FISH FARMING TECHNOLOGY by Durval Tavares, CEO, Aquabotix Technology Corporation
Transforming connectivity with 'Live Remote Viewing'
Unlike beef and pork farmers, fish farmers face unique challenges associated with breeding food animals under the sea. Technological innovation to address these challenges has lagged in comparison to many other industries.
As the world’s population continues to grow, aquaculture is becoming an increasingly important high-protein food source. In fact, fish farming has achieved higher growth rates than any other food production sector in the past 40 years and it continues to grow at an impressive rate, typically enjoying five to six percent annual increases in production. However, unlike beef and pork farmers, fish farmers face unique challenges associated with breeding food animals under the sea. Technological innovation to address these challenges has lagged in comparison to many other industries. Fortunately, this has begun to change over the past few years, as recent advances in underwater drones (known in the industry as Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs)) and underwater camera systems have helped make aquaculture safer, more efficient and more profitable. Now, new digital platforms and cloud connectivity are about to transform the industry, bringing with them enterprise operations management capabilities designed to take aquaculture to the next level. Last October, I traveled to Chile to take part in the four-day AquaSur 2016 conference. I was able to spend a few hours at a local fish farm, seeing the operations firsthand and speaking with the operators to deepen my understanding of aquaculturists’ challenges and needs. I have long known that frequent monitoring and inspections of the livestock, internal and external predator nets, and water quality are essential to the success of any aquaculture operation. During my visit, I also received significant insight into just how costly, time-consuming and inefficient it can be to send divers into the water to inspect the fish, cages or pens, and water quality, and then have them document their findings manually. The information they gather must be documented manually, after the fact, which limits the thoroughness and accuracy of those inspection reports. Plus, there is inherent risk for divers conducting underwater inspections. More importantly, it isn’t practical to have continuous diver inspections. If something happens in between inspections such as seals successfully breaching the predator net, the result could be a significant financial loss. Feed represents a significant percentage of a fish farm’s operating costs; as much as 75 percent in some finfish operations, according to NOAA. I also learned that overfeeding could have a negative environmental impact, thanks to the discharge of nutrients from the uneaten feed that drifts into the water columns. I saw for myself the challenge of collecting morts that don’t naturally make their way into the mort collection area on their own.
Technology has made aquaculture safer, more efficient and more profitable
Underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and underwater cameras have contributed significantly to making aquaculture a viable business proposition, enabling net and mooring inspections, feeding habit assessments and mort removal to be performed more efficiently and at a lower cost. Today’s inspection-class ROVs are easy to learn and operate. Having operators who require no formal training to conduct remote inspections using ROVs is a far more cost-efficient approach that carries 34 | August 2017 - International Aquafeed