If you are like me and care about the sustainability of food sources like fish, I have some interesting and exciting information to share with you. What are automated fish farms and the future of fish farming are the questions that will be answered in this piece.
Fish farming is going through phases of experimenting with automated systems to counter problems pertaining to fish feed, water purification that pushes up cost, and systems to monitor factors that affect fish health. Implementing automated systems will change the future of fish farms forever.
Food security is essential not only to humans but also to the animal kingdom that people affect daily. Fish farms are one of the fastest-growing sectors globally because of the huge demand for seafood. In this post, you can expect to read about the automated systems that will impact the future of fish farms globally.
Automated Fish Farming
Automated fish farming is where we rely more on technology than on human hands to help us improve fish production. The technology enables us to easily monitor the health of the fish, the water temperature, the pH level of the water, and all other environmental parameters, optimize the feeding, better waste management, and much more.
While many people don't like to rely on computers and technology to help them in their day-to-day lives, automation has become an invaluable tool for getting the most out of fish farming. This helps create a more sustainable fish supply without putting too much strain on the ocean's natural ecosystem.
Some of the advances in automated fish farming are already being implemented in countries worldwide. Here is one example:
An Example Of Automation In Fish Farming
Singapore is one of the countries that has fully embraced modern technology and automation in its fish farming industry. SAT or Singapore Aquaculture Technologies have become front runners of modern fish farming. They employ cutting-edge technologies in their 3000 square meters floating fish farm to provide optimal fish production and profit. Some of the automation technologies they use are:
Sensors And Cameras
Because they use a closed containment system, they can use sensors and cameras to monitor the fish more closely. The sensor and camera system helps them identify diseases, parasites, and bacteria in fish before it becomes a bigger problem that can affect all the fish in a pond.
It does this by allowing video analytics to monitor the behavior of the fish, track its movements, and monitor its skin condition (looking for skin lesions). Of course, we, humans, won't be able to check all fish continuously throughout the day. However, this system helps the farm spot issues before they become problems and helps them harvest fish of the highest quality.
Better Waste Management
By using a closed containment system, sensors, and cameras, the fish farm can use biofilters to break down ammonia in the fish waste into nitrogen, preventing overfeeding. In traditional fish farms tracking and stopping overfeeding was very difficult because of sediments in the murky water and feed that fell through the nets.
Use Of Less Power
The SAT farm has streamlined its operation to the point where they use 50% solar power to run the fish farm continuously, cutting the overall power costs in half and lessening the pressure on the electrical suppliers in that area immensely.
Some of the modern technologies used in fish farming are helping the fish farmers get healthier fish through advances in monitoring systems, robotic cages, ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicle), drones, and more. This section will look at some of these devices and gadgets.
Health And Wellness Analyzing Systems
For fish delousing and removing any parasites they might have, the fish farmers take advantage of an analyzing machine. This machine helps monitor the amount of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) that the workers put in the fish tanks to kill off the parasites, which is then filtered out of the tanks.
Without the machine, there is a chance of overdosing the fish, leading to oxidative stress and scale/skin bleaching or death.
An example of one of the analysis machines is The Metrohm Process Analyzer 2035. It analyzes these functions online to give the workers real-time readings that alert them about the amount of hydrogen peroxide present in the water. Here is what this machine analyzes:
- Monitors and analyzes the H2O2 in a normal range of 0 to 2500 mg/L
- It controls the dosage of hydrogen peroxide that goes into the treatment tank
- It improves the overall health of the fish, is environmentally friendly as it monitors online, and helps in reducing the overall cost of the fish farm
Any fish farmer's primary concern is diseases and parasites due to overpopulated tanks and insufficient space for fish. So one solution that is being implemented is the use of Robotic Cages or Aquapods that lower the risk of disease, predators, and parasites.
These are smart cages placed in the ocean to give the fish more room. It monitors the entire cage, including the fish, and identifies and repairs tears in the cage net. The AquaPod Net Pens manufactured by Ocean Farm Technologies, Inc. of Searsmont, Maine, are a prime example of such cages being currently used.
These are spherical cages that also maintain their shape in the harshest of ocean conditions, and it's suited for various fish species. They are made from reinforced polyethylene and tension galvanized steel mesh wire to keep the structure sound and to keep predators out.
ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles) Monitoring
ROVs can carry out several tasks underwater that would take a team of divers to accomplish.
They can inspect the nets without the farmer having to leave their desk, and it only takes 30 minutes to do a complete 270-degree video of the net from top to bottom. It also allows the farmer a full view of the cages to check for predators and also the health of their fish.
One example of an ROV used since 2016 is the DTG2 ROV. Deep Trekker, which manufactures the DTG2 ROV, states that this ROV is a more affordable way to check the nets and the health of your fish as you don't need to engage an entire crew for these tasks.
Drones created especially for fisheries are being used more often these days. This is because they are much more cost-effective, and they can do jobs that are unsafe for humans. Some tasks include diving and inspecting the nets multiple times a day, providing a live feed of the fishing pens/cages, and monitoring the overall health of the fish.
