Over the past few decades, technological advances have completely revolutionized our society. It has influenced the way we live our lives, from the way we watch TV, to the way we conduct our scientific research. However, the aquaculture industry has fallen by the wayside. Big data, collected and distributed to our hands in the form of apps, have begun to dominate our world, so why is this not the case in one of the fastest growing industries in the world?
Atlantic Canada has recently emerged as a global leader in ocean technology, as well as playing host to one of the largest aquaculture companies in the world, Cooke Aquaculture. We have the unique opportunity of being surrounded by innovation. We are able to work side by side with the developers, as well as the consumers, to field test new technologies, and optimize their performance prior to commercialization.
However, aquaculture is still a relatively young industry, often operating in remote places, so introducing the use of technology has been difficult. Through research projects, we have been able to merge two key industry partners: ocean technology via InnovaSea, and salmon aquaculture, through Cooke, in order to improve management practices.
Meredith’s research focuses primarily on using real-time sensors to study water quality parameters, like oxygen and temperature, to understand how they vary through a farm, and what may influence these variations. At the same time, Caitlin uses acoustic telemetry to track fish movement in order to understand fish behaviour and improve welfare management. These two projects together allow us to provide a more holistic view of fish farming to create a more sustainable industry.
We hope that our work will help inform other aquaculture industries throughout the world, to become more innovative, improve farming practices, and ultimately create happier and healthier fish, with the ability to feed a growing population.
‘The Future of aquaculture’ was the overarching motif of the international conference held in Kudowa Zdrój, Poland between 25 and 27 September of 2019. Fish farmers, scientists and other stakeholders had a unique opportunity to participate in the science-grounded lectures and follow-up discussions both devoted to the aspects and problems of the aquaculture sector
Among these current and future concerns, are animal welfare, the diversification of aquaculture, certification models, climate change and diseases risk. GAIN’s partners Remigiusz Panicz, Jacek Sadowski and Piotr Eljasik, from ZUT introduced participants of the conference to the GAIN project, its objectives and provided its vision on common carp eco-intensification.
This species, whose culture has a long tradition in Poland, currently struggles due to numerous factors: water scarcity, unfavorable policy, and market uptake. The freshwater farmed fish sector seeks for viable solutions to keep carp farming on a profitable level.
During the conference an interesting voice was raised regarding precision aquaculture: a direction which is unavoidable in order to cope with the aforementioned factors. Aspects of macroalgae culture in Polish coastline waters was also presented and discussed: this interesting idea is developing into a new project being launched in Poland this year.
Numerous aspects of circular economy in the Polish aquaculture sector were also raised and discussed openly: energy efficiency, regulations, and management of by-products and waste streams, and pertinent questions related to carp meat supply throughout the whole year.
The eco-intensification and precision aquaculture work developed in GAIN, coordinated with the efforts of stakeholders, might bring solutions for the future of carp farming in Poland.
I am Edouard, a French engineer working within GAIN for Università Ca’Foscari (UNIVE) in Venice, Italy. In my previous life, I was busy launching satellites. Now I am discovering the fascinating world of aquaculture and finding out that dynamic systems and data assimilation are becoming key tools in managing aquafarms. Within the GAIN project I’m trying to set up a model of a trout farm based on data provided from Troticoltura Leonardi located in Preore (Trentino, Italy).
Rainbow trout farming is the main fish farming activity in northern Italy, allowed by the presence of many watercourses coming from the Alpes Mountains. The last Italian census of aquaculture (PO FEAMP 2014-2020) counted 310 freshwater farming companies, most of them producing rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). These farms are mainly located in Northern Italy, particularly in 3 different regions: Veneto (70 farms), Friuli Venezia Giulia (68) and Trentino Alto Adige (58).
If on the one hand trout farming is a traditional productive activity in Italy, on the other hand the new generation of farmers are looking forward to exploring the application of new technologies and collaboration leading to the optimization of management practices. This is the case of Dr. Matteo Leonardi who together with his company, Troticoltura Leonardi S.r.l., is involved in GAIN as an associated partner. But, how can a traditional productive activity such as trout farming be eco-intensified? This was the question risen by GAIN and now, at the beginning of the second year of the project, everything is ready to answer that question!
On July 16th 2019, with my colleagues Roberto Pastres and Andrea Forchino we met Filippo Faccenda (Fondazione Edmund Mach – FEM) and Mateo Leonardi at Preore in Troticoltura Leonardi aquafarm.
It was first an opportunity to monitor the sensors that were immersed at the beginning of July: water quality sensors provided and managed by FEM, and the daily biomass system. Second, it was the occasion to acquire the first data in order to accomplish an in-situ validation of the acquisition systems. Concerning water quality sensor, it was installed in one of the six raceways of the farm to continuously record data on ammonia, nitrates, redox potential, pH, dissolved oxygen, and temperature. All sensors are working well and the activities of the next weeks will be focused on the periodic transfer from the site to the IBM Castor platform, both from the technical and organizational point of view. These data will be crucial in trying to model the relationship between biomass growth, oxygen rate, temperature and feeding strategy.
But the meeting was also a good way to share again the objectives of the GAIN project related to Troticoltura Leonardi: Matteo Leonardi explained again his farming process and the concerns related to the lack of forecast in the frame of oxygen concentration (and its regulation) and its influence on feeding assimilation. Both inner products (oxygen and feeding) are for the farmer two important costs, as well as two central parameters for the welfare of the rainbow trout.
It was then the opportunity to confirm again the pertinence of the objectives of the GAIN project regarding farmers concerns and the challenges they face everyday in growing trout in raceways with water that continuously fluctuates in quality (due to its origin in natural water courses).
