Aquaculture for all

Meeting the process air needs of the aquaculture industry

Technology & equipment

Umberto Onetti, aquaculture key account manager at Gardner Denver, discusses some of the key challenges facing the aquaculture industry when it comes to selecting process air equipment and the solutions available.

The world fish trade is growing at an unprecedented rate, bolstered by the rapid growth in the aquaculture market. The aquaculture industry has been the fastest growing food production sector for the past 20 years, with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations stating that, for the first time on record, the world is now consuming more farmed fish than wild-caught fish.

Process air is used in many different applications on fish feed barges, from the aeration of fish pools to transportation. But, as demand continues to increase, the need for technology solutions that have been specifically designed and developed for this market has never been greater.

When it comes to selecting a process air solution for the aquaculture industry, there are a number of challenges that need to be overcome and priorities that must be met to satisfy the requirements of ambitious fish feed barges and businesses.

Addressing key challenges

One key challenge is to find a cost effective and environmentally responsible way to optimise the productivity of existing feed barges, so that the growing demand for farmed fish can be met, without the need to invest in additional costly infrastructure.

Due to increased market demand, there is a bigger drive than ever before to accommodate more and more equipment on feed barges. This equipment might help manage the health and handling of livestock or help deliver the day-to-day on-board operations.

As a result, the demand for process air on feed barges has increased exponentially too. But with space at a premium, compressor technology needs to be compact and power dense, to make the most of the limited space available.

With such a big focus on sustainability in the aquaculture industry and the measures being taken to ensure operations are environmentally responsible, another key demand for process air equipment is to make sure it is energy efficient.

Naturally, most aquaculture businesses are keen to ensure the equipment they invest in operates as efficiently as possible, in order to reduce energy consumption and the associated costs in the process. But the latest process air technology needs to be able to meet these requirements to ensure operators can continue to meet growing demand, as well as support their sustainability endeavours too.

Reducing noise levels is another key consideration. Fish farming processes require low noise solutions to help reduce the environmental impact on the fish. The fish stock will be healthier and happier, feeding more and gaining weight faster in the process, and therefore improving productivity rates.

The personnel operating the barges will want to work in a quiet environment too. Equipment that emits low noise levels can improve the working conditions of these spaces considerably. This is often not the first criteria that comes to mind when selecting industrial air equipment, but it can have a significant impact on operator comfort, so should not be overlooked.

Finally, operators also want process air equipment that offers easy and low maintenance.

Overcoming these obstacles

To meet all these needs, Gardner Denver has developed Robox Aqua, a rotary lobe blower technology from its Robuschi brand. Its applications include fish food distribution into open water via pneumatic conveying systems from barges and increasing water oxygen content through aeration processes to encourage greater fish yields.

The Robox Aqua rotary lobe blower can allow for pressure up to 1000 mbar (g), volume flow up to 700m3/h and motor power up to 30 kW. Furthermore, its innovative design utilises direct coupling to avoid transmission losses and reduce servicing costs. The unit also consists of fewer components for ease of installation and increased reliability, and its improved sound enclosure can reduce noise levels to lower than 80db(A).

Thanks to its advanced, compact structure, three of the Robox Aqua units can be positioned side-by-side and fit into the same space as two conventional units. Its modular and stackable design also allows units to be installed on scaffold structures, making it ideal for barges with very limited space available.

Finally, its direct driven concept results in minimal servicing, to meet the easy and low maintenance demands of those in the aquaculture sector, and zero coupling losses, enabling the Robox Aqua to use eight percent less power than traditional systems.

Robox Aqua in action

Businesses are already realising the benefits of this technology. Gael Force Group, a manufacturer and supplier of feed barges for the aquaculture industry, has specified the Robox Aqua to help it overcome issues around space.

Neil MacDonald, project and design engineer at Gael Force Group, said: “We sometimes have to contend with tight space restrictions. The Robox Aqua is very effective at increasing our capacity, with a reduced footprint.

“In fact, the reduced width of the Robox Aqua enabled us to win a contract for an eight-blower system, which would not have been possible with the standard Robox unit. Typically, there would have only been space for six fish feeding lines, but the new Robox Aqua meant eight could be accommodated – a big benefit to our customer, as it meant they could increase the barge’s output capacity.”

He continues: “The Robuschi team have been very supportive throughout, with any questions being answered swiftly and requests for further information being efficiently passed along. Our dedicated account manager also has extensive knowledge of the Robox product, which is incredibly useful when it comes to specifying, operating or identifying any potential faults with the technology.”

For further information on Gardner Denver and its solutions for the aquaculture sector, please visit

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