Research is underway into using rock anchors in aquaculture Photo: SAICResearch is underway into using rock anchors in aquaculture Photo: SAIC

A research consortium has taken a significant step forward in the development of anchoring technology that could help the aquaculture sector deliver sustainable growth and reduce its environmental impact.

For the past year, Sustainable Marine Energy (SME), the University of Dundee, Gael Force Group and the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) have explored adapting a rock anchor approach from techniques used in marine energy sites to aquaculture.

“These anchors have the potential to allow expansion of aquaculture to previously inaccessible sites with scope for large farms in energetic areas,” explained Adam Caton, geotechnical engineer at SME. “This will bring benefits in terms of fish fitness and waste dispersal.”

While traditional gravity and drag anchors made of concrete or steel are suitable for existing fish farming sites, the new technology could support the deployment of sites in more remote, higher energy locations. The anchor forms a mechanical ground lock with the rock seabed without the need for resin or grout and the reduction in weight also allows operators to use modestly sized, readily available vessels for deployment.

With additional support from software provider Optum, the initial testing phase has been completed and the results will allow the group to accurately predict the loads and capacity that rock anchors can bear in field trials.

The group is now looking for an aquaculture partner to trial the new anchors at a fish farm, progressing towards a full-scale deployment.

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