CACHE researcher, Jaison Arivalagan reflects on his placement at Haliotis farm in Plouguerneau, France:
“Some of my most memorable moments happened during my placement training in Haliotis farm, France Haliotis, Plouguerneau, France. I undertook this placement as part of my training in the CACHE Marie Curie ITN. We are encouraged to spend our placements in commercial companies, seeing a different type of world compared with the academic environment. I particularly wanted to spend time on a shellfish farm, as working on shell proteins, I figured maybe I should find out exactly what it entails to produce shellfish commercially. It would also enable me to find out what shellfish farmers concerns are and what they want from research.
I have never experienced the country life in Europe and it gave me a good opportunity to smell and taste the country life in France! I’d like to give a special thanks to the Marie Curie EU program.
Whenever I have seen a molluscs on my dining table, I have never had time to think about where the mollusc came from. After undergoing a backbreaking one month placement training, I now realize, before eating molluscs, how much I appreciate their ability to survive. There is also a lot of hard labor behind in rearing molluscs.
It was a great transition for me, when I reached Plouguerneau, which is located in the North West coast of France and is a beautiful small village with many bivalve farms. It is an ideal location for such farms because of its high and low tides.
My first day on the farm was quite interesting because I had a warm welcome with butter-roasted abalones (marine snails) and a guided tour around the farm. Next day, we planned the details of my mission to be accomplished. My job on the farm was to rear and feed abalones, monitor the nursery and help a PhD student in a selective breeding project.
It took some days for me to adapt to the work. In the early mornings, I helped the employees to collect and grade the animals before packing them. Then after a brief coffee, I had to feed the juveniles (in 20-30 tanks) with dried red and green algae powder.
For my lunches, I had to run to a crêperie, since it is one of the best in the area with a lot of tourists going there. In the afternoons, I had to build abalone cages for selective breeding. Before leaving for home I had to monitor the abalone nursery tanks and change the seawater inlet filters. Apart from the daily routine, for a few days I got the opportunity to travel in the boat. It was not like a luxury cruise trip, but just me with two other colleagues going out to the the abalone cages in the sea, where we would open the cage and feed them. Later we’d dive into the shallow sea and collect seaweeds for the abalones. I also got my (first) laboratory experience in selective breeding of abalones. We selected animals with good features and tagged them, before letting them go into the sea. Although it was a hard work, I enjoyed my time there; I had a very good opportunity of learning what goes on at the farm. It was a memorable experience and I hope to visit the farm again, but only as a guest!”