AQUAWAVE: Advancing Quality and Understanding of Wave Conditions in new Aquaculture Environments

Lead Research Organisation: UNIVERSITY OF EXETER
Department Name: Engineering


What is the main project aim?
The overall aim of this knowledge exchange project is to use academic expertise to help prepare the UK aquaculture sector for the challenging wave conditions that will be encountered as the industry continues to grow into more exposed sites.
Why aquaculture?
Aquaculture is a major industry in Scotland supporting over 11,000 jobs many of which are in remote communities with little other employment opportunities. Most salmon aquaculture in Scotland comprises sea cages within highly sheltered locations, mainly contained within the sea lochs and fjords around the islands and inlets of the west coast. Other aquaculture installations (for example: mussel farms and seaweed production) also aim to deploy in these sheltered areas. As the industry continues to expand, the best locations will reach capacity and space will be limited for further development in these ideal conditions. There is extensive space available if more exposed locations are to be considered. Expanding aquaculture into these new locations may present a number of additional benefits along with the likely challenges of the more extreme conditions. A better understanding of the wave conditions will help the industry design the infrastructure that is properly suited to these new sites. This will minimize the chance that costly and environmentally damaging accidents will occur and help the industry grow in a sustainable and economically viable manner. The pre-existing methods for wave assessment are very basic and often report values with large uncertainty. There is a large risk that this could lead to either: expensive overdesigned sites, or insufficiently reliable sea cages.
What will this work achieve?
Working with MOWI Scotland, this project will provide a detailed site assessment for a new and more exposed location in the west of Scotland. The company will see the advanced wave model and can use the output to design the infrastructure are the site. Across the sector, seafood producers will be provided with a new set of techniques that can be undertaken when scoping and planning new sites.
Considering longer-term benefits, the aquaculture industry will be provided with the tools to design new guidance to account for larger and more complex waves. The bodies responsible for writing the technical guidelines will have access to the outputs of this project and it is hoped that in the future, the industry will take these methods on board as part of the standard planning procedures.
What will this work involve?
The project will apply existing advanced wave simulation models developed by the University of Exeter to accurately assess and predict the wave conditions at complex sites around the west coast of Scotland. This will be used to support the aquaculture industry expand into sites with rougher seas. Understanding and predicting wave conditions is a complex problem and will become increasingly important for aquaculture. This work will demonstrate that top quality wave modelling and uncertainty analysis can be achieved in the planning process for new sites. The project will show that it will be of great benefit and will increase the likelihood of these new projects to be an engineering and economic success while minimizing the likelihood of costly and environmentally problematic failure.
The work will take place in three distinct areas:
- Technical work will apply advanced modelling methods to correctly assess the wave conditions at complex sites, supported by data collection campaign.
- Engagement with stakeholders will for a key part of the project, I will ask for the industry perspective and ascertain what challenges arise from wave action at aquaculture sites, and how improved data and research can assist in mitigating problems.
- Look to the future and how next-generation aquaculture projects can benefit from this knowledge exchange. This will look to develop strategies and policy for the future of the industry.


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