The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations released "The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture" (SOFIA), in which it is indicated that global average fish consumption has come to a record high of 20.5kg per person per year and the trend keeps growing. This shows the importance of fish supplies for human food. Therefore, sustainable aquaculture development and effective management have attained higher importance than ever in the global fisheries and aquaculture.
Most of the aquaculture supplies are aimed at the domestic market as an important source of seafood for direct sales in Taiwan. Nowadays, the aging of the fishermen and the consequential decline of labor supply have been a disadvantage in the passing on of skills and experience. Fortunately, with the effort of the government and experts, research results on environmental monitoring and sensing, AI remote control, cloud platform, and image recognition are integrated and introduced to have the aquaculture industry benefited from latest technologies, such as smart sensing and smart control. Operators have developed a smart breeding system, which incorporates functions such as real-time collection of data or images, wireless network transmission, smart calculation and prediction, early warning issuance, and decision-making assistance. It has greatly improved the management efficiency of breeding with the inspection on water quality parameters, transmission of related data, intelligent calculation of data, and more importantly, its smart automatic control functions.
Net Cage Aquaculture Widely Adopted
Net cage aquaculture has a history of decades in Taiwan. Currently, offshore net cage farming concentrates in Pingtung and Penghu. The main species are yellow-wax pampano, grouper, and cobia. The traditional manual feeding method would rely on the aquafarmers’ experience to judge the adequate amount of feed and to control abnormal conditions. All judgment was based on the experience of the on-site operators and not standard criteria. Overfeeding occurred very often.
Feed control has always been an important part of aquaculture fishery. In general, the cost of feed accounts for about 50% in net cage farming. With smart technologies introduced into net cage farming, the underwater automatic feeding system and underwater camera are connected. They can clearly identify the image of the fish body, its shape and size, and determine the body weight and the most adequate ration of feeding. This reduces the amount of feed used and certainly cuts down the cost and increases the revenues, but more importantly, reduces the pollution to the breeding
environment and helps maintain the good health of the fish.
Technologies Used on Aquafarms to Save Time and Labor
Traditional aerators used on aquafarms were all of fixed types. The new generation of aerators are movable. They move around in the pond so the area of agitation is enlarged and this forces more movement of the fish in the pond. Frequent movement of fish and shrimp in the water increases the feed conversion rate, shortens the breeding period, and consequently increases the production. Moreover, the power consumption is half of those of the fixed type, which not only saves costs but also achieves the goal of energy saving and carbon reduction.
Water quality is the key to the health of the fish. Good water quality minimizes the risk of disease infection. A simple automated pathogen detection system is developed with the optical inspection modules and the digital pathogen identification technology. This can monitor the concentration of harmful pathogens in real time to enable disease prevention and treatment. Once the value exceeds that set by the system, an early warning signal is given so water can be changed to have the pathogenic bacteria removed from the water. This reduces the demand for drug use and certainly prevents drug abuse. In terms of time used, traditional water quality testing takes 3-4 days. A lightweight pathogen detection machine now can do the same job in 3-4 hours.
In the past, when professional knowhow was not easily accessible, experience was largely relied on to manage aquafarms. Human observation and inspection were performed to control the parameters of the aquaculture environment. This means the investment of a lot of time and cost for new generations of aquafarm owners, even if they are willing to take over the work. In order to support the aquafarmers, young farmers and the general public to access the core breeding knowledge, the breeding conditions, and the conditions of the breeding ponds, the Fisheries Research Institute of COA has developed an aquaculture smart expert system. This system is based on the professional experience of many aquafarmers and comes with a very user-friendly interface, which can be operated easily on computers and/or mobile phones, like a Google for aquaculture. The related background knowledge is updated from time to time, so the information in the system keeps being optimized.
Many fishery operators have actively invested in the development of fishery technologies. With traditional fishery experience serving as the basis, technologies like sensing components, information technology, AI, etc. are adopted for the purposes of saving labor and time. Modern aquafarmers can manage the information of the water quality and breeding environment in real time with smart phones, tablet computers or other smart equipment. Any abnormal conditions noticed can be dealt with immediately. These technologies not only enable fishery to reduce the cost of on-site operations and labor demand, but also increase efficiency and output, leading the industry to a truly friendly environment and sustainable development.