The value of forecasting tools in Norwegian algae blooms
We tell you a little about the background of algae blooms and the role the forecasting and data management tool “Insikt” from our portfolio company Manolin played to help farmers avoid further loss.
Algae are plant-like organisms that use photosynthesis to grow in either freshwater or marine water. In most cases, it is harmless and can even be beneficial, however, on certain conditions, the growth of algae can get out of control and become deadly.
Some reasons for algae blooms include slow current and warm water as well as large amounts of rain. Increasing and regular algae blooms are an indicator of eutrophication within an ecosystem as well as a side effect of a globally warming ocean and increasing C02 levels.
The negative impact of algae bloom to fish farming is when the algae stick to the gills, affect the cells and destroy it, which then lead to the death of fish due to oxygen deprivation. In the wild, fish can swim away and go to deep water where algae cannot grow due to lack of sunlight, but not farmed fish.
Chrysochromulina was the algae responsible for the algae bloom that happened in Norway. It is a fairly regular occurrence off the coast of Norway in this season due to enough sunlight for photosynthesis, freshwater from fjords that create stable water columns and low wind leading to less water mixing.
Norway – World class Salmon Farming
The country is famous for being the leader in salmon farming and the largest exporter of salmon in the world, with a total production of 1.3 million tonnes in 2018. With Norway having clear fjords that provide ideal habitat for the fish to grow and coastline of 101,000 kilometres, Chefs around the world put their confidence in quality salmon from Norway.
With that said, experiencing the harmful algae bloom has indeed affected the country’s economy. More than 10,000 tonnes of salmon died in Nordland and Troms area, and this event has affected more than nine salmon companies. Two farms reported losing about 80 – 90% of the salmon of this generation.
The Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries predicted the loss of 11,600 metric tons of salmon, which was worth more than $82 million.
“If 40,000t is lost, this will take global supply growth from 6.6% to 5.0%. If the losses are doubled, Norway’s salmon harvesting will decline in 2019, and global supply growth will be 3.3%,” said Koljorn Giskeodegard, an analyst at Nordea, the biggest bank in the Nordic region.
There was even a prediction from the IMR (Institute of Marine Research) that the bloom was moving West and could spread some more to other regions.
They also suggested to all farmers, whether they are affected or not, to keep communicating with each other and keep an eye on any change in behaviour. The directorate also helped salmon farmers to move their fish to a safe area with well boats.
With the help of data and technology, Manolin helps to check and analyse issues in aquaculture industries. They have won an award as one of the most promising new entrants at the 2019 Aquaculture Award and have close ties to aquaculture technology accelerator HATCH Blue, whose program they attended in 2018.
Nattalie Brennan, COO of Manolin said:
""With the algae spreading quickly across the regions in northern Norway, we felt that it was needed for the industry to see all of the information regarding the bloom in one easy to read location. It's been a couple decades since the last algae bloom in Norway, so the infrastructure to keep the entire industry informed was lacking. We felt that with our capability and existing platform, we could quickly help gather and share the information being collected and publicized across the industry to ensure farms could act as quick as possible to mitigate the impact."
They were able to create a map that gives a daily report about the progress of Norway algae bloom event. Manolin works together with local farmers, Directorate of Fisheries and Institute of Marine Research to help them analyse results and exchange advice.
The report contains:
· An overview of salmon farms in Norway
· Satellite images for algae concentrations
· Weather conditions
· Records of water samples
· Update on the number of death
· Observation of water flow to predict the movement of algae
By gathering all information, the map that they created has succeeded in helping farmers and authorities to work together and prevent a further spread of the bloom. This recent event showcases the importance of proper monitoring systems and predictive tools in aquaculture. The more farmers work together and make use of technology such as Manolin Insikt, the more manageable future algae blooms will become.
HATCH Blue is the world’s first aquaculture accelerator programme focused on startups that build technology for a more sustainable industry. Our 15 week programme supports companies to expand to global aquaculture network, provides funding, facilities, and also in-depth mentoring sessions. We are still taking applications for our 2019 cohort at www.hatch.blue/apply