AUT research guides Blue Economy project

12 Jun, 2020
Lindsey White

AUT researchers in marine science and engineering are involved in five scoping studies for the Blue Economy CRC, an Australian-led A$329 million project on seafood production, renewable energy and offshore engineering.

Similar to New Zealand’s National Science Challenges, but with the addition of input from industry partners, Australian CRCs (Cooperative Research Centres) are joint programmes between research institutes, industry and government, to find solutions to major issues: in this case sustainable food production and renewable energy sources.

AUT is New Zealand’s core research partner with Associate Professor, Dr Lindsey White appointed deputy leader for the seafood and marine products programme. New Zealand King Salmon is also a core partner, with Plant and Food Research and the Cawthron Institute the other main New Zealand-based research partners.

Over the next six months, AUT researchers will look at the development of:

  • Blue Economy biofouling challenges and possible solutions, worth AUD$206,474; AUT Associate Investigator Dr Maziar Ramezani
  • Offshore/high energy sustainable hybrid power systems, worth AUD$295,712.33; AUT Associate Investigators: Dr Kosala Gunawardane, Dr Ramon Zamora, Professor Tek Tjing Lie and Dr Timothy Anderson
  • Autonomous marine systems at offshore/high energy aquaculture and energy sites, worth AUD$168,096.00; AUT Associate Investigators: Dr Boon-Chong Seet and Dr Loulin Huang
  • Key Challenges for offshore/high energy salmon aquaculture production, worth AUD$74,934.00; AUT Associate Investigator: Professor Andrea Alfaro
  • Kelp aquaculture scoping study. AUD$91,167.33; AUT Associate Investigator: Professor Lindsey White.

These five are part of 17 scoping studies announced last week by the Blue Economy Centre for Research, based in Australia and underpinned by the Australian government. The new projects, which will guide the overall programme’s future, are spread across five research areas, involving 40 participant organisations across the world. They are driven by the needs of industry partners and the end-users with whom they engage.

Professor White says Australia and New Zealand combined has the second largest exclusive economic zones on the planet (behind the EU), giving huge access to offshore marine spaces and resources. “Involvement in this CRC gives us the opportunity to integrate aquaculture of numerous species, including fish and seaweed, with marine-based renewable energy generation.”

He says energy generated from solar, wind, wave and tidal sources could be harnessed and used to run aquaculture operations with excess energy used to split water into hydrogen (sold as an energy source) and oxygen for use in aquaculture operations. “Fish farm operators worldwide are moving their farms offshore to take advantage of larger spaces, better water quality to produce healthier fish and lower water temperatures in the face of warming oceans.”

Of the newly announced scoping projects, Blue Economy Centre for Research Chief Executive Dr John Whittington says, “These projects will help develop a clear understanding of existing technologies, solutions, knowledge and trend, and identify major challenges and opportunities in each research area.

“They will not only provide a platform for future research investment by the BECRC, they will directly benefit our industry partners by pulling together the latest developments in science and technology in this evolving market. These projects will support the development of Australia’s sustainable blue economy through the delivery of world-class, industry-focused research into integrated seafood and renewable energy production systems.”

The total projects are valued at more than $2.3 million, consisting of $858,124 in funding direct from the BECRC, and $1,445,317 worth of in-kind commitments from our partners.

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