BIOGEARS addresses the challenge of minimizing the use of plastics in the sea by developing prototypes of biobased and compostable ropes , biogears, and examines their use in culture of mussels and seaweed Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) systems. The goal of the biopolymers used in the development of the biogears is to achieve competitive manufacturing of aquaculture ropes with adequate durability for mussels and seaweed offshore productions. At the end of life of biogears will enter in-land organic recycling circuits, h ence greatly reducing carbon footprint along the whole value chain and generating new local biobased value chains. The aim of this study is to assess the acceptability and potential use of biogears (biobased ropes) by the European aquaculture sector to be more eco-friendly and create circular economy , by identifying the main drivers for this change .
Material and methods
To assess this, a preliminary value chain description , a market study and a n online survey were conducted. In the market study , the need of ropes of the European mussel and seaweed sectors were estimated, and social, economic and technology drivers and current trends in aquaculture value chain s were identified. To assess the impact of the main drivers identified, they have been categorized as: TECHNOLOGY, (TECH) SUSTAINABILITY (SUST), SOCIAL/POLICY (SOCP) and MARKET/ECONOMY (MARK). An online survey was elaborated and distributed at EU level . The results obtained in the questionnaire are used to complement the market analysis and to identify the pros and cons for the acceptability and implementation of biogears as solutions towards an eco-friendlier European aquaculture sector .
Results and discussion
The value chain has been analysed under circular economy umbrella identifying all stakeholders involved: raw material, bioplastic, biogears, aquaculture, wholesaler, retailers and con sumers. The market study pointed out that t he aquaculture rope demand in Europe for mussels and seaweed is estimated to be from 1 600 000 m to 3 300 000 meters , approximately. S eaweed market is a new market and is more oriented to sustainable and eco-friendly products. In this case the biobased rope is more in line with the philosophy of the seaweed business.
The preliminary results of the survey are shown in Figure 1 . Respondents consider SUST, MARK, SOCP and TECH drivers, the order of driver impact on biogears acceptance and use. Regarding the intensity of agreement in the answers received, in SUST: respondents considered that aquaculture, as food producing sector, should be one of the first marine sectors to avoid plastic use, and that currently used plastic materials (100% petrol based) should be substituted by biogears made of more eco-friendly materials , that could potentially not affect as negatively on seabeds as those currently used if they are lost or abandoned. In MARK: stakeholders consider that they will buy or use biogears because they are compostable at the end of use , promot ing also circular economy , and because they are made of biomaterials that come from natural resources that do not compete with food market, and will pay a competitive price for them. In SOCP: a remarkable awareness of current strategies for the development of aquaculture has been observed among respondents (Circular Economy Strategy and Farm to Fork Strategy) who consider that biogears can be drivers for the generation of new value chains, the production of healthy foods (minimizing use of plastic in productions and microplastics in food) and generation of new value chains and circular economy in the European aquaculture sector. In TECH: respondents consider that IMTA productions, can increase the positive perception and acceptability of aquaculture and can contribute to an environmentally sustainable development of aquaculture. R esults will be further analyzed and discussed in the presentation .
BIOGEARS is supported by funding from the EU European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).