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An innovative system for shellfish farming

Shellfish farming is currently a low-technology industry in the EU. In order to improve output from the industry, an EU-funded project developed an innovative closed system for bivalve production.
An innovative system for shellfish farming
Bivalves such as scallops and oysters are farmed at low intensity in the EU, usually by small family enterprises. These businesses are experiencing increasing competition from non-EU countries farming bivalves at high intensity, with a focus on technological innovation.

In response, the EU funded the project 'Development of a novel production system for intensive and cost effective bivalve farming' (SHELLPLANT), that brought together several small enterprises, as well as two research institutes. The aim was to develop a production system that would enhance innovation and profit in the EU shellfish sector.

Production comprises a closed floating cultivation system that gives the farmer complete control of feeding and water flow, while preventing predator access. It also protects the stock from toxic algae.

The plant incorporates an algal photo-bioreactor to produce additional feedstock when natural food availability is low. In addition, it has a full data logging and monitoring system.

Construction and testing of a prototype SHELLPLANT facility showed a 10% increase in productivity, and achieved a significant reduction in labour and waste output. The project also produced standard operating procedures, economic viability models, and a business plan for commercialisation of the SHELLPLANT system.

Modelling suggests that an overall increase of 20% in yearly yields can be expected at a commercial scale. If this is accurate, the development of a fully environmentally controlled bivalve farming system will be an important step forward for this European industry.

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