A world-first effort to grow seaweed at an offshore wind farm will launch off Belgium this year.

The Norther wind farm in the North Sea will host the two-year Wier & Wind project that will deploy seaweed production equipment between its 44 MHI Vestas turbines.

The EU-backed Dutch-Belgian initiative says seaweed farming could optimise otherwise unused space at the ever-larger offshore wind projects being built off Europe and beyond.

Seaweed specialist and project partner AtSeaNova claimed demand for seaweed is set to rocket, thanks to its sustainable, healthy credentials and versatility.

“Seaweed is the biomass of the future. It can be used for many large-scale applications, such as food, animal feed and biomaterials,” the company said.

“There are too few suitable locations along the coast to meet the increasing demand. Wind farms at sea would be a suitable alternative.”

Seaweed harvesting is slated to begin in the second quarter of next year at Norther, which at 370MW is Belgium’s largest offshore wind farm and entered service last year for its owners, Belgian energy provider Elicio, and a joint venture between Dutch utility Eneco and Mitsubishi.

The Wier & Wind project is the latest move in a growing effort to harmonise offshore wind development with aquaculture.

China last year unveiled plans for unified offshore wind and fish farming off Shandong province.

However, the offshore wind sector has also sometimes found itself at odds with local fishing industries, with some projects facing stiff opposition.