Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


NEPTUN Report Summary

Project ID: 778453

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - NEPTUN (Novel closed-cage system for high-value marine aquaculture)

Reporting period: 2017-08-01 to 2018-07-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The overall vision of the NEPTUN project is to upscale, pilot, and commercialise our patented Closed-Cage Aquaculture System [CCAS] for wholly sustainable and cost-effective inshore aquaculture.

The intensification of aquaculture raises concerns about its environmental and social impacts, mainly for marine applications. The current standard approach, Open-cage Aquaculture Systems [OAS], use floating enclosures permeable to the surrounding sea. The high number of fish confined in them provides excellent conditions for marine parasite growth and transmission within the nets and towards the local environment. This requires extensive use of pharmaceutical and pesticides (also to prevent algae growth on the net), which along with fish sewage (excrement and uneaten feed) contaminates the nearby sea and seabed, leading to eutrophication of the marine environment.
Governments have implemented stricter licencing systems limiting the number of operational sea sites and the maximum allowable biomass per licence [MAB], and requiring thorough procedures for escape prevention and pesticide use. While crucial to safeguarding the environment, these measures impact the profitability and productivity of the industry, and restrict the availability of sea sites for aquaculture, which is currently the main barrier to further expanding production.

NEPTUN is a novel Closed-Cage Aquaculture System [CCAS] that combines a fully impermeable and durable fibreglass enclosure with an innovative hatch technology, patented by Aquafarm Equipment AS [AFE] (NO332955B1, granted 11/2/2013). Our system eliminates fish escapes and the need for chemical treatment to prevent sea lice infestation and algae growth (NEPTUN incorporates sophisticated oxygenation and water treatment subsystems to regulate water intake, giving full control over operations and against pathogen growth). NEPTUN is the first CCAS solution capable of withstanding the whole grow-out cycle of fish, securing safe solid waste removal up to 90% (highest in the market compared to alternative CCAS currently used for post-smolt production), reducing mortality rate down to 0.4% (average rate in AS farming in OAS in Norway: 10%) and feed costs in 10% (NEPTUN has achieved the best Feed Conversion Ratio [FCR] = 0.87 in up to 1Kg AS. Average FCR in OAS: 1.19), allowing adult fish densities of 50 kg/m3 (current limits for AS farming in OAS: 25kg/m3) without further depleting marine ecosystems.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

NEPTUN’s work plan spans 24 months and consists of six work packages (WPs) divided between two technology maturation WPs (WP 1-2) running parallel with three market maturation WPs (WP 3-5) with data and analyses from these five feeding into WP6 - Innovation Management – that will support all activities.
For the first period (M1-12), the project activities mainly focus on:

1. Finalizing our prototype to elevate NEPTUN and associated sub-system prototypes from current TRL7 toTRL8. Work carried out comprises:
- The design optimisation and engineering of the waste separator unit;
- The design and construction of a sampling/harvesting system;
- Final engineering and integration of NEPTUN multi-purpose working platform;
- NEPTUN System specifications and piloting procedures;
- Establishing large-scale piloting infrastructure at pilot sites.

2. Ensuring that the entire NEPTUN supply chain is prepared and optimised to handle the increased sales expected when introducing our product in the market. In specific, we: 1) consolidate and strengthen our upstream supply chain to ensure a constant supply of components sustaining the manufacturing of new NEPTUN units as we grow, 2) Build a downstream sales network supporting our internationalisation objectives, and 3) Implement internal changes in AFE increasing manufacturing our capacity.

3. Updating the outcomes of our in-house Feasibility Study by continually monitoring and analysing current and future markets for NEPTUN, including the competitive landscape. Costs estimations have been finalised to confirm the project’s commercial viability, while securing post-project funding and monitoring relevant standards and regulations.

4. Ensuring widespread communication and dissemination of the project activities to a broad range of stakeholders, and to exploit NEPTUN results to advance our CP and secure NEPTUN business opportunity.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

NEPTUN is the only floating CCAS large and robust enough to withstand the whole grow-out cycle in coastal fish farming, letting the industry to use the maximum allowed biomass and larger fish densities, without any detrimental effect on fish health or the environment. There are three key novelties that make NEPTUN the unbeatable solution responding to the industry and user needs:

1. Robust, versatile design: NEPTUN is built with impermeable and highly durable (corrosion free & low maintenance) Glass Reinforced Polyester [GRP], and strengthened with steel to endure high stress levels under adverse weather conditions. The unit is made from panels (building units) that are bolted and glued together-making the joints able to meet all the mechanical requirements and reduce the risk of escapes according to standard NS9415:2009/NYTEK. NEPTUN is constructed on a modular platform (allowing us to customize the number of cages according to our client’s production needs) that can be used in isolation or combination with traditional OAS. NEPTUN offers the largest rearing volume in the market (21,000 m3), and opens the doors to inshore grow-out husbandry in CCAS for the first time.

2. Stable operations: NEPTUN offers higher levels of production control through the whole grow-out cycle, incl.:
- Efficient monitoring and regulation of O2 concentration in intake water, to reduce fish mortality.
- A variable-depth water intake (down to 30m deep) enabling operations at constant temperature (without external heating) and thus the capacity to balance fish quality and growth rate. As water intake is pumped from a depth not normally inhabited by sea lice and other organisms, NEPTUN prevents parasite infestation, and reduces the associated economic cost.
- The stream induced by the pumps and our patented hatch system simulates sea currents, and ensures continuous water flow within the cage for optimal swimming velocity and motion (i.e. optimal fish health). In addition, the system inhibits surface colonisation by algae.

3. Environmental friendliness: NEPTUN significantly reduces the environmental impact of fish farming by avoiding direct contact with the surrounding marine ecosystem, and creates a bio-secure habitat for fish with minimum disease outbreaks (i.e. min. pharmaceutical use). NEPTUN incorporates a system for automated collection and treatment of waste (recovery up to 90%) helping protect the sea & seabed (min. eutrophication).

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