In this section the current state of the bio-socio-technological system that is sea farming on Texel will be discussed. It should be noted that as sea farming is not a widely spread practice it can in fact be discussed as if it consists of three parts, namely the biological system, which in this case consists of the sea, the social system, which entails the inhabitants of Texel and their culture, and the technical system, which is the practice of sea farming. In section 1.3, where the vision with respect to sea farming as an integral part of Texel is presented, and section 1.4, which covers the challenges involved with the transition towards the proposed vision, significant attention will be paid to the manner in which the three parts interact and come together as one.
Biological system: the Sea
To understand the biological system around Texel this complex system is divided in parts of the North-sea and the Waddenzee.
In the Dutch part of the North-sea live over the 2500 species of plants and animals.
“This seemingly insignificant layer of algae plays the leading role in the ecosystem of the tidal flats: here live the plants from sunlight and mineral nutrients for building the rest of the food chain. Lugworms, mud shrimps 'grazing' shellfish such as the nun and snails like periwinkles wadslakjes and life of these algae and in turn form the staple food for fish and birds on the mudflats. The process of growing and be eaten again goes so fast that the amount of algae remains small. Approximately four-fifths of the total food production in the Wadden Sea is accounted for by the algae film. The phytoplankton in the Wadden Sea water takes almost another fifth for his account. The share of seaweed and seagrass in the total production
The share of seaweed and eelgrass in the overall production is negligible, but these groups do play a role in the oxygen supply.”(ecomare)
The current situation fish north sea;
Platvis, Schar, Schol, Bot, Zeebaars en Geep, in het voorjaar Rode Poon
binnenwateren; Brasem, Snoek, Snoekbaars, Karper en Voorn.
Water-quality around Texel
Social system: the inhabitants of Texel.
The human social system is depended of the boundaries off the Island. An island in it self create a solitary and introvert society. This research divided this social system in three components; Culture, Education and Employment.
Socio-technical systems are a complex interweavement of components, and the infrastructures that connect them to each other, and to other systems. The infrastructure that connects the human part of the socio-technical system cannot easily be described in just one chapter, focusing on just one aspect. However, the components that make up the basic layout are a bit simpler. There are really three main components that define the human socio-technical system on Texel, at the most abstract level, and they are culture, education and employment.
Texel as a municipality very different from the average, since the fact that they are an island creates a completely different physical situation. There are boundaries here, which create a bottleneck in infrastructures in and out of the island. The social system on Texel is much more self-contained than other ones found in the country. This means often their only sources of human contact, culture, education or employment can be found on the island. If their needs are not met on the island, they often have to move away in order to cross the island’s physical boundaries. This unique situation has both positive and negative results, which can be seen in different components of the human socio-technological system.
On one hand, this has allowed them to develop a rich culture distinct from other varieties in the Netherlands. Their culture is responsible for attracting a great number of tourists every year, and providing for a large part for the livelihood of the island. All inhabitants are very proud, and very involved in their community, and in improving this, which can be seen in projects such as Texel Team 2020 (Texelse Courant, 2013) which has the ambition to create a self-sustainable Texel by 2020. They actively promote sustainable initiatives, both from Texel and from outsiders (Planet Texel, 2014).
On the other hand, the opportunities for education and employment are much more limited than in other areas, because the low population creates a much lower demand, which creates a low supply. While Texel has a high school (De Hogeberg, 2015), it is smaller than average, and there are no opportunities for higher education, which is a disadvantage later in life, given that the Netherlands have the highest percentage of inhabitants with an education past high school (NRC Carrière, 2012).
This means the younger population has to leave the island in order to educate themselves. This has led to Texel having a very odd population-age spread. Unlike other areas in the Netherlands, their younger age group (0-19) is lower, as is their middle age group (20-64). Their elderly however, exist in abundance, with a percentage of 22.1 percent versus 17.8% in the rest of the country. This means that their grey pressure (the percentage of elderly versus those who are still working age) is rising, increasing by 15% up to 38.9% in just 14 years (Gemeente Texel in Cijfers, 2015a). The image these numbers paint is as follows: the younger population graduates from high school, and then goes on to the next level of education on the mainland. After this they stay on the mainland, and the population just gets older, which means less children are born on the island.
One of the reasons for this could very well be a lack of diverse job opportunities. Also workshops with the students show that they find the lack of job opportunities for those with higher education problematic (Gemeente Texel, 2009). While a great number of inhabitants on Texel is working in the tourism sector (20.4%) (Gemeente Texel in Cijfers, 2015b) , this does not show whether this is fulltime or part time, or if there are any seasonal restrictions.
