The ECOPEMER project is a food biotechnology project with a 1,5 M planned investment initially targeting the local market, but with the potential for replicating globally once proven. It aims at producing fish and molluscs under a novel integrated system that minimizes environmental impact. It will resume breeding activities in an installation located in a pristine environment in Galicia, NW Spain, with good productive potential but until now lacking in professional management. A novel Seawater Recirculation System (SRS-RAS) minimizes environmental impact and ensures the health and biosecurity of the crop. ECOPEMER will take two years to implement in full, after which it will become completely operational. Net profits are expected from the second year of operations. By year 4, net profits approach 1 M, increasing gradually towards 1,9 M in year 9. These forecasts only contemplate the use of 50% of the productive potential of the proposed facility.
The problem we are solving
This is a tractor project for European aquaculture, in the sense that the proposed farming system offers a new production alternative, with the ability to build upon existing assets for marine fish farming. A strong innovation component incorporates new recirculation techniques (zoobiofilters, disinfection systems), new feed technologies (use of RAS effluents in the nursery of mollusc ssed, ecological certification) and new containment systems (horizontal flow trays, SRS-RAS, automation). ECOPEMER is a strategy for company growth based on the sustainable use of resources. It is located in an area of high unemployment and low GDP, having experienced the decline of the fishing industry. Financially, it will be profitable by year 3, with high margins and revenues over 3 M by year 6 using cautious projections, with steady growth thereafter. The payback period is 3.5 years. The main product, shellfish seed, is heavily deficient for the main marketable species.
Sustainable impact on Blue Economy
ECOPEMER is a sustainable and eco-friendly project. The water recirculation regime drastically reduces (-95%) the needs for pumping, preventing effluent discharge, maintaining an optimal environment with stable water quality while reducing energy consumption (-45%). Whenever possible, renewable energy sources (photovoltaic, eolic) are selected for energy requirements, reducing operational costs (-45%). The project implements disruptive technology, such as redundant water disinfection systems based on advanced oxidation processes (AOPs) which do not involve the addition of chemical products, eliminating the generation of potentially toxic metabolites. AOPs effectively eliminate parasites, bacteria, fungi and viruses with the capacity to safely treat high volumes of seawater at moderate costs. A further reduction in the environmental impact derives from the husbandry protocols to be implemented, opting for low stocking densities, moderate feeding levels and enhanced operational capacities of the biological filters, minimizing the volume (-60%) and improving quality parameters (up to +85%) in the effluent discharge. Finally, ECOPEMER's nutritional strategy is based on locally available nutrient recycle for fish feeding and mollusc seed nursery, focusing on low trophic level species, the reduction of fishmeal and oil in the feed and the generation of a more competitive nutritional product thus greatly diminishing (-55%) the carbon footprint. This strategy links up with the wider environmental aspects of the circular economy, proposing the use of organic by-products for the production of food (aquaculture) while at the same time alleviating current pressure on critical biological assets (fisheries). Some of the final outputs (mollusc seed, fish juveniles) are very valuable assets for environmental applications such as marine restocking and regeneration projects, coastal strategies for the minimisation of global warming, ocean acidification and the preservation of marine biodiversity.