Big data companies can then analyze the data to recognize patterns and inform the fish farmers should there be maintenance or health issues.
A Guide To Modern Technology And Megatrends On Fish Farms
Modern technology aims to make things easier to manage and ultimately more profitable. For example, with automation systems, processing can be done faster using fewer hands. In this part of the post, we will look into the technology and megatrends that will shape the future of fish farms.
Creating Food Security For Humans And Marine Life
While the years have taught us that we can't overfish the oceans, the demand for seafood and other fish has increased. With a growing world population, fish has become the primary food source for many developing countries.
To ensure that the rivers and oceans are not depleted of fish, fish farms have become the preferred way to keep fish in the shops and markets.
There was a major problem when fish farming first began; it wasn't sustainable and put more pressure on the oceans, rivers, and marine.
Let's look at this example, say you have a fish farm farming salmon. The farmed salmon would lessen the amount of salmon caught in the ocean, thus leaving more salmon for other animals, like bears, dolphins, penguins, etc., to eat.
That is great until you realize that the fish farms need to rely on other fisheries (companies that catch fish, not farm them) to catch enough small fish, like sardines, to feed the salmon they are raising. So fish farming was just trading one commercially caught fish with another and putting more strain on the world's oceans.
With the help of modern technologies in fish feed, the fishmeal (sardines and other small fish that become food for the farmed fish) and fish oil that fish farms use have gone down from 70% to 25% in the last 30 years. The aim is to get to 0% fishmeal and fish oil needed to feed and keep the farmed fish healthy.
Creating Sustainable Growth For Fish
There are a few ways to raise fish for human consumption, including fish farms that are part of the ocean; these farms are cordoned-off pens in the sea that have the fish in pens and cages, and newer (closed containment system) fish farms that have ponds that look like mini pools where the fish are then raised.
The goal is to raise more fish on one fish farm using advances in breeding technology to improve the breeding health of fish. For example, there was a breakthrough in the breeding technology in Vietnam that allowed them to go from 50,000 tons of catfish in the year 2000 to over 1 million tons of catfish in 2010.
They achieved this by using a more reliable and better sustainable pelleted feed along with the new breeding technology.
This breeding technology could unlock ways to get more fish on one fish farm without increasing the number of ponds by many, meaning the yield would improve without expanding the operation, as that is a costly undertaking.
Advances In The Growth And Health Of Fish
More and more fish farms are employing new technologies to keep their fish healthier and increase production and annual profit. There are recent technological advances on the horizon like:
Technologies To Help Reduce Cost In Fish Farming
The Apollo Aquaculture Group in Singapore has changed how we look at fish farm costs. Because of Singapore's available land constraints, they have built the world's first vertical 8-story fish farm. In addition, they have further cut costs and increased efficiency by implementing a few more innovations.
The Aquadeck System is the first; this is an automatic water renewal and purification system. After water becomes contaminated, the system pumps it out, runs it through special purification filters, and then pumps it back to the farm. As a result, it significantly reduces the cost of water replacement and water maintenance by workers.
The second innovation is an electronic inventory system. The system allows them to monitor the amount of feed each fish requires, the water conditions, the required amount of water, and the fish's health.
This allows the system to monitor the operation in real-time, real-time inventory and data sharing with all stakeholders, including the purchasing department, sales, and technical staff. This allows them to raise healthy fish more efficiently in a shorter time frame that is the right size for the market.
Better Fish Feed Options And Less Waste
A company focusing on developing better ways to feed fish on fish farms that don't rely on the use of fishmeal or fish oil is Cewatech AB (CWT). They have developed a way to grow microscopic fungi using industrial waste.
This is fascinating news as industrial waste is creating havoc on our environment, and this technology can solve three problems at once. The process gets rid of industrial waste by turning it into fungi. So there is less waste.
The fungi are a high-quality product that can be fed to fish on fish farms. It also eliminates the need to use smaller fish and ocean life to make the fishmeal and fish oil that farmed fish eat. So it feeds the fish and lessens the pressure on the oceans.
This technology is being pilot tested at a sulfate plant, and if it passes, it can be distributed to fish farms around the world within a few years.
Advancing Technologies Using AI
Another innovation being tested by companies like iFarm is the use of AI to reduce costs and monitor fish growth and health, and production. They want to use AI to set up a monitoring system for each fish, to monitor it throughout its life.
When the fish rises to the surface for fresh air, it will pass through a sensor that will scan its weight, growth rate, skin condition, number of sores, and number of parasites. The data is then put into the system, and it creates a medical catalog for each fish.
This will allow the company to provide better fish health and welfare, increasing the profit and lessening the overall production cost. This AI technology is still in the test phase, and we will know the outcome by 2025.
With the need for farmed fish growing, the world has had to adopt new and innovative technology to keep up with the demand, ensure the sustainability of the farmed fish and keep them healthy enough to use as a food source.
In the past, there was a heavy strain on the world's oceans and rivers to produce enough fish for humans or enough little fish to feed the fish that is used for human consumption. However, advances in technology are helping provide better feed for farmed fish, more sustainable breeding, and fish health practices, meaning less strain on the environment and our natural resources.