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Development and demonstration of an automated, modular and environmentally friendly multi-functional platform for open sea farm installations of the Blue Growth Industry

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - The Blue Growth Farm (Development and demonstration of an automated, modular and environmentally friendly multi-functional platform for open sea farm installations of the Blue Growth Industry)

Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2019-11-30

The concept of developing multi-use sea platforms has become one of the EU’s most interesting and ambitious projects in order to ensure the integrated, sustainable and ecological exploitation of open sea resources. In particular, a suitable combination of aquaculture and offshore renewable energy production and the application of appropriate technical knowledge are key in achieving the sustainable exploitation of marine resources, in support of the growing global demand for seafood and energy from renewable sources. Nevertheless, further expansion of aquaculture, both land-based and nearshore, is limited for a variety of reasons, such as economic, socio-political, environmental, technical and resource constraints. Moving offshore creates significant advantages and opportunities in meeting the global demand for food especially when the aquaculture system is combined with other activities such as renewable energy production. However, when offshore innovative infrastructure design solutions are required in order to withstand the much higher energy environment compared to that experienced by current traditional inshore fish farming facilities. In addition, due to its offshore location and thus the potentially limited operator access to the farm under storm conditions, there is a need to develop and implement greater mechanisation, automation and remote management of routine production operations from feeding to harvesting. The aim of the Blue Growth Farm project is thus to produce advanced industrial knowledge with a fully integrated and efficient offshore multipurpose floating platform. Relevant R&D challenges are addressed in the project with the specific strategy of designing and testing solutions on indoor and outdoor sea based physical prototypes and then use the results of those field trials to enhance the design of the full-scale platform.
The first reporting period has notified the achievements associated to the first WPs of the BGF project plan, namely WP2 (Blue Farm siting and preliminary engineering design (full scale and outdoor prototype), WP3 (Renewable energy devices and aquaculture system: evaluation of interactions and integration), WP4 (Environmental impact assessment), whilst activities of WP5 (Blue Farm outdoor prototype detailed design, manufacturing and installation) have been launched. Long running WPs, like WP8, WP9 and WP10, have been implemented as well.
In particular, the WP2 has consolidated the following achievements: the complete set of technical requirements to establish the basis early engineering necessary to scale up the offshore multipurpose platform, the characterization of potential representative sites for the platform installation, the preliminary design assessment of the full scale concept, on the basis of the technical requirement early established; the preliminary design of integrated aquaculture automation & security and renewable energy production systems; the preliminary design of the modular caisson’s connections to provide basis for WP5; the preliminary design of the outdoor prototype, as well as relevant design of technologies to provide basis for WP5.
The WP3 has concentrated on the development of design support tools capable to capture the cross-disciplinary interactions either among subsystems (wave energy device, wind turbine, aquaculture system, etc.), and between these and the aquaculture productivity, for the subsequent in-depth analyses to characterise the interaction between aquaculture and renewable energy devices. In particular, the multi-disciplinary model of dynamics design tool for the chosen multi-purpose system, able to capture and represent the aerodynamics, hydrodynamics, structural dynamics, and control dynamics aspects have been detailed, making sure this tool has suitable characteristics to be experimentally validated. Results from ECN testing have then been used to the purpose.
WP4 has reported, as main outcomes, on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on the full-scale design and on the prototype, taking in account construction, operational life and decommissioning. Final design has to be in agreement with National law or International Agreement at open sea, depending on three selected locations. Assessment results have then been used to adjust the design to allow for the environmental law compliance and to avoid or mitigate negative effects on ecosystems and humans.
WP5 activities have been initialed, and in particular, a certain number of elements required to produce the final design of the outdoor platform prototype, composed of a steel platform and integrated technologies, has been identified and provided, whilst being awaiting for the validation of the SW tools based on the ECN experimental results, prior to implement the final run of the prototype detailed design to be used for the prototype procurement and manufacturing.
All the defined BGF objectives bring exploitable results that goes over the state of the art so far known. These outputs are represented by:
- design of a low-cost, corrosion-resistant, low-maintenance modular concrete floating multi-purpose offshore platform;
- study of the integration of a commercial offshore wind turbine system (10MW), and a number of wave energy systems;
- design of a highly automated aquaculture system, capable of producing fish at industrial level in harsh offshore environments;
- design and integration of a metocean condition system and maritime surveillance unit;
- design of a docking system able to accommodate specialized vessels required to support the aquaculture production;
- development of a sustainable business model for the platform;
- engagement from a wide range of different stakeholders and institutions via workshops;
- definition of the training needs and Health & Safety issues related to the design and operation of the platform, to be confirmed by the results from the sea trials, in order to establish guidelines for the professional skills and competence requirements of potential commercial operators;
- development of an overall environmental impact assessment of a full-scale platform;
- production of Best Practice guidelines by combining different knowledge inputs (science, stakeholders, authorities, risk justified decision makers) to generate novel insights with regard to the management of sea space for multiple uses.
As future demand for food from aquaculture will also depend on the availability of space for fish farming, and “Marine Spatial Planning” is needed to ensure the allocation of space for offshore mariculture as a means of realizing sustainable aquaculture development activities, the proposed project guidelines will provide for ongoing and adaptive maintenance of social licence, considered as a synthesis of civil-society-provided SLO and governance-implemented maritime spatial planning.
Additionally, novel concepts of integrated multipurpose offshore platform are the best candidate to promote new professional and multidisciplinary skills to be trained to work in the blue economy. Training needs for operation and maintenance of the Blue Growth Farm multipurpose platform, which include automated aquaculture system, will be fully characterized, for a further validation in the full-scale engineering development.