Results from the EU-funded BIOGEARS project have highlighted that new, biobased ropes developed for mussel farming perform better than current commercial models.
Funded by the European Union under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, the four-year BIOGEARS project closed in April 2023. The aim of the project was to develop biobased rope solutions for the creation of an eco-friendly offshore aquaculture sector using a multitrophic approach and new biobased value chains.
To meet this challenge, the research team identified suitable biobased materials and processed and developed fit-for-purpose prototype biobased ropes or “biogears”. The biogears were trialled over one year in real production environments. The results from the sea trials showed that biogears support higher production yields than their commercial counterparts maintaining their functional characteristics and durability for at least one year at sea.
In addition to assessing the technical performance at sea, the BIOGEARS partners also completed a sustainability assessment to consider technical, environmental and economic aspects of the prototype ropes. Biodegradability tests showed that BIOGEARS ropes will not degrade in seawater at 20-30°C or below, while compostability tests demonstrated that biogears can be fully composted in industrial conditions (> 58 ºC). Composting, as an end of life (EoL) option for biobased ropes, could reduce the carbon footprint of longline mussel productions by 10%. The best-performing biogears prototype (B2) reduced by 34% the carbon footprint of mussel productions compared to conventional fossil-based ropes.
The results showed that biogears have the potential to substitute conventional ropes in offshore longline mussel culture, promoting production yields, growth and quality of mussel and commercial benefits for “farmers, while supporting the creation of biobased value chains under the EU Bioeconomy Strategy framework,” explains Project Coordinator, Leire Arantzamendi “We are proud of the achievements of this project and look forward to developing this research further.”While economically the raw materials for the biogears are currently more costly than for fossil-fuel alternatives, there is an expectation that future trends of increasing biopolymer production to meet market demand could reduce the biopolymer price and make biogears more competitive. Furthermore, the higher mussel production yields can provide compensation for this.