Another relatively big sector on Texel is agriculture. This sector delivers more consistent year-round employment, but it is much smaller than the tourism sector. Again here the physical barriers of the island show up. Farmers on Texel have much fewer raw materials to work with, and almost all of it has to be brought in by ship, creating a bottleneck that does not allow for much growth in the sector. This restriction on materials means that the farmers have no backup in case of incidents, which is why many of them run small side businesses as a way to have some business to fall back on (Ecomare, 2015a).
Texel however is an island, which means that unlike inland municipalities, they do have a fishing community. There are several harbours, where different fishermen focus on around six different types of sea animals, from shrimp to shellfish to herring. However, fuel prices are high, and large parts of the sea around the island are protected by law, which restricts their fishing opportunities (Ecomare, 2015b).
In the end, Texel has a rich social system that interconnects on many other levels with other systems. However, a requirement for this is that these other systems are in the same location, namely, Texel. There are simply so many other physical barriers that the connection to the social system outside of Texel is much weaker and scattered than might be preferable.
Technological system: sea farming.
As has been stated before, the practice of sea farming is currently not widely spread on Texel. There are only two parties involved with sea farming on Texel: the NIOZ, or Koninklijk Instituut voor Onderzoek der Zee, and Hortimare.
The NIOZ is a oceanographic research center where both fundamental and applied research is performed in order to gain knowledge on a wide variety of topics. In 2014 the NIOZ has opened a research facility for seaweed. It consists of a number of basins in which fundamental research on different types of seaweed is performed in order to find out more on the ecophysiology of seaweeds and to select the most appropriate seaweeds for farming in the North Sea. It is currently operating its second seaweed farm in the North Sea of which the first results are positive.
There exists a Dutch company called Hortimare that is a European leader in the sea farming industry. It is currently performing numerous research projects in Europe and has a laboratory on Texel where it works together with the NIOZ.
Sea farming in general is still a immature technology but is becoming ready for large scale use. A number of research projects, such as those performed by Hortimare, have yielded promising results and in the last years more initiatives, both on the side of the technology as on the use of the farmed material, have been proposed.
1.3. The future bio-socio-technological system (50 years, 2065) starting from the innovative technology.
The cost of algae as biofuel is higher than many other types of biofuel. The reason for this is twofold: high operating cost and high capital cost. The latter could be reduced by making use of the infrastructure that is in place at offshore wind parks. Obviously this would require close cooperation between the seaweed farms and operators of the wind parks, but it is not an unrealistic solution.
An interesting comparable suggestion is made in “Planet Texel”[pag. 341 - 353]. It is suggested that a large breakwater is created in front of an inlet in the coastal region. The breakwater could function as tourist walkway attraction and renewable energy producer through wave energy. In addition, it would create a region of calm water behind the breakwater ideal for sea farming and solar panel deployment.
Use should be made of the fact that seaweeds use phosphates as nutrients. High concentrations of phosphates can have a negative impact on the environment. The phosphate level in the North Sea is relatively high due to the amount added from the Rhine. In addition, a high phosphate level of the surrounding nature is one of the problems related to fish farms. By surrounding fish farms with seaweed farms, the phosphates released by the fish can be recycled. Furthermore, as seaweed can be used as nutrients for fish the fish farm circle could be closed: fish, feeding seaweed, feeding fish. Other, if any, high phosphate regions could be investigated as well.
Seaweed can effectively reduce phosphorous and nitrogen content (such as ammonium) from the discharge of sewage treatments and agricultural runoff. The high levels of chemical nutrients polluting these waters can lead to eutrophication, the unhealthy over-production of an ecosystem, something which seaweed can help curb
The physical boundaries that separate Texel from its surrounding systems create many problems, but this relative isolation is also what gave Texel its rich history and culture. They are simply part of the system, and are here to stay. This just means that Texel has to build up such a strong system of information, education and business that the attraction is stronger than the barrier. There is always a demand/supply problem, but if the demand for connection is strong enough, then the bottlenecks will widen as to allow a greater system flow.
The culture of Texel is already a great attraction point, with hundreds of thousands of tourists coming every year, providing seasonal work for a large part of the island.
This means that most of the transformation is focused on the job/educational aspect. By having the ambition to become one of the most sustainable places in the world, Texel creates an example for other business owners and governmental officials. As they will be one of the places in order to work with advanced sustainable principles, educational organisations and connections to institutes of education will have followed, giving students a chance to keep working on their island.
In 2065 Texel will be a hotspot of innovation and sustainability. This (relatively) long history of sustainability will become part of its cultural identity. Texel can be a test site, but also a center of production for many different sustainable technologies related to the sea. This will create many diverse job opportunities where inhabitants can work, both in the technological sector, and as guides who educate interested tourists and business owners. The job sectors of agriculture and fishing will be completely different than currently. By incorporating the sea into their production methods, many more products can be sourced locally, thus greatly reducing risk. The social system of Texel will be strongly interwoven with the technological system, so creating a global hotspot of sustainable techniques.