The company’s iFarm project, which has been granted four development licenses, will be launched in Steigen, Nordland county, in January, while the first transfer of fish to the system is planned for autumn 2020.
iFarm, which is a collaboration between Cermaq and BioSort, is based on image recognition and identification of each individual salmon and individual follow-up of each fish – for example a fish with sea lice can be sorted aside for treatment. At the same time, the need to handle the fish is significantly reduced, thus improving fish health and welfare.
"This is the best Christmas present we could get," says Cermaq’s fish health manager, Karl Fredrik Ottem, who will lead the iFarm project.
The project will initial be at pilot, rather than commercial, scale.
“The goal of the project is to develop prototypes with the central functions of iFarm to clarify whether it is technologically possible to operate individual salmon farming in net pens in the sea. An important part of the iFarm project is to document how the fish's behaviour and welfare will interact with the new technological solutions and functionalities,” says Ottem.
BioSort, which develops the sensor-based solutions in iFarm, has already conducted several tests at the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research.
“The key in iFarm is that we monitor each salmon using machine vision, establishing a health record for each individual, and can sort aside the fish that needs follow up. This will be useful not only for farmers, but also for authorities and consumers. We are looking forward to getting started, and several new positions will now be filled,” says Geir Stang Hauge, CEO of BioSort.
“Individualised farming, which is at the heart of iFarm, truly addresses animal welfare. If successful, this could have a great potential for the authorities if the administrations will have access to real-time information about, e.g. biomass, lice situation and disease conditions at each sea site,” says the Norwegian Food Safety Authority’s chief veterinary officer, Kristina Landsverk.
Cermaq will invest NOK 580 million in the project. According to the plan, the first fish will be transferred in the autumn of 2020 to a sea site in Steigen municipality, where the first stage of iFarm will be installed.
The development of iFarm is a unique opportunity for suppliers of equipment to take part in an exciting and high-tech development project in Norway.
“The iFarm project is a big boost for the region. We estimate that this will mean 17 positions only in Cermaq during the up till 6-year project period. iFarm is being developed locally, we will develop the actual construction in the net pen and machine learning here. This is a great build-up for Cermaq in Nordland and for the entire aquaculture industry,” says Cermaq’s regional director Snorre Jonassen, who has been central to the design of the iFarm project.