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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 3 - 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)

Berichtszeitraum: 2021-02-01 bis 2022-03-31

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 to 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. 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 about a fully integrated and efficient offshore multipurpose floating platform. Relevant R&D challenges are addressed with the specific strategy of designing and testing solutions of indoor (wave tank) and outdoor (sea) based physical prototypes and then use results of those trials to better predict full scale infrastructure behavior by numerical models validated though the action.
By the end of the last reporting period, all project activities and related contractual deliverables have been accomplished. Main tangible achievements from the project have been: a) in-depth engineering package of the fully integrated multipurpose offshore platform, hosting aquaculture and renewable energy production systems and infrastructure services; b) detailed design, construction, commissioning and operation of two scaled physical prototypes (indoor 1:40 model, tested in wave tank and outdoor 1:15, tested at sea) of the proposed integrated platform to provide the required experimental evidences in a relevant environment, in order to demonstrate achievement of TRL 5 requirement; c) suitable business model and plan built on the Blue Growth Farm configuration to validate project assumptions and open opportunities to future investment for industrial applications.
The following technical achievements have been detailed: a) Ability to withstand offshore conditions including wave significant heights of up to 6 m; b) improved standards of fish welfare with respect to traditional near coast fish farming; c) efficient use of open sea resources (replenishment of wild fish stock by increasing the farmed stock; use on site of renewable energy resources; reduction of pollution by stimulating electric engine based vessels); d) minimal environmental footprint (better diffusion of biomass waste) and visual impact by moving offshore; e) improved knowledge about opposition for MOI deployment from regulators or local communities; f) extensive business planning and commercially viability, with clear characterization of pros and cons; g) improved security of production; h) capability design for the infrastructure management by remote to support continuity when access to the platform is unsafe because of adverse conditions; i) design solutions for safety of sea navigation.
Communication and dissemination activities in the BGF project have played a fundamental role in enhancing the commercial potential of BGF technological solutions for further replication. In particular, these have been deployed to: a) increase the awareness of BGF project and its results (+15 published papers including specialized magazines; +80 dissemination events mobilized or participated; b) provide up-to-date information about the project (BGF website, RINA-C channels, BGF Consortium partners website’ pages); c) promote the project to media and the general public (+2 project videos downloadable from the project website; +10 press release to publicize BGF local events; d) create visibility within the targeted stakeholders’ communities (3 workshops with local Reference Stakeholders Group, including external stakeholders (local authorities, operators, students and broad public); e) sharing the technical results of BGF technical solutions (+15 published papers including specialized magazines; + 15 project public deliverables; f) attract and involving relevant stakeholders (3 sector events (Aquaculture Europe) through exhibit trade shows.
All the defined BGF objectives bring exploitable results that go over the state of the art so far known. These outputs are represented by:
- design of a profitable, 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 has produced guidelines for adaptive social license to operate (SLO) practice.
Additionally, novel concepts of integrated multipurpose offshore platform are such 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, based on 30 staff skilled components, have been fully characterized, for a further validation in the full-scale industrial 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