Shellfish farming is an important component of the EU aquaculture sector. Yet, lately, its growth has slowed down due to global competition, saturation of the areas where intensive farming is viable, lack of phytoplankton, or intense predation by other species. But a response to those challenges might have surfaced: OpenMode.
The OpenMode project, launched by Research & Development Concretes S.L. (RDC) and Prefabricados Formex (PREFFOR) has devised floating connectable modules for intensive shellfish farming in open waters, which can be used either in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean or the North and Baltic Sea Basins.
Esteban Camacho, Director of Innovation of DRC, wants to demonstrate that mussels can be grown intensively in so far unexploited areas, the open waters:
Our purpose is to demonstrate the efficiency and functionality of the proposed modules in different wave conditions, responding to the need for an intensive breeding system in open water
The modules are built of an inorganic, very compact material, Formex, which does not require coatings and therefore causes no harm to water quality. The modules can be assembled in different setups and sizes and are provided with remote sensors that control on-site parameters such as water, weather and structure conditions, as well as shellfish growth. Through big data analysis, this allows to explain, which factors affect growth rates, whilst reducing monitoring and operating costs.
Presently, four tailor-made modules are being tested in different conditions in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and North Sea Basins, specifically in Spain, Denmark, Croatia, and Montenegro, where local farmers harvest mollusks and microalgae. Each demonstrator fulfills a specific purpose: while the one in Galician waters responds to the need of testing the assembling of modules in the more exposed Atlantic sea and evaluating the rate of growth of mussels, the ones in the Mediterranean, in Kotor Bay and Novigrad, are studied to remedy the scarcity of phytoplankton and the intense predation to which the mussels are subjected. In Limfjorden, Denmark, the module is being placed close to intensive fish farming systems: shellfish filtrate, extract nutrients and improve water quality, so eutrophication risk is reduced. If the tests prove to be successful, OpenMode structures could be replicated throughout the EU.
The modular structures of OpenMode, by intensifying harvesting productivity and reducing operational costs, can increase revenues for farmers using the modules. In a longer-term, the system could trigger important investments in coastal regions, generating new jobs in the entire shellfish value chain (purification, processing, packaging, labelling industries). Moreover, the farming system can be an efficient tool to reduce eutrophication, especially in the Baltic Sea, thus enhancing awareness on shellfish aquaculture being at the service of the environment.
The OpenMode project is very much in line with the impetus that the European Union wants to give to sustainable aquaculture. Moreover, the project is also fully aligned with the EU Climate strategy; indeed, the shell of a shellfish absorbs carbon as it grows, and mussels improve water quality. Finally, OpenMode benefits from another EU-financed project, Biogears, for the testing of biodegradable ropes on all its modules, thus illustrating how EU-funding enables a whole ecosystem of green/blue innovation.
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