Parx Materials, a company that has developed and patented a solution to produce highly effective antibacterial/antimicrobial plastics that, as the company is fast discovering, can be applied in a myriad of applications - from combatting sock odour to improving wound healing. Now, eliminating biofouling in marine aquaculture, can be added to the list.
A recent field trial at an abalone marine aquaculture farm demonstrated the benefits that the use of Saniconcentrate, as Parx’ product is called, can bring.
Abalone are a kind of mollusk that are known for being one of the most expensive seafood delicacies in the world today. Abalone is especially valued in Southeast Asian cuisine, and in Japan, is known as the “truffle of the sea.”
Abalone are cultivated in large plastic tanks. A major problem, not only in abalone farming, but also in other shellfish aquaculture, is biofouling. One of the most important impacts from biofouling is the reduction in shellfish fitness.
Fouling organisms attach themselves to the tanks - and, for that matter, to the abalone - which then obstructs the flow of fresh water through the tanks. However, the recently conducted field test, in which abalone tanks produced with Parx Materials polymer concentrate were immersed in the ocean for 6 months, showed that this technology could solve the problem. Even after 6 months, no biofouling was seen.
“It was amazing to see,” said Michael van der Jagt, CEO of Parx Materials. The technology, he added, is completely safe and sustainable.
Saniconcentrate is added to the plastic prior to the manufacturing process of the tanks. The concentrate incorporates the trace element of zinc, a nutrient of utmost biological importance, into the material, using a novel and patented method.
“It was an idea inspired by the defence mechanism in the human skin, where the trace element zinc is vital for a healthy immune system protecting us against bacteria and viruses,” said Van der Jagt.
In plastics, incorporating the trace element modifies the mechanical and physical properties of the material, rendering the surface resistant to the adhesion of fouling, bacteria and biofilm.
No leaching occurs: “The zinc trace element will not migrate out of the plastic and contaminate the oceans,” emphasised Van der Jagt. “The technology remains at full strength and does not fade away.
An added benefit was also immediately visible: the abalones reared in the clean tanks were bigger and of better quality than those in the regular tanks, which meant a higher yield and better profits for the farm.
We wondered: Would it also work as an antifouling agent on boats?
“That is something we’re working on,” said Van der Jagt. “The technology will work, but antifouling for boats is generally a kind of coating, and we don’t yet have a coating solution. But it’s definitely something we’re looking at. Something for the future.”