EMFF launches new project to develop biobased ropes for aquaculture

EMFF launches new project to develop biobased ropes for aquaculture

BIOGEARS is a new innovative project funded by the European Union under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund that is set to develop biobased gear solutions for the creation of an eco-friendly offshore aquaculture sector using a multitrophic approach and new biobased value chains.

The project aims to provide the European aquaculture sector with innovative products and a value chain to challenge the existing gap of biobased ropes for offshore aquaculture, nowadays manufactured with 100% non-recyclable plastics. BIOGEARS will foster an eco-friendly aquaculture industry with the results of the project creating a biobased value chain under the EU Bioeconomy Strategy framework. BIOGEARS uses an Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) approach by integrating seaweed with mussel production, which aims to increase aquaculture marketable products.

The current use of biobased plastic (produced from biomass renewable resources that can biodegrade in different environmental conditions) only represents about one percent of the 335 million tonnes of plastic produced annually. The BIOGEARS project will develop biobased ropes that though durable and fit-for-purpose, still biodegrade in a shorter time and can be sustainably managed by local composting facilities. The project therefore follows the principles of the EU’s Bioeconomy Strategy and supports forthcoming policy on marine litter and plastic use.

It is important to balance the functionality and biodegradation behaviour of the biobased ropes in order to develop the right biobased formulation for the aquaculture sector. The research, prototype development and pilot tests taking place in BIOGEARS will aim to reduce the current technological gaps and extend the current potential use in the sector.

As part of the project a BLUE LAB will be created to enhance cooperation between all partners of the project and enable them to track innovation related to the application of their new biobased materials to develop aquaculture ropes. It will be supported by knowledge transfer activities throughout the project to ensure that results and new biobased products will reach relevant end users and transform the aquaculture sector.

At the kick-off meeting on 11 December 2019 in AZTI offices in Derio, Spain, we heard from the Project Coordinator Leire Arantzamendi that BIOGEARS hopes to boost more eco-friendly mussel and seaweed production. She said:

“We will generate three rope prototypes with a highly reduced carbon footprint along the whole value chain. The aim is to develop these as marketable products, whilst minimising the potential of aquaculture to generate marine litter or release plastic to the sea.”

As the only project within the EMFF-BlueEconomy-2018 (Blue Labs) call that has a geographical focus on the Atlantic Basin BIOGEARS therefore represents an exciting research area for this region.