The AQUA-COMBINE project aims to demonstrate combined aquaculture and halophyte farming using the principles of circular economy, where waste and residues are utilised with-in the system to create both internal value and new products. Excess nutrients from the fish production will be used as fertiliser for halophyte plants and filtered through a microbial water treatment system to enable recirculation of the water back into the aquaculture tanks (Recirculating aquaculture system). This aquaponics system is very flexible and can be adapted to a wide variety of locations including rural and remote areas and outermost regions of the EU.
Halophyte plants such as Salicornia europaea have the ability to grown in saline soils (marginal land) and/or be irrigated with seawater. The green tips of Salicornia is sold as food, while the woody part is considered a residue. However, this residue biomass is rich in valuable bio-active molecules that can be extracted using simple and affordable processing. These compounds include hydroxycinnamic acids (strong anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidant), high quality protein, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, carotenoids, and chlorophyll. The fiber fraction left after extraction is pure, low recalcitrant lignocellulose which can be used to produce bioenergy (with low energy input), or separated into high value xylooligosaccharides (prebiotics) and charcoal from lignin.
The valorization of halophyte biomass can range from simple “cheap” conversion - yielding medium value products - to more sophisticated conversion - yielding very high value products. The AQUA-COMBINE project will demonstrate combined, synergistic, production of fish, food, botanical extracts, feed protein, and biogas and investigate further valorization of halophyte fractions by upgrading to pure high value bioactive compounds and formulation of bioactive products (functional feed, functional food, and cosmetic products).
The AQUA-COMBINE project involves 17 partners from 6 European countries and is coordinated by the University of Aalborg.