Colruyt Group has announced that it plans to cultivate Belgian mussels in the North Sea for sale in its retail outlets.
It aims to cultivate the mussels in the Westdiepzone (Western deep zone), five kilometres off the coast of Nieuwpoort in Belgium.
The company has applied for an operating licence and an environment permit before it can commence work to install the mussel lines.
Director of quality and production at Colruyt Group, Stefan Goethaert, explained, “We're taking it one step at a time and the first hurdle is obtaining an operating licence and environmental permit.
“These kinds of procedures take time, so we're not expecting a mussel harvest that's ready for sale until the summer of 2022 at the earliest."
The retailer has teamed up with Belgian dredging and offshore company DEME as a co-investor for the project.
Scientific analyses have confirmed that the Westdiepzone has high-quality seawater rich in nutrients, making it an ideal site to cultivate the Belgian mussels, Colruyt added.
Goethaert added, "We will use the innovative 'long line' or 'hanging culture' technique that allows mussel lines to move with the currents and is suited to the rough conditions in the Belgian area of the North Sea."
In due course, Colruyt aims to diversify into the cultivation of oysters and seaweed in offshore farms.
The company also aims to combine its commercial operations with an active approach to environmental management in the North Sea.
It believes that cultivating mussels, oysters and seaweed will have a positive impact on the water quality and biodiversity in and around the farm's infrastructure.
The project is in line with the new Marine Spatial Plan and the long-term vision of the North Sea 2050 plan, Colruyt added.