Aquaculture for all

How “virtual twin” fish farms can take aquaculture to the next level

Barramundi Artificial intelligence (AI) +3 more

The development and deployment of AI farming models will allow aquaculture producers to test the impact of different genomic, breeding and production technologies, according to an up-and-coming Australian researcher.

Computer simulations are key to bringing aquaculture into line with genetic advances being made in land-based agriculture, according to University of Queensland researcher Jessica Hintzsche © Queensland Alliance for Agriculture & Food Innovation (QAAFI)

PhD candidate Jessica Hintzsche from the University of Queensland’s Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) is using software to virtually model the genetic tools available to barramundi farming, in collaboration with James Cook University and MainStream Aquaculture Group.

“We are creating the farm’s virtual twin – a 3D digital replica of the real thing to allow us to run simulations,” said Hintzsche in a press release from the university.

“The benefit of a digital twin is that we can test the impact of different genomic, breeding and production technologies – such as parental selection and harvesting options – before they are rolled out on the farm.

“It would allow producers to make decisions about how to take their business to the next level with healthy fish populations.”

a woman sitting in front of a fish tank
Jessica Hintzsche from the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI)

Aquaculture in Australia’s north is currently valued at $223 million and has a projected value of $1.34 billion by 2030.

Hintzsche said aquaculture was growing exponentially but the integration of genetic technologies into breeding programmes was slow, with just 10 per cent of the fish farmed globally descended from genetically improved strains.

“To meet demand and keep up with other agricultural industries, genetic tools need to be integrated into breeding programmes,” Hintzsche said.

man with a clipboard examining fish in two large tanks
The research is being carried out in conjunction with Mainstream Aquaculture, one of Australia's largest barramundi producers

She added there were many benefits of using AI – including improving sustainability – and there was no limit on what could be modelled with the right quantitative data.

“No one yet has the capacity to apply these techniques in aquaculture and it is amazing to be on the forefront, using this technology to push the boundaries of aquaculture. Really, the sky is the limit,” she concluded.

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