New louse trap to get rid of sea lice
Researchers and designers collaborate to rid the salmon industry of its number-one foe: the sea louse.
According to the equation set up by the Norwegian Design Council and the Research Council of Norway, design + research = greater probability for market success. In 2011, the two entered into a formal agreement after several years of informal cooperation.
The Research Council’s cooperation with the Design Council is primarily targeted towards the research programme on Commercialising R&D results (FORNY2020), and the commercialisation experts they work with.
Developing products for the salmon farming industry
A pre-project on the development of a sea lice trap was among the first four pilot projects launched under the agreement.
Salmon is Norway’s third largest export commodity. Serious problems with sea lice infestation in production facilities adversely affects earnings and – since chemical treatment somehow suggests that products are less pure and natural – tarnishes the valuable brand image of Norwegian salmon.
Fighting sea lice is a top priority in Norwegian aquaculture research. Industrial designers, researchers and players in the salmon farming industry are joining forces to help to solve the problem.
Tricking lice with light and smells
A new approach is to lure sea lice larvae into simple traps and capture them in the same way mosquitos are caught. The louse must be intercepted before it is mature enough to attach itself to salmon. Using a combination of light and smells, it is possible to trick the sea louse into believing it is pursuing a salmon when it is actually being led into a trap.
This approach is the result of several projects in which researchers have confirmed that sea lice use different senses to pick up on the presence of salmon. A well-developed sensory apparatus is vital to the survival of a parasite such as the sea louse, as it will perish if it fails to locate a host. The lice trap emits stimuli similar to the signals that normally attract sea lice in their pursuit of a host.
The trap is an environment-friendly solution that has no adverse impacts on the fish or the surrounding environment.
Designers helping to make a difference
The researchers behind the sea lice trap are Howard Browman, Anne Berit Skiftesvik and David Fields from the Institute of Marine Research. Bergen Teknologioverføring (BTO), a technology transfer office, has assisted with the commercialisation of the product.
The collaboration between the Research Council and the Design Council has made it possible for researchers to fund participation of the design office Eker Design in the development of the product.
The participants in the sea lice project have received a pledge for proof-of-concept funding. If the results live up to expectations then the goal will be to commercialise the product both in the Norwegian market and internationally.
Turning the approach right-side up
The Institute of Marine Research has spent 12 years on this project. After just a few months of cooperating with Eker Design they have made more headway than in all the preceding years combined.
“We are researchers and are not as skilled in dealing with this type of task on our own. Our exchanges with Eker Design have shown us that we would have posed entirely different questions had we been in contact with designers earlier in the process. We would have been much better at directing our focus towards a finished product from the very start,” maintains research scientist, Howard Browman.
Senior Business Developer Dag Finne from BTO says, “The sea lice trap has been a commercialisation project at BTO since 2006, but has not made much progress since 2008. The grant for assistance with product design has given the project a real boost. Expertise in industrial design has been a significant factor in bringing us to the present stage where we are ready to carry out analyses and testing at sea.”
“Researchers are supposed to be good at research, not at commercialising products. There has to be a bridge between research and the market. As designers, we can work with the commercialisation specialists to build this bridge together,” says Katinka Von der Lippe, manager of the design department at Eker Design.
Understanding the end-user
“A designer always has to capture the soul of a product, whether it’s a tool for trapping sea lice or a highly advanced, exclusive car,” says Bård Eker, Managing Director of Eker Design.
Yet good design is also about understanding the needs of the end-user and creating products and services that stand out.
The design component in the development of a product such as a trap for sea lice may encompass anything from making the product more visible for customers and identifying the optimal value chain to making sure that the product can be recycled. Branding may also be a part of the design effort.
“It’s absolutely essential in design that new projects involve designers at an early stage,” says Benedicte Wildhagen, Business Consultant from the Norwegian Design Council. The Council’s mission is to promote the use of design as a strategic tool for innovation, in order to achieve greater creation of value in Norwegian trade and industry.
The Design Council has clear objectives
Jan R. Stavik, Managing Director at the Norwegian Design Council, is familiar with the problem of researchers becoming so involved with research-related issues that they end up losing sight of the market their products are being developed to serve.
“We strive to make sure that both designer and a designer’s expertise serve to link together research and the market that researchers may have lost sight of. It is both exciting and valuable if the Design Council can help to improve upon the commercial value of Norwegian research.
The research programme on Commercialising R&D results (FORNY2020) is focused on commercialising research results from universities, university colleges, health trusts and publicly-funded independent research institutes through close cooperation with commercialisation experts at those institutions.
In 2011, the FORNY2020 programme entered into an agreement with the Norwegian Design Council for funding announcements aimed at improving the ability of commercialisation players to integrate design as part of the commercialisation of research.
In 2012, another call for proposals for design-related funding has been issued with a submission deadline of 1 August 2012.
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