Towards Belgian mussels?

Is there a more Belgian dish than mussels? Yes, Belgian mussels! And that’s no pipedream, because we’re working on pilot projects to grow shellfish and seaweed off our North Sea coast. This would allow us to respond better to the rising demand, and benefit from quality, freshness and sustainability!

Alternative sources of protein

Over the next few years, shellfish and seaweed (products) will become more common on our menus. They are low in fat and have an excellent protein composition which makes them good alternatives to meat.

“Reason enough to work on the Aquaculture Noordzee (North Sea Aquaculture) test project for the next two years,” says engineer Wannes Voorend. “We’re investigating whether our North Sea coast is suitable for shellfish and seaweed cultivation. Which techniques are useful, if there are favourable environmental effects, can the cultivation be profitable, etc.?”

Breeding line for mussels
Mussels are a good alternative to meat. That's why we investigate whether the North Sea is suitable for shellfish cultivation.

First step: cultivating mussels amongst the wind turbines

On the coast at Nieuwpoort, there’s a unique system for the combined cultivation of seaweed, mussels, scallops and oysters (part of the Value@Sea project). And in two Belgian wind farms, 30 to 50 kilometres from the coast, there are the first breeding lines for mussels (part of the Edulis project). Among other things, we want to find out if there are enough mussel larvae, which lines work best and which forces are at work on them. Wannes explains, “Belgium is taking the lead in exploiting these vast wind farms. The water quality there is good and above all, aquaculture doesn’t hinder shipping.”

Breeding line for mussels
In the test project, we investigate the best methods to cultivate mussels between the wind farms.

Pasta made from seaweed

In the test project, we are looking at technology and biology as well as sustainability. Wannes continues, “We carry out a sustainability analysis by species over the entire lifecycle, from sowing through harvesting to waste disposal. Finally, we are also investigating whether this aquaculture is economically viable. We want to use our know-how in product innovation to work with suppliers to develop new products and test them on consumers. Think, for example, about bread or pasta made from seaweed.”

With Flemish and European backing

The government itself is also aware of the importance of sustainable aquaculture. The test project is being supported by the Flemish Government and the European Fisheries and Maritime Fund. Aquaculture Noordzee is a joint initiative between the University of Ghent and the Flemish Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO), and private partners including Colruyt Group.

With this initiative, we contribute to the following Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

Responsible consumption & production Life below water Partnerships for the goals