Call for new tech in the Norwegian salmon industry
At the beginning of the Norwegian salmon adventure fish farmers could take a walk around their fish cage and use gut instinct to make decisions ensuring a stable and profitable fish production. Considering the fish farmers could observe almost one fifth of their fish stock from the surface, it is not too surprising that this strategy worked out well. Today the situation is however something quite different, with only five hundredth of the fish stock visible from the surface. To make good business decisions the farmers today are thus in need of quite a few helpers - preferably with high resolution, indefinite lifetime, and top-notch communication skills.
In this article we at HATCH will zoom in on some of the calls for new tech in the Norwegian salmon industry, trying to pinpoint some of the up-and-coming sensor trends.
Data into assets in order to reduce costs
The Norwegian aquaculture industry managed well by using the same effective production methods for several decades, resulting in a rapid industry growth. The increased production was however accompanied by various biological challenges that currently prevent further growth. The industry is thus facing a crucial era in which they need to reduce production costs while at the same time invest in new sustainable innovations.
Besides sea lice treatments, there are mainly two areas having a massive effect on the production costs - fish feed and fish mortality. With a fish mortality of 20 %, and rapidly increasing production costs related to fish feed, there is a need for technological improvements in the salmon industry.
The staggering 20 % fish mortality in the salmon industry is a massive cost. Integrating data from various sensors to get a better measure of fish health is thus important to take the appropriate actions in reducing mortality. Relevant parameters to measure in such an integrated system are; current, temperature, oxygen, and salinity, as well as the feeding routines of the fish.
Approximately 60 % of the production costs in the Norwegian salmon industry are related to fish feed. There is a need for an integrated sensor system to optimize the feeding process and reduce feed waste. Relevant parameters to control in such an integrated system are; where the fish stand in the water column, current of the water passing through the cage, the temperature in the water, and algae concentrations in the nearby water. The goal is to develop an automatic feeding system, using sensor data to optimize the process.
Awaited sensors the salmon industry
When producing salmon, there are many important parameters to oversee to ensure healthy and fast-growing fish. Up until now many parameters have been measured individually and manually, and an upgrade of various sensors are needed to support integrated sensor systems. In addition, there are some awaited parameters the salmon industry hopes to measure in the future.
From manual to automatic measurements
In hatcheries, RAS and other closed and semi- closed production facilities oxygen, temperature, pH and CO2 are measured automatically in an adequate manner, but there are other parameters in need of a transition from manual measurements to automatic measurements. Some parameters that currently are measured manually are total gas pressure (TPG), conductivity, TAN, nitrite, nitrate and ozone, in which are all parameters the industry hopes to automate in the nearby future.
With only five hundredth of the fish stock visible from the surface, fish farmers need visual information about the deeper parts of their cages. Cameras are thus placed under water to gain more control. There are however limitations on how much a camera footage alone can tell about the state of the fish stock, and there is need for visual and optical sensors to estimate biomass, optimize feed etc.
There are many thousand algae species in the Norwegian sea. Some algae species are highly toxic to fish, and it is very important to avoid feeding fish when such algae are nearby. Today card files with information of algae taxonomy are used manually to determine which algae are close by, which is slow and inaccurate surveillance system. There is thus a need for real-time surveillance and monitoring of algae blooming to create the very important early-warnings the salmon industry is in need of.
In hatcheries, RAS and other closed and semi- closed production facilities pathogens in the water is an important parameter to keep track of to avoid disease outbreaks amongst the fish stock. There is however not a good measuring device for automatic and recurring tests of pathogens in water on the market today.
Some sensors, in example pH sensors and optical sensors, need regular maintenance and calibration in order to function properly. In addition, many sensors are currently sold at high prices. It is thus a need for reasonably prices sensors that require less maintenance.
Open standard - a necessity in turning data into assets
As sensor systems increase in number, applications, cost and complexity, users need to address issues such as affordability, versatility and capabilities. Sensor systems should be rapidly reconfigurable and reusable by a great number of stakeholders to ensure cooperation and communication between industry players.
Considering cooperation is a necessity in solving the biological challenges in the industry, open standard is thus of high importance in the salmon industry. The sensor-data gathered must furthermore be handled easily if the data is to be usable. Remember - data has only value when it can be used in decision making.
Author: Marianne Wethe Koch