SOMOS: Safe production of marine plants and use of Ocean Space


SOMOS: Technical Standards for Safe Production of Food and Feed from marine plants and Safe Use of Ocean Space

Somos, a study into safety at sea is taking off as part of a partnership between Lloyd’s Register Foundation, Wageningen University & Research and TNO. Half a million pounds is the amount scientists have at their disposal to investigate safety aspects of combined activities at sea. The focus in SOMOS is on renewable energy production in combination with seaweed, used not only food but also feed, bio-chemicals, energy and other valuable products. The grant is awarded by the UK-based Lloyd’s Register Foundation, which wants to contribute to the enhancement of resilient marine resources for tomorrow’s world population.

The goal is to develop a meaningful safety assessment and safety control to stimulate the production of energy and food at sea. There are five objectives;

  • Demonstrate that multiple economic activities can take place at sea in a sufficiently safe fashion,
  • Establish a method for assessing the safety of multiple economic activities at sea,
  • Identify tools which must be used to carry out the analyses and assessments required to ensure an acceptable safety level ,
  • Provide a proof of principle, based on demonstrators, of safe use of sea for combined seaweed  and energy production.
  • Create capacity in the marine and maritime community of policy makers, certifiers and operators and initiate a public debate on this issue of safety of multiple uses of marine space with all the stakeholders: politicians, financiers, businesses, operators, legal representatives and societal groups.

Framework for a safety assessment

The project was purposefully set up to be multidisciplinary, as economic, environmental, marine, social and food aspects of safety need to be addressed to develop a comprehensive framework for a safety assessment of this combination of activities at sea. As we are using our oceans and seas more intensively, can different types of use be sustainably integrated in order to have a true multiple and safe use of our sea space? In the SOMOS project, a framework will be developed that will assist in developing this co-use of the seas, integrating different uses such as renewable energy production and novel food and feed production from seaweed, in a safe way by developing standards and safe operational practices. In this way, the project will address the global challenges of producing food, energy and efficient use of our waters to cater for the needs of the world population of 2050.

The safety aspect in the project concerns six areas, among them feed and food safety hazards of marine production, safety of people and property at sea, marine interactions such as competition between alternative uses and cumulative effects such as pollution. Safety is at the core of Lloyd’s Register Foundation’s mission, and they want to enhance the development of safety standards and regulations on food within the maritime field.

Find multi-use solutions

The project will deepen its understanding by means of a practical case study in which multi-use and safety aspects will be examined. The North Sea is one of the most crowded seas in the world and as such faces the challenge to find multi-use solutions. Moreover, different parties such as government and industry consider offshore production of seaweed a promising commercial activity in this area where many offshore wind farms are built: a clear opportunity for multi-use.

The Lloyd’s Register Foundation has been strongly involved in the development of the project with Wageningen University & Research and will continue to provide feedback, as Vincent Doumeizel, Vice President Food, Beverage & Sustainability of the LR Group, will help steer the project by joining its Advisory Board. He comments: “This is the first project targeted at the food sector to be funded by the foundation, and I am honoured to be joining the advisory board. The current reliance on meat and soya has a significant impact on the environment and will become unsustainable as diets become richer. Marine plants could be a sustainable source of protein, fresh water and energy for the growing global population. It is exciting to be involved in research into viable alternatives.”

Public understanding and impact

The public understanding and impact of the project is of utmost importance to the funding body as well as all researchers in the project. The aim is to translate vision into practical solutions. The project will deliver a practical framework with standards and skills as well as a set of so-called ‘recommended practices’. The framework will be developed in co-production with relevant authorities, certifiers and operators. This is done in order to enhance education and skills development within this growing community including, of course, engineers and scientists themselves.