First world shipworm farm developed in Devon

Shipworms in a petri dish
Scientists hope the naked clams will be a new alternative food source "without the environmental cost"

Scientists at a Devon university are hoping to become the first in the world to farm a marine pest for food production.

The University of Plymouth said shipworms, renamed "naked clams" to make them for more marketable, had been viewed as a pest due to them boring through wood underwater, including shipwrecks and docks.

In a study, they said they had found the saltwater clams converted wood into "highly nutritious protein", were high in levels of Vitamin B12 - almost twice that found in blue mussels.

Bosses said a system had been designed to allow worm farms to be set up anywhere in the world, with wood and water being the only ingredients needed.

'A sustainable solution'

Dr Reuben Shipway, lecturer in Marine Biology in the University’s School of Biological & Marine Sciences, said the new system could be a "fantastic way to reduce your carbon footprint".

He said: "We urgently need alternative food sources that provide the micronutrient-rich profile of meat and fish, but without the environmental cost - our system offers a sustainable solution.

"Wild shipworms are eaten in the Philippines – either raw, or battered and fried like calamari.

"But we’re thinking of naked clams being more popular as a white meat substitute in processed foods like fish fingers and fishcakes."

Researchers said the aquaculture system for production was "completely" controlled, "eliminating" issues relating to water quality and food safety concerns when farming mussels or oysters.

The naked clam could also grow to a harvestable size in six months, compared to mussels and oysters which took up to two years, they added.

Dr David Willer, Henslow Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology, said the system could be used in urban settings far from the sea.

He said: "Naked clam aquaculture has never been attempted before.

"We’re growing them using wood that would otherwise go to landfill or be recycled to produce food that’s high in protein and essential nutrients like Vitamin B12.”

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