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German North Sea pilot update

Throughout the past year of ULTFARMS, various actions have been undertaken by the R&D centre Kiel University of Applied Sciences Kiel GmbH, to prepare the finalization and optimization for the installation of the aquaculture systems and their monitoring.       

 Currently, in the proximity of the research platform FINO3 (https://www.fino3.de/de/) and three adjacent wind parks (Butendieck, DanTysk and Sandbank), 182 km offshore to the next suitable port in Cuxhaven.  

Within ULTFARMS, both systems await an ongoing process of maintenance and optimization to produce low trophic aquaculture species of the regional occurring target species, the brown macroalgae commonly known as “sugar kelp” and the common “blue mussel”. The systems are designed to withstand the high-energy environment offshore. Eighty kilometres from Sylt, far within the North Sea, waves can reach up to 17.9 meters of maximum heights in a water depth of 24 meters, in addition to a high salinity of 35 PSU, which pressures each component of the system by an elevated risk of corrosion. Nearshore testing of both material and cultivation techniques is therefore invaluable; the localities within the Kiel Fjord set an ideal scenery (Figure 1, 4 & Gregor).   

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Despite this challenge, the two systems’ overall concept has been proven suitable for offshore deployment and is further optimized and operated within ULTFARMS. Various cultivation methods will be evaluated for the two chosen species, and environmental parameters will be monitored to investigate ideal growth behaviours. Besides the standard parameters for environmental monitoring (e.g., light & temperature), ongoing work focus on calibrating novel, advanced sensor technology that enables the measurement and identification of phytoplankton including potentially toxic algae species.  

For the correct recognition of the microalgae by the sensor, however, water samples from both test sites in the North and Baltic Sea (FINO2, 3) were needed and brought to the laboratory frequently for calibration purposes. The first test trials successfully differentiated dinoflagellates from diatoms, and the first probe will be deployed at the FINO3 location during this season.           

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Regarding mussel cultivation, for instance, the system is designed and timed to collect mussel larvae of the surrounding water body. This so-called mussel spat attaches to the rope setup without any human intervention. After a period of growth, harvest can occur approximately one year later.  
For the cultivation of macroalgae, a population of brown algae nearby has been sampled from the coastline of Helgoland and brought to the laboratory of the project partner Hortimare to produce biomass (Figure 2).              

All materials are tested and pre-assembled for the foreseen installation trip (Figure 2, 3). 

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