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The Formex® raft: Towards the revolution of the European mussel farming

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SELMUS (The Formex® raft: Towards the revolution of the European mussel farming)

Reporting period: 2017-05-01 to 2017-10-31

The project SELMUS aims to recover the EU sector leadership through an innovative farming raft, which will be in the market in 2017. The current problem of the mussel farming sector is that it is missing an efficient platform to hang the mussel ropes. The current solution has low durability, needs periodic maintenance, is built manually and inefficiently through a high-risk job in the inter-tidal zone and implies high deforestation, as the trees used now to build a single raft prevent 48 t of CO2 from being captured yearly.
The solution proposed is a launching on the market the Formex® raft, a modular element made of Ultra High Performance Concrete (UHC), an innovative material that is 1,000 times less porous than concrete, 5 times more flexible than steel and 6 times more resistant than eucalyptus wood. The group designed an optimum modular precast raft made of UHC and registered the Utility Model in Spain. The Formex®Raft minimizes the maintenance costs, its lifetime is at least 4 times longer and it avoids the current high environmental impact. From the standpoint of farmers is a major benefit that the Formex® raft remains undamaged even under the worst weather or swell conditions. The assembling of this new modular raft is more secure, as its use for having a flat surface.

The expected outcome is to launch on the market a modular mussel farming raft made of UHC (TRL 7 to TRL 9), and to demonstrate to stakeholders its high value for money. This effective hit will be the basis to become market leaders from the beginning of this new niche product’s life cycle, by converting the team into a EU referent in the production of durable and enviro-friendly rafts. To prepare the raft for a successful market deployment is mandatory to carry out full-scale prototypes that determine the performance of improved Formex® rafts under different sea conditions. These tests are also a demonstration to the regional potential clients: Despite many of them perceiving the raft capacities and being willing to pay, others are still sceptic as prototypes performed by other firms in the past fell well short of initial expectations.
WP1: Coordination and Management: The Project Management Board had 5 meetings for coordination and carried out the coaching sessions provided by the EASME. From month 1 the project is being monitored and the relevant information recorded in order to complete the Progress Report and the Final Report.

WP2: The mold required to manufacture both types of prototypes was integrated in the company on month 1.The UHC components were purchased and the prototypes construction started on month 2. At this moment, the construction of the rafts is in the following stage:
Raft 1: Mixta. 100% finished in month 5. Floating in O Grove (Galicia). The streaming of the raft floating can be seen at IDIFOR youtube channel
Raft 2: Plus. 100% finished in month 6. Expected to float in month 7 in Galicia
Raft 3: Plus. 35% finished. Expected to float in Galicia in month 8.

The manufacturing process is used to acquire know-how and to optimize the industrial production. The production team has studied the problems, bottle-necks, difficulties and experiences.

WP3: Documentation process and product development: An statistically representative plan of tests was defined according to the quality control requirements of the concrete guidelines, and the material is being controlled according to it. The learning acquired during WP2 is already being integrated in the design of the new prototypes and the rafts demanded.

WP4: Large-scale demonstration

The first raft has been transported to Galicia and assembled in intertidal zone. The experience assembling the Formex®Mixta raft was that it required five days including the installation of the wooden joists. The transport of the second raft was done on month 7 and it will be assembled on month 7.
Video cameras for the live streaming the rafts were already installed on the first raft, and the sensors for corrosion measurement integrated in the beams of the three rafts manufactured.

WP5: Business and commercialization strategy

The consortium has been in contact with stakeholders and potential clients, perceiving the market expectations. Members of the Management team have visited Galicia already four times. A customer profile analysis is being carried out based on the meetings with the raft assemblers, institutions involved (Xunta de Galicia mainly) and the prototype testers . The team is also learning with the frequent conversations with the farmers that want to test the rest of the prototypes.
Finally, the utility model was requested in France, Italy, and Chile. The team also requested the registration of the brand under Nice class 19 in Portugal, France and Morocco.

WP6: Communication activities

The reports focused on the advanced materials sector (D6.2) and another on the aquaculture sector (D6.3) are being written and will be published in Open Access. The abstract for the aquaculture congress was submitted in month 6. Besides, it was published in two different newspaper articles the innovative raft. Besides, the company RDC will give a lecture invited by SEIMED-EEN on May 18th (month 7) in Alicante (Spain) and in Valencia in month 11 to explain the project as a case of success in SME Instrument of H2020. The main project website (www.idifor.com) has been developed in both languages. The site has the name of the joint venture created by the consortium members for the future exploitation of the business. The team has created for IDIFOR the Youtube Channel, Linkedin and Twitter, mentioning at all cases the support received from the SME Instrument project granted.
The prototypes are demonstrating the capacity assumed during the design, showing high capacity to addresses consumer needs: Long-lasting raft, minimum maintenance, reduction of the assembling period from 2 weeks to 2 days, repetitiveness of the precast elements and good behaviour in opened waters. Compared to other innovative rafts (mainly the polyethylene model) the Formex® raft has demonstrated to be more economic and stiffer, ensuring a better long-term behaviour.

During the visits to Galicia there were meetings with the Galician Regional Ministry for Agriculture and Fisheries. There were also meetings with the main association of mussel farmers (APMEGA). The prototype has been visited several times by boat with different interested potential customers, which are increasingly interested.

The 5 mussel farmers that are participating in the project as testers were selected for being a reference in the sector. 5 rafts are already estimated for 2018, covering already 70% of the demand estimations made in the Grant Agreement for the first year after the project. It is expected that the evolution of income and employees for the consortium does not differ significantly from the realistic scenario shown on the Grant Agreement. Regarding international markets, commercial efforts have not started yet because of the complete dedication to the Spanish market. However, international protection of the Utility Model has already been done in the main markets and contact with foreign stakeholders will start during the second semester of the project, especially in the European Aquaculture symposium in Croatia.

The general public is having a good opinion of the raft, as they understand it is more safe and environmental than the wooden solution.
Additional analysis of the behavior of the Formex Mixta beams. Task 3.3
Assembling of the first Mixta raft in Galicia. After this the wooden joists are placed. Task 4.1
Secondary frame of a Formex Plus raft stored in Lufort plant after its manufacture. Task 2.3
Sensors of the prototype monitoring for measurement of corrosion. Task 4.2
Visit to the Mixta prototype for inspection and interaction with the potential customers. Task 5.2
Floating of the first Mixta raft, month 5. Task 4.1
Camera for streaming retransmission on YouTube channel. Task 6.5 and 4.2
Process of precasting a Formex Mixta beam in Lufort production plant. Task 2.3
27 m-length beams after transport, before assembling. Mixta raft. Task 4.1
20 m-length beams after transport and before assembling, Mixta raft. Task 4.1