The GAIN work will now consist in modelling the biomass growth, the oxygen concentration variation due to animals behavior, and the evolution of temperature, seeking to build reliable forecasts that can support the farmer in his day-to-day decisions, reducing the costs and increasing welfare of the fishes. In one word, optimizing the process!
The rapid increase in sensor capacities and computational power are opening new avenues for the aquaculture industry. Mirroring developments in agriculture, interconnected Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, big data analytics, and Artificial intelligence (AI) promise to revolutionise aquaculture supply and value chains. However, the application of the Precision Agriculture framework and tools is very challenging, requiring detailed knowledge on a three-dimensional system in the harsh ocean environment: it is not easy to observe what is happening in a 20 m deep cage containing about 150,000 individuals, while making sense of these observations in a chaotic environment pose very real challenges!
GAIN comes on the scene at this very exciting time: we are assessing the performances of new, market-ready sensors for non-invasive monitoring of fish distribution and behaviour, as well as key environmental variables (e.g. water temperature, dissolved oxygen). We are processing these complex data using machine learning and big data analytics, discovering patterns and anomalies which can facilitate the optimisation of feeding and other husbandry operations (e.g. net changes).
In late June, I left a very hot Venice and traveled north to Norway, to the midnight sun village of Inndyr, in Nordland County, to discuss the preliminary results of our comprehensive monitoring programme with Giulia and Ronald (GIFAS), who have installed and are looking after the sensors, and with Fearghal (IBM Research), expert in AI and IoT. Inndyr is located in the Gildeskål municipality which, in Viking times, was a renowned meeting point for the whole region. Aquaculture is the backbone of the local economy, to which our industry partner GIFAS (Gildeskål Forskningsstasjon AS) provided a relevant contribution in its thirty years of activities, which were celebrated this year. Far from being seen as an environmentally unfriendly activity, in this area aquaculture provides jobs, fosters educational activities and also represents a touristic attraction. Domus Pisces is a building owned by Nordland county and used by both the local highschool (Meløy VGS avd. Inndyr) and GIFAS. GIFAS uses it both for running cleaner fish tank-based trials and for promotion of aquaculture. For the latter purpose, GIFAS has an aquarium containing salmon, a hall exhibiting informative, aquaculture-themed posters and a small souvenir shop. In addition, the promotional centre of GIFAS runs tours to its research and commercial sites and these services are used by tourists, school and universities, amongst others.
Giulia and Ronald welcomed myself and Fearghal at GIFAS headquarters in Inndyr. We sat down in a cosy meeting room and started looking at data collected in the last five months. Our observing system was installed at GIFAS salmon production site Rossøya, about 10 minutes by boat from Inndyr.
We equipped one of the 90 m circumference cages that you can see in the picture above with ABM, a close-to-market system for detecting individual fish position and estimating its weight and swimming speed. The 20 m-deep cage was stocked with about 150,000 fish: we have been following their growth and behaviour day by day since February 2019.
ABM was selected because it could represent the silver bullet for dealing with the three-dimensionality issue: it provides data along the vertical water column and, with up to 50,000 detections per day, statistics concerning fish average weight are based on a representative sample size. Fish distribution is displayed every five minutes on a dashboard, allowing barge operators to inspect their feeding behaviour (feeding fish tend to congregate near the surface), as seen in Fig.1.
We also deployed sensors for measuring water temperature (below, left), dissolved oxygen (below, right) and water current every 10 minutes. The upper-portion of the cage is surrounded by an impermeable barrier to prevent lice entry. This may also reduce the water flow and circulation, thus affecting dissolved oxygen levels which may affect fish appetite and, ultimately, growth.
Water temperature profile.
Dissolved oxygen profile.
The data are flowing to a cloud platform designed by IBM: Fearghal and his colleagues are crunching these numbers in order to extract useful information to improve feeding efficiency, provide accurate predictions of salmon growth, and disseminate early-warning on anomalous patterns. We are eager to see the results: keep following the blog and you’ll be the first to know!
Alfred Wegener was a famous German polar researcher, and the scientist who first proposed the theory of continental drift.
The Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), a centre within the institute that bears his name, continues this tradition of top-class science.
In November 2018, GAIN partner AWI travelled to Brazil as part of the GAIN project and met with colleagues from the Federal University of Rio Grande (FURG) to jointly identify innovative fields of research in the field of aquaculture feed. Another meeting will take place in 2019 in Bremerhaven, Germany.
Afterwards, a short stop-over was planned at the Private University EAFIT in Medellin in Colombia, where the main focus was on whether the results from GAIN could be part of the aquaculture training taking place there. There will also be another meeting in Germany in 2019. The interest in GAIN was clear and the wish to cooperate as well.
The reconstruction measures of the recirculation systems are starting in order to adapt them to the requirements of the GAIN objectives. These include the candidate fish species turbot and sea bream. The experiments can begin after the end of the testing trials and the re-inoculation of the biofilters during the running-in phases. In March AWI will continue the first work block until around September 2019.
The ‘word’ GHOTI was apparently coined in 1855. When I was a child, my father told me about it—he thought it was invented by George Bernard Shaw.
This pseudo-word is designed to illustrate the foolishness of English spellings: Tough gives you the F, Women provides the I, and Station the SH. Put it all together, you get a FISH.
Every two years, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, or FAO, releases a report called SOFIA. That stands for State of Fisheries and Aquaculture. The latest one came out in August 2018.
SOFIA tells us that farmed fish production now clearly surpasses wild catch—that’s a good thing—the best way to conserve wild fish is not to fish them.
We’re moving into a whole new era of precision farming, and GAIN is at the forefront of it.