Circular low-trophic offshore aquaculture in wind farms

circUlar Low Trophic oFfshore Aquaculture in wind farms and Restoration of Marine Space (ULTFARMS)

FuE-Zentrum FH Kiel GmbH
Dipl.-Biol. Eva Strothotte

ULTFARMS aims to move beyond the current application of Low-Trophic Aquaculture (LTA) systems with novel engineering, technical, ecological and biological processes to optimise production in harsh offshore conditions, low salinities, and their integration within Offshore Wind Farms (OWFs). This project will be covering the whole value chain expertise for LTA production in OWFs. Co-development and co-management by research and industry realises novel designs and operations unique to offshore in six Low-Trophic Aquaculture Pilots (LTAPs) in as many OWF locations across the North and Baltic Seas.

The ULTFARMS project is funded by the European Union's Horizon Europe research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 101093888 and will run until the end of June 2026. The lead partner of this funded project is the Dutch company Stichting Deltares.

Activities and goals

The following two pilot projects are managed by the R&D Centre FH Kiel GmbH.

Pilot 3

FINO2-site in the German Baltic Sea:
The FINO2 site in the south-western Baltic Sea represents the typical Baltic Sea conditions with rather low salinity, short waves, almost no tidal currents and generally shallower waters. At this location, algae production is still in its infancy and mussel farming is not possible due to the very slow growth rate. The FINO2 research platform was built in 2007 to study the local environmental conditions and to determine the potential impact of offshore wind farms on the marine environment. It is located 33 kilometres north of the island of Rügen in the border triangle of Germany, Denmark and Sweden on the southern edge of the "Kriegers Flak" shelf. The platform served as a blueprint for the successful anchoring of wind turbines in the Baltic Sea and is now surrounded by new types of wind farms that are already in operation or under construction and will be operational by 2024. The FINO2 platform is operated by DNV.

The specific objectives of the pilot project are

  • Cultivation of seaweed typical of the Baltic Sea in the overlapping areas of several wind farms
  • Optimisation of the production of Ulva (sea lettuce) and Fucus (bladder wrack) for market entry, development of sowing techniques for large-scale production
  • Scalable, environmentally friendly design adapted to the conditions of the Baltic Sea
  • Development and testing of synergy effects with offshore stakeholders in relation to authorisation procedures, infrastructure, logistics, maintenance system, monitoring, energy management
  • Development of effective marketing strategies to present the added value

Pilot 4

FINO3 site in the German North Sea:
The German offshore research platform FINO3 is located eighty kilometres off the coast of the North Sea and in the immediate vicinity of three offshore wind farms. The harsh conditions at the FINO3 site offer perfect offshore demonstration conditions that have not yet been extensively tested or demonstrated elsewhere. The site will drive development from pilot scale to potential commercial application.

The specific objectives of the pilot project are:

  • Cultivation of Mytilus edulis (blue mussel), Ostrea edulis (European oyster) and Saccharina latissima (sugar kelp)
  • Optimisation of algae seeding techniques, adapted to the harsh offshore conditions and large-scale production
  • Development and installation of a robust technical system in combination with environmentally friendly design
  • Implementation of an automated environmental and growth monitoring system and testing and validation of an innovative automated toxin monitoring system
  • Creation and utilisation of synergy effects: Development of cost-efficient adaptations for a highly exposed offshore location in terms of logistics, maintenance system, energy management, infrastructure planning
  • Development of effective marketing strategies

Four more pilot sites

The other four pilots are implemented in Belgium-Belwind (Seaweed-Mussels-Oysters), the Netherlands-Borssele (Mussels), Denmark-Anholt (Seaweed-Mussels) and Samsø (Seaweed-Mussels). This approach involves stakeholders from across the value chains of OWF and LTA to ensure environmentally sound, low-carbon, and safe LTA products from design to commercialisation.

New cultivation structures, grow-out systems, and both nature restoration and ecofriendly design measures are advanced through the proposed work. Drawing on existing open databases and operational forecasting systems, such as CMEMS and SeaDATANET, within integrated monitoring and management platforms, such as the HiSea service platform, the planning and operation of LTAs can be effectively supported via an enhanced technical service.

ULTFARMS will offer services to aquaculture producers for monitoring and minimizing diseases and alien species, managing inputs, optimizing sustainable production and demand management including risk analysis.

Furthermore, through the inclusion of 5 Associate Regions (ARs) throughout the lifetime of the project, lessons learnt, and innovations developed will be shared through comprehensive communication and dissemination activities and underpinned by the ARs active inclusions in work undertaken with partners throughout the project.