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Sustainable changes in aquaculture “are happening as we speak”

Atlantic Salmon Technology & equipment Production systems +1 more

Machine learning and artificial intelligence are already helping to revolutionise the way fish, in particular salmon, are farmed.

This was a key point made by Øyvind Oaland, chief technical officer for Marine Harvest, who delivered one of the plenary presentations at AQUA2018, in Montpellier, today, in which he outlined both the software- and hardware-based solutions currently being invested in by the company, in response to the current challenges facing salmon aquaculture globally.

In the hardware department, he drew attention to the company’s novel “egg” cages which had been granted eight development licences by the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries. These will be able to produce up to 1000 tonnes of salmon per cycle in a closed-containment system that protects the fish from water-borne pathogens and parasites. He also cited the submersible “Beck” cage – which is still pending a decision from the directorate – as an option for farming in more exposed, high energy locations.

However, while he was clearly excited by the prospect of these novel systems, he was keen to emphasise that new techniques are already helping to to address the current production systems.

“We will most likely see a greater variety [of production platforms] going forward, however with the potential of technological innovation we will make leaps also around existing net pen solutions in the next years to come. It will take time to develop closed and semi-close systems and they may be supporting the open net pen platform going forward rather than taking over,” he predicted.

He pointed out a raft of software-based initiatives currently being employed by the company, including the use of new technologies to detect uneaten pellets to improve feeding regimes and reduce waste; a pilot software system – AquaCloud – which is being trailled with very promising results, to help predict spikes in sea lice numbers; and better visualisation tools for assessing fish behaviour and measuring biomass.

“The potential in developing digitalisation, applying artificial intelligence and automation for improved performance efficiency as an important tool to understand the biological challenges involved in salmon farming is huge,” he explained.

As a result of this combination, he argued, the salmon sector still has potential to grow sustainably.

“These are really exciting times – the developments, implementation and change that is needed to support the sustainable growth of our industry are happening as we speak,” he concluded.