(i) problem(s) to be solved
The Pearl River Delta name and the wealth of Hong Kong were built thanks to its unique geographic position and rich biological resources. With increased population, industrialization, pollution increased and biodiversity decreased. The oyster population has helped to keep the nutrient cycle in balance while being harvested for over a thousand years. Oysters are a key species that builds habitats for other species, purifies water, sequesters carbon, protects from erosion, provides food and livelihood but they are severely threatened. To exemplify that, in 2014, just across our maritime border, all the oyster farms in Shenzhen were shut down and oyster farming criminalized on the grounds that "Shenzhen Bay has become so heavily polluted, the seafood there is not fit for human consumption." (SL Luo, China Daily). Fewer oysters mean more pollution. We need to break that negative feedback loop urgently. In fact, we need more oysters to keep the water clean, support biodiversity, and the indigenous coastal communities.
With a growing population, there is greater demand for ecosystem services (water cleaning, carbon sequestration), energy (ideally green such as solar, wind, offshore hydrogen), wireless telecommunication infrastructure (2G-5G, IoT, LoRa), and generally affordable open environmental and biological data both manned (Smart Floating laboratory) and unmanned (oceanographic buoy, drones). Because space and resources are scarce, it has become necessary to integrate platforms that can perform both ecosystem and technological services. For easier implementation, such a platform should be perceived as upgrading existing infrastructures and offer new employment opportunities in the green economy.
(ii) products/services/processes/system to be developed /researched
The research is about evaluating the integration of biological and technological systems in highly urbanised environments. The Smart Floating Laboratory will:
- Primarily produce oyster larvae (biological data) to and understand their relationship with the environment (atmospheric and underwater data).
- Secondarily produce renewable electricity (solar, wind, hydrogen), telecommunication services (IOT LoRa, 2G-5G coverage), maritime drone deployment (aerial, surface and underwater).
(iii) decarbonization and green technologies to be developed or to be deployed
- Scalable oyster production (hatchery of oyster larvae, water purification, carbon sequestration) Solar power Wind power Blue Hydrogen (could power future hydrogen powered ships) Underwater data centre (as demonstrated by Microsoft underwater data centre in 2020). Affordable weather and climate open data production (necessary to understand and reduce air and water pollution)
(b) Scope of R&D work
- Biological system engineering (hatchery, scaled oyster restoration)
- Platform and buoy hardware (mechanical, hydraulic, electric, electronic, sensors, wireless)
- Platform and buoy software (system engineering, machine Learning, API, real-time web interfacing)
- Semi-autonomous systems: drones system to increase sensing range
(c) Project deliverable
- Hardware: 3 generations of Smart Floating Laboratory and control buoy
- Software: on board and online dashboard with real-time sensor data. Locally stored and accessible online via an API, validated with blockchain technology.
- Data: environmental and biological data
- Knowledge: biology, environmental science, coastal engineering, system engineering, naval architecture, design research, innovation methodology with possible publications for each topics
(d) Potentialcontributions to decarbonization and environmental protection
In Lau Fau Shan, New Territories there are 5,000 oyster rafts sized 8 m x 16 m and operated by 70-80 mariculturists (oyster owners). Preliminary calculations are based on a 50% adoption, upgrading 2500 rafts after the GreenTech Grant period.
From preliminary calculations and from the proposed design:
- Oyster enabling greater biodiversity: 6x increase in biodiversity
- Oyster water Filtration: 31,800,000 metric tons of water filtered per raft per year. 79,585,000,000 metric tons of water filter for 2500 rafts upgraded. T Park capacity has 730,000 metric tons a year for scale. 2500 oyster rafts would filter 109,020 times more water than T Park (cost 5.5 Billion HKD).
- Solar Power: 10,000 watts per raft per year. 25,000,000 kWh per year for 2500 rafts upgraded. Currently, Hong Kong’s largest solar installation is on Lamma Island with 620,000 KWh year for scale - so the “Floating Lau Fau Shan solar Array” would be 40 times more powerful).
- Solar Carbon offset: 2,364 kg of C02 per raft per year. 5.9 million tons of CO2 for 2500 rafts upgraded
- Wind Power: 852 watts per raft per year. 2.1MW per year for 2500 rafts upgraded
- Wind Carbon offset: 236 kg of C02 per raft per year. 0.6 million tons of CO2 for 2500 rafts upgraded
- Blue Hydrogen: 36,500 kg of hydrogen per year per raft. 91,250 tons of Hydrogen. 1 kg of "blue hydrogen" is worth USD$2.50-6.80 per kilogram on the global market for scale. That’s 228,125,000 USD (or 1,768,756,921 HKD) at the lowest rate.
- Biological data, Atmospheric data, Underwater data: 35,040 data point per year (frequency is 15 minutes, 72+ parameters)
- Wireless Data Coverage: 2-10 km radius for a single antenna. *All calculations assumptions are preliminary.
(e) Technical challenges / risks
Extreme weather, damaging our installation and instruments -> Over engineering construction and anchoring Green and red tides, oyster parasite or pathogen, damaging our oysters -> Having a mechanism to isolate the oyster from surrounding waters Administrative roadblocks to get the design approved, certified and insured -> Developing multiple design, securing multiple sites with diversified parties. Pandemic, global financial crisis -> Most of the work can be done without large group gathering.
(f) Plan to put the project deliverables into actual application and/or further R&D.
After three years of testing and data dissemination, we would like to
- Upgrade the number of "smart" oyster farms in Hong Kong
- Study the feasibility to scale the project in the Greater Bay
- Test a similar concept overseas
At scale such installation could have a dramatic positive effect on biodiversity, water quality, renewable energy production, environmental and biological science, and provide a proof of concept for novel telecommunication infrastructure in Hong Kong and beyond. It could be a flagship project to demonstrate the integration of biological and high technological systems in dense urban environments. We believe it is a technology that can be scaled regionally and globally in a profitable manner.
Grants applied to
- 2021/02/19: HK Green Tech Fund: https://www.gtf.gov.hk/en/index.html