Offshore Mariculture: innovation needs nurturing10th May 2016
By Don Fowler, Aquaculture Innovation Manager at SAIC
“Three key themes dominated the 6th Offshore Mariculture Conference, an international two-day event focused on the offshore fish farming business, held in Barcelona on 6-8 April 2016.
“Firstly, farming fish in offshore or high-energy sites in deeper water offers a number of benefits. Benefits such as better growth, reduced environmental footprint and minimal impact from pests and disease. Moving offshore also reduces interaction with wild fish stocks, potentially requiring less regulation and securing greater social acceptance than in-shore farming.
“Secondly, there are already a number of innovative offshore designs for submersible and semi-submersible cages, nets and mooring systems being developed and deployed in Israel, Asia, Hawaii – USA, Great Lakes – Canada and Panama. These have still to be commercially proven however, meaning other innovation opportunities remain. Not least in the areas of health and safety of personnel, operation, logistics, feeding, equipment scale, service and power requirements, command and control, data exchange, associated capital expenditure at a new scale, and regulatory monitoring and modelling. Decommissioned offshore oil installations may offer possible locations for trialling innovation in these areas, as could offshore wind farms.
“Thirdly, while many individual businesses are already exploring offshore system-related opportunities, the biggest opportunity lies in collaboration – not just between operators but suppliers too – in order to knowledge share, trouble-shoot and ensure sufficient promotion of the benefits of, and advances being made in, offshore fish farming. Equally, the industry needs to engage more with the financial and insurance sectors to help reduce risk and develop more diversified business models if it is to withstand almost certain future offshore challenges.
“In summary, nurturing development of offshore or high energy sites requires innovation. Aquaculture is expanding globally. The two largest markets are Asia, where there is consolidation and expansion happening with a move from small-scale, low intensity operations to larger scale and more offshore; and the USA which currently imports 80% of its seafood. Both offer valuable supply chain opportunities. In order for the aquaculture sector to capitalise more fully offshore, it needs an innovative and imaginative new strategy.”