)/MRes in a related subject area (aquaculture, biosciences, etc).

Molecular skills and ability to drive would be an advantage.

Residency criteria:

Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is open to UK/EU candidates only.

Funding Details

The scholarship covers the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees, plus an annual stipend of £14,553.

There will be £2,000 per annum for other research expenses such as lab work, travel and conference attendance.

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