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Stepping up salmon farming technology on Cermaq's iFarm

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
12 November 2021, at 4:50pm

Cermaq’s iFarm project, which aims to increase fish health and welfare with artificial intelligence and machine learning, has entered its second phase.

Salmon are kept at a depth below 10 metres for most of their time in the iFarm, in order to reduce the incidence of sea ice
Salmon are kept at a depth below 10 metres for most of their time in the iFarm, in order to reduce the incidence of sea ice

© Cermaq

An entire salmon farm in Vesterålen, Norway is now equipped with an iFarm setup, after the fish were stocked this autumn - to test the concept and technology on a commercial scale.

In the previous phase, iFarm equipment was rigged in individual net pens at Cermaq's Martnesvika site, the main focus was to follow the fish behaviour, and gain experience with the new equipment in the pens. The experience gained so far has been used to adjust equipment and setup for phase 2 of the project. This means that the iFarm equipment that is put into sea in phase 2 at Langøyhovden is a little different than the equipment in phase 1 in Martnesvika.

“Among other things, we have seen that the design of the sensor housing and the openings the fish must swim through to get to the surface affect the fish's swimming pattern,” said iFarm project manager Karl Fredrik Ottem, in a press release.

“We are dependent on the fish choosing to swim through the sensor house, so in this phase we are putting out six different sensor houses with different geometric designs, to test which houses the salmon prefer. Then we will also know which sensor houses we will use in phase three, when we are going to stock fish for the third time in the project,” he added.

The six houses that have now been put into sea have been put together on land at Myre in Vesterålen, before they have been transported to the sea site and installed in the net pens, at a depth of 8 metres.

“We have many and good cameras so that we can constantly monitor how the fish swim and ensure that it eats and thrives,” says Ottem. “So far, it seems that the fish are getting used to new equipment in the net pen, at both Martnesvika and Langøyhovden.

Challenges and complications

Even though the fish seem to thrive and grow well, Cermaq admits that not everything has been running smoothly. With so much equipmentin the net pen, they say that it has been demanding to find good solutions for both camera cleaning and equipment maintenance.

“There are large and complex installations that either have to be lifted up to be maintained, or we have to go under water to get to it, and it has been demanding to find good routines to make this happen while we take care of the fish's well-being,” says Ottem. “But we also take these experiences with us when we look at the design and adjustment of equipment and setup for the next phase.”

Promising sea lice results

As the fish are kept at a depth of 10 metres and fewer lice have been observed on the salmon there.

“We reckon that we have saved a minimum of 1 delicing operation on the iFarm fish during phase 1 at Martnesvika, even though we only have the iFarm set-up in single net pens there," says Ottem.

“At Langøyhovden we have iFarm set-up in all the net pens, and it will be very interesting to see what effect it will have on lice levels eventually,” he adds.