Retailer Colruyt Group has announced it is harvesting the first batch of Belgian mussels from its own sea farm in the North Sea.
The announcement comes 18 months after the commencement of construction of the group's first commercial sea farm, located some five kilometres off the Belgian coast.
In the next few months, Colruyt Group plans to harvest between 10 and 15 tonnes of mussels cultivated using longline or 'suspended culture' technology.
The mussels will go on sale in the group's four 'Cru' markets.
Colruyt Group has also announced it will continue to work on the expansion of the sea farm, entitled Zeeboerderij Westdiep.
Extra mussel lines were recently installed to expand the quantity of mussels available next year. In addition, the group has invested in a boat and hired extra employees.
The Belgian retailer plans to scale up the sea farm, of which currently only a quarter of the available area is in use.
“We’re convinced that with the sea farm, we represent significant economic and social added value for many actors, both via direct and indirect partnerships, and contribute to the development of a fully-fledged aquaculture sector in Belgium,” said Stefan Goethaert, the recently-appointed CEO of Colruyt Group.
Belgians are one of the largest mussel consumers in Europe, with an average per capita consumption of 2.2 kilograms of mussels a year.
Until recently, mussel production was non-existent in Belgium, even though mussel seed is naturally present in the Belgian North Sea, and the area is ideal for mussel cultivation.
In 2020, when the Marine Spatial Plan came into force, hence enabling commercial activities in the North Sea, Colruyt Group applied for and was granted the necessary permits to cultivate mussels in the Westdiep area, and in due course oysters and seaweed.
Eighteen months ago, the group started the construction of its sea farm, the first in the Belgian North Sea.