SBIR Phase II:Launching Velella: Testing the Commercial Potential of Mobile Offshore Fish Farming In Ocean Gyres
National Science Foundation
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Small Business Information
P.O. Box 4239, Kailua Kona, HI, 96745
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
AbstractThis Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase II project will catapult open ocean mariculture far offshore, away from the restrictions caused by competing user groups, site lease requirements and mooring restrictions, by developing the technology for Velella ? an untethered, open ocean regional drifter cage. Since 2005, Kona Blue?s open ocean mariculture operation has produced up to 500T per annum of Kona Kampachi, with negligible environmental impacts, from a 90 acre site. Growth and investment are constrained by site limitations. Mariculture expansion in U.S. waters is similarly limited by regulatory constraints for moored structures, and the technological challenges of operating further offshore. The Velella Project is developing essential technologies for drifter net-pens that can be entrained in regional ocean eddies. This will allow increased scale and reduced labor requirements, and greater farm profitability. Phase II will also expand eddy predictive capabilities, and launch a Velella beta-system maiden voyage. The broader impacts of this research are to be accrued through benefits to the environment, coastal economies and public health. The oceans are in deep trouble; over 90% of the ocean?s larger predator fish are gone, and over a quarter of fish stocks have ?collapsed?. Heavily exploited or overfished wild stocks cannot meet the growing global demand for healthful seafood. Still, increased seafood consumption is imperative for American consumers? health. Inshore and onshore aquaculture offer only limited expansion opportunities, or lower-value products. Open ocean mariculture can meet this burgeoning demand, improve product quality and reduce pressure on wild stocks. Overcoming the industry constraints requires highly-automated husbandry systems, and demonstration of a scalable production model for deep water that meets current regulations. This research could significantly expand sustainable, eco-friendly mariculture in U.S. waters, without environmental impacts or user-group conflicts associated with other site-constrained aquaculture. Increased automation can increase production volumes and improve profitability, fish health and worker safety offshore. Increased domestic mariculture could reduce America?s $9 billion seafood trade deficit.
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