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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 2 - 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: 2019-12-01 to 2021-01-31

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 nearshore 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, automated control 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 with the specific strategy of designing and testing solutions on indoor and outdoor sea based physical prototypes and then use results of those trials to enhance the design of the full-scale platform.
Achievements associated to WP2 and WP3 are now complete. WP4 has mainly progressed within RP1, as the last activity (LCA studies update) is planned towards the project end. WP5 has definitely advanced during the RP2, with the construction of the outdoor prototype ready for testing. WP6 has seen setting up of the deployment site, whilst WP7 has registered initiation of extension of preliminary studies carried out in WP2. Long running WPs, like WP8, WP9 and WP10, have progressed as well in this second reporting period.
In particular, WP2 has achieved: 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 based infrastructure; 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 and between these and the aquaculture productivity, to characterise the interaction between aquaculture and renewable energy devices. In particular, the multi-disciplinary model of dynamics design tool for the chosen infrastructure, able to capture and represent the aerodynamics, hydrodynamics, structural dynamics, and control dynamics aspects have been detailed. Design, manufacturing and construction of the indoor prototype, followed by the testing campaign carried out at ECN wave tank have been carried out. Regarding the interaction between renewables and fish farming, prediction of impacts has been addressed basing on a state-of-the-art peer review first, followed by a specific test campaign on juvenile fish has been carried out to characterize fish behavior and reaction to above and underwater noise.
WP4 reported on the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for both full-scale and outdoor prototype design, taking in account construction, operational life and decommissioning.
WP5 achievements counted on: a) final and construction design of the aero-hydro prototype, as well as design for integration of all envisaged technologies, b) manufacturing, assembly and integration of the steel platform components, c) the physical integration with the technologies, object of the experimental campaign. WP6 set a preparatory activity to obtain the concession from local authorities, to survey the seabed to evaluate any impact from the deployment of the prototype, to set up for the prototype deployment on site, taking care of procedural, safety and regulatory issues. WP8 registered the accomplishment of 2 Reference Stakeholder Group Workshops, conceived to study social acceptance process for such MOIs. WP9 established basis for the business planning and commercial strategy of such innovative MOI, with the aim to consolidate the commercial viability once the full-scale design (WP7) is complete.
BGF exploitable objectives 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 and their interaction with fish farming;
- 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 BGF multipurpose platform, which include automated aquaculture system, will be fully characterized, for a further validation in the full-scale engineering development.
1:15 physical prototype as under test at NOEL site - Italy (open sea)
1:40 physical prototype as tested at ECN (FR) wave tank
3D model of the BGF infrastructure