New anchoring technology for aquaculture takes a leap forward
A consortium of researchers has taken a significant step forward in the development of anchoring technology that could support the aquaculture sector’s ambitions to deliver long-term sustainable growth and reduce its environmental impact.
For the past year, tidal energy technology specialist Sustainable Marine Energy Ltd (SME); the University of Dundee; marine equipment supplier, Gael Force Group; and the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) have explored the feasibility of adapting a rock anchor approach from techniques used in marine energy sites to aquaculture.
With additional support from software provider Optum, the initial testing phase has been successfully completed and the results will allow the group to accurately predict the loads and capacity that rock anchors can bear in field trials. The findings will also enable SME to reduce the amount of material required to manufacture the anchors, leading to a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly product.
While traditional gravity and drag anchors made of concrete or steel are suitable for existing fish farming sites, the new technology could support the deployment of aquaculture sites in more remote, higher energy locations. The anchor forms a mechanical ground lock with the rock seabed without the need for resin or grout, and the reduction in weight also allows operators to use modestly sized, readily available vessels for deployment.
The group is now looking for an aquaculture partner to trial the new anchors at a fish farm, progressing towards a full-scale deployment.
When fully developed, adoption of the new anchoring technology could allow fish and shellfish farms to look at areas which are currently unusable. Locating operations in deeper, higher energy waters could help to reduce a range of health and wellbeing risks for aquaculture species, while also increasing the industry’s capacity, by allowing the development of larger farms with a lower environmental footprint.
Heather Jones, CEO of SAIC, added: “A new approach to anchoring could be a significant development for aquaculture in Scotland and the progress made on the project so far is very encouraging. Having an alternative way of deploying sites in higher energy water could play an important role in the sector’s sustainable growth over the next decade. It builds on many of our previous projects around fish wellbeing and it is particularly pleasing to bring skills from another key area of the Scottish economy into aquaculture, underlining the potential for cross-sector collaboration and knowledge sharing.”
Gael Force Fusion, a member of the Gael Force Group, is based at the European Marine Science Park.
Photo - ROV overboarding near the EMSP - Connel Bridge Photo Credit - Sustainable Marine Energy Ltd