Mussel farming

Natural water purification with mussels

Thursday 22 Dec 16
by Line Reeh


Jens Kjerulf Petersen
DTU Aqua
+45 35 88 31 71

Mussel farming

A mussel farming system either uses either droppers hanging on longlines suspended between buoys or mesh socks suspended on floating tubes. The mussels will attach themselves to the droppers and the mesh socks and then start growing. The mussels filter the water for microalgae and other particles and thus bind the nutrients, making them unavailable for further growth of microalgae. When harvesting the mussels from the fjord in autumn, the nutrients bound in the mussels will be removed. It is thus removed from the aquatic environment and led back to shore.

A new type of mussel farming may improve the aquatic environment in Danish coastal areas and at the same time deliver highly sought-after organic protein for livestock production. This potential is being examined and documented in a large-scale project headed up by DTU Aqua and funded by Innovation Fund Denmark.

Researchers and the mussel farming industry join forces to develop a basis for Danish mussel farming, which will both improve the environment in coastal Danish waters and deliver sustainable feed protein which is a scarce resource for organic pig and poultry farming.

The need for organic protein sources for animal feed for Danish organic livestock production is expected to see a further increase, when EU requirements from 2018 stipulate that all feed for organic livestock production must be 100 per cent organic.

Mussel farming targeted at nutrient removal differs from mussel farming for the dinner table, as the farmers do not focus on producing large mussels, but rather achieving as high a filtering biomass per area and binding of as many nutrients as possible. The result is far more, but far smaller mussels which are too small for the supermarket cold counter, but which can be a valuable source of protein for, e.g., organic poultry or pigs.

The project will study the water-purifying effect of mussel farming in different Danish fjord systems and at the same time develop models for the management of increasing mussel production in coastal waters—with special focus on models for valuation and payment of ecosystem services as well as for the use of the coastal zone. The joined efforts must make it possible to determine whether mussel farming can be included in third-generation water plans.

The MuMiPro (Mussel farming, Mitigation and Protein Source for organic husbandry) project has a total budget of DKK 21 million and is headed by Jens Kjerulf Petersen, Danish Shellfish Centre, DTU Aqua.

“With MuMiPro, we get a ‘Kinder Surprise Egg’ in the form of a project which can both deliver a water treatment solution to ailing Danish fjords, sustainably produced protein sources to organic livestock production, and job creation in areas outside of the big cities,” Jens Kjerulf Petersen, Danish Shellfish Centre, DTU Aqua.

The objective of MuMiPro is to provide the knowledge base for an annual production of up to 100,000 tonnes of mussels—corresponding to approx. 15,000 tonnes of organic feed ingredients—within 6 to 10 years. This means removal of 1-2,000 tonnes of nitrogen, or 8-15 per cent of the current needs (2014).

The innovation project is a collaboration between DTU (Aqua and Food), Aarhus University (BIOS, ANIS, ENV, and FOOD), Seafood Limfjord, Wittrup Seafood, Vilsund Blue, Engredo, Nofima, the Limfjord Council, Danish Agro, SEGES, and Udviklingscenter for Husdyr på Friland (livestock development centre).

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