Fridolin Haag, Sze Wing (Debbie) To, Daniel Schürholz and Peter Steiglechner  took part in the three-day Blue Cloud hackathon

16/02/2022 | "Decode the ocean" – that was the theme of an international 'hackathon' organised by Blue Cloud, a EU platform to explore open data and foster open science in the marine environment and blue economy.

The call did not go unnoticed at ZMT, with a team of four postdoctoral and doctoral researchers – Fridolin Haag, Sze Wing (Debbie) To, Daniel Schürholz, and Peter Steiglechner – participating in the three-day event. It is the first time that ZMT early career researchers have taken part in such an event.

In a hackathon, a team tries to solve a challenge that requires programming and coding in a very short time. The task in this hackathon was to use the Blue Cloud services “in support of a healthy, sustainable, productive or predictive ocean”.

Feasibility indicator for potential future aquaculture farm locations

The idea developed by the ZMT team: an adaptive and intuitive tool to create suitability maps for aquaculture farm locations. “We asked ourselves where we could place floating aquaculture farms in open and wild seas to get maximum food return with minimum risks,” explains Peter Steiglechner, doctoral candidate in the working group Systems Ecology at ZMT.

The suitability of a location for aquaculture farming is determined by a multitude of factors ranging from abiotic and biotic ocean characteristics, like sea surface temperature, storm frequency, or algal blooms, to institutional restrictions, such as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) or shipping routes. 

The ZMT team developed a concept to synthesise existing environmental data available on the Blue Cloud platform and – using information from already existing aquaculture farms – to aggregate this into an indicator of feasibility for potential future farm locations.

When implemented and applied in the field, this tool may inform marine spatial planners and local farmers and, at the same time, also benefit from their specific expertise.

Coming from a diverse range of scientific backgrounds but with no in-depth knowledge of aquaculture farming they tackled the topic nonetheless with great success. During the hackathon, the ZMT researchers conceptualised their idea, built a prototype and presented a first proof-of-concept. This convinced the jury to put them forward to the final Top 10 – a great result for a hackathon premiere at ZMT.