Aquaculture Thrives as IoT Improves Production

Fish farmers deploy technology to gain real-time information about water quality, fish health, and feeding patterns under murky waters. Machine learning and computer vision are transforming the process and sustainability of fish farming.


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Image credit: Aquabyte

Aquaculture, or fish farming, is a rapidly growing industry, increasing at an annual rate of nearly 6 percent globally. While the world population has increased, land is static, thus hampering growth in other protein industries. The beef industry saw growth of only 1 percent last year. Fishing is also more efficient from a feed conversion ratio. Some species of fish have a 1:1 ratio, meaning 100 kg of feed produces about 100 kg of salmon or trout. The same amount of feed would produce only about 17 kg of beef.

However, fish farming is inherently challenging. Farmers can’t physically see most of the fish to monitor their growth. Because physical interaction with the fish is limited, farmers often overfeed them and overcompensate for environmental contaminants. IoT technologies are changing that, improving operations and sustainability.

A Fishy Business

Quadlink’s Aquadlink® Smart Aquaculture Application System aims to help shrimp and fish farmers by monitoring aquaculture water and automating feeding systems. The two-pronged solution includes the QAM300-DE Smart Water Quality Monitoring System and the QAM300-OC Smart Equipment Monitor & Control System. Both devices are solar powered.

The Smart Water Quality Monitoring System uses sensors to check environmental conditions, such as pH and oxygen levels, in the fishpond. The floating device can also monitor for disease and breeding. Data is captured every five minutes and sent through an Intel-based SoC gateway to the cloud, where it is stored on servers powered by Intel® Xeon® processors. Data is analyzed by artificial intelligence engines to generate information that can identify problems and predict changes in water quality. Farmers can access the data in real-time from a computer or mobile app.

Monitoring system floats in fish farm

Image credit: Quadlink

The Smart Equipment Monitor & Control System checks and activates aerators, pumps, and feeding machines in a similar fashion. Fish farmers can manually initiate feeding and pumping, or those tasks can be automatically activated when specific parameters are met to ensure the health of the fish.

Farmers can receive alerts and respond immediately to mitigate the impact of environmental changes or extreme weather conditions. Having the capability to launch specific operations, such as feeding fish or aerating water, only when needed translates to a better bottom line. Quadlink claims its system can reduce fish food waste by 40 percent and improve energy efficiency 30 to 50 percent.

Fishing in the Fjords

Aquabyte, with offices in San Francisco, Norway, and Chile, is addressing the needs of large-scale, oceanic fishing operations, which face different challenges, which To improve sustainability at fisheries, Aquabyte has developed a solution that uses cameras and artificial intelligence to provide farmers with data about the fish. Fisheries install in the fish pen a device containing multiple high-resolution cameras and an on-board processor. It takes images of the fish as they swim by. Using machine learning and computer vision, the cloud-based solution can identify the salmon based on its unique spot patterns. Images are analyzed to determine the biomass and health of the salmon. It can also be used to optimize feeding protocols.

Sea lice is a common parasite in fish farms. Norwegian authorities require farmers to manually check salmon for lice, a time-consuming process that requires farmers to net, anesthetize, and scrutinize 10 to 20 fish per week. In a pen of 200,000 fish, that’s not a representative sample. The Aquabyte vision-enabled solution is so accurate that the Norwegian government determined it can be used in lieu of manual lice checks, saving valuable time and improving fish production.

As aquaculture continues to grow, IoT technologies can provide farmers with valuable information that is more accurate and less labor-intensive than traditional methods of farming. 

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