July | August 2012
Fish farm monitoring
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The International magazine for the aquaculture feed industry
MONITORING by Patrick Ruthven, Technical Sales, AC-CESS Ltd
he monitoring of what happens the fish, but the feed pellets to see how much day use at the fish farms. However, the most
within a pen at a fish farm has pro- is falling past the fish. Feed is expensive and notable of these developers was in one of the
gressively become a greater neces- the pellets are quite small, they also come in world’s greatest salmon farming nations; Chile,
sity for fisheries. As the complexity different ‘sink’ rates. with an AC-ROV distributor called Mariscope
and importance of monitoring the relevant A pan and tilt camera on its own can only leading the way.
behaviour of the fish developed so did the be moved manually however All Oceans
engineering solutions. Engineering of Aberdeen, Scotland developed Chilean salmon farming
a two winch system that can be moved over The southern region of the South-
Traditional methods focussed around the full width and depth of a pen or tank. American continent is normally known as
divers getting wet and dipping in to the tank, The pan and tilt camera is suspended on lines Patagonia. It is possible to distinguish between
perhaps with waterproof cameras to record from the two winches. Operating the winches two ‘Patagonia’s’, the Argentinean side, and
the data to be analysed later. This method together or separately greatly increases the the Chilean one. Due to the fact that there
obviously has its draw backs as it is not practi- tank viewing options. are the Andes in between, both regions have
cal or desirable for a diver to be in the pen a completely different climatology.
for extended periods of time, which would Other inspection requirements This new concept is based on the fact
have been needed if a true representation of There are however many other under- that the Argentinean part is mostly arid and
what was going on was to be acquired. This water inspection requirements on fish farms. the Chilean side has a temperate-humid
was why fish farms started to look for remote The above considered the ‘product’ while climatology. Similar to Norway, this area has
visual inspection solutions to their monitoring the following considers the high value asset an immense amount of fjords and channels.
needs. represented by the pens, anchors and envi- Hundreds of islands, including underwater
Pan and tilt cameras have been used ronment. This is where All Oceans and volcanoes make this region unique in the
extensively in fish farms throughout the world their associate company AC-CESS are again world and ideal for aquaculture activities. Due
for monitoring the fish, feeding behaviour and providing support. The AC-ROV micro ROV to the pristine water, the strong currents, the
condition of the fish within the farm environ- (Remotely Operated Vehicle) is a revolu- continuous water mass exchange and the
ment. A problem with this is that they could tion in micro ROV design. Never before proximity to fresh water reservoirs, an impor-
only set their pan and tilt cameras to a fixed had a company manufactured a robust and tant salmon farming industry has developed
depth and location within their fish pens. manoeuvrable system that came in such a over the last three decades.
The primary objective is to keep feeding small package as to be able to be deployed It started as a project in the early 80s, with
for as long as possible, whilst wasting as little and operated by one person. This seems to very small wooden cages. The results were
feed as possible. Operators need to watch be the perfect solution. so encouraging that a small industry followed.
the fish feeding so that they can control the Distributors of products developed by Up to the end of the 90s, the salmon industry
feed supply rate and in some cases the feed AC-CESS and its parent company All Oceans in Chile was growing fast. A lot of things
specification. At the start of a feeding session, Engineering have also had success in imple- changed from the beginnings and the industry
the fish are frantic at the surface, but as the menting the use of bespoke remote visual developed from a very artisan one to a very
session progresses, the fish move down and inspection solutions for the monitoring of fish modern harvesting industry.
progressively more and more of them stop in fish farms worldwide. In northern Europe By 2007, Chile produced as much salmon
feeding. The operator wants to control the in Norway and Finland remote visual inspec- as Norway, some 600,000 tonnes per year. As
feed supply rate by watching, not so much tion is increasingly being integrated into every a consequence, the net cages became bigger
38 | InternAtIonAl AquAFeed | July-August 2012
and the moorings had to be stronger accord-
project included four tilapia farms in China. These identify the key problems and causes related to in April, 2011. Over 40 farmers, processors, tech-
ing to the stress of wind, waves and currents.
farms represented both small- and commercial- water management. nicians and government officers attended the
Huge harvesting utilising
scale production facilities sites two different The second project is an assessment of the workshop. Participants found the workshop very
production systems (pond and cages). Aside from regional environmental impacts of fish farm clusters, informative and helpful. This enhanced the produc-
The difference in Chile is that the harvest-
identifying similarities and differences among criteria which will be jointly conducted by SFP and Hainan ers’ awareness of increasing demands for certified
ing sites are far bigger than anywhere else in
and requirements used by the three standards, Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, the sustainable seafood from overseas markets, thus
the world. With nets of 50 m in diameter and
this project also identified outstanding issues in the leading environmental research institute in Hainan. further facilitating the engagement of Chinese
up to 40 – 45 m deep, the amount of salmon
per cage reached 150 – 200 tonnes and The study will examine the potential for regional stakeholders into a supply-chain dialogue around
farms, which most producers were able to address
as a result of the trial audit. To date, all four farms scale improvement by looking at carrying capacity sustainability.
more. The biggest production sites had up
are now certified under one or more of the com- and the potential for zoning in a specific area.
to 36 such cages per module and sometimes SFP is currently working with local institutes of
mercial aquaculture standards. These huge sites As more first-hand data becomes available aquaculture and environmental sciences to identify
three modules in parallel.
had to widely acknowledged for weights of up (along with a more in-depth understanding of and evaluate both qualitatively and quantitatively
SFP is be moored with dead its expertise
to 20 tonnes each, sometimes with more than existing policies and management measures), the the environmental impacts of tilapia farming in
by stakeholders in Chinese tilapia, including key
US and European buyers and retailers, as well as AIP will establish a working group that convenes Hainan. This includes an ecological study as well as
700 tonnes of weight for each site. The deep
fjords combined with strong currents and the the key buyers, suppliers and producers along the socio-political analysis to advise local governments
producers and processors in China, aquaculture
institutes, industry associations, and local Chinese Chinese tilapia supply-chain to share the scientific and industrial associations about how to efficiently
action of waves made completely new moor-
governments. Given the high level of trust that SFP findings. The AIP will then form a multi-stakeholder address the environmental issues associated with
ing designs necessary. Problems arose, since
enjoys with the tilapia supply chain it was appropri- policy roundtable to further discuss the problems tilapia farming in Hainan. The preliminary results will
often the more than 1 km long mooring lines
ate that a tilapia Aquaculture Improvement Project and solutions. The AIP participants will eventually be shared with key stakeholders at the Aquaculture
crossed each other during installation and suf-
fered damage during the operation. Accidents agree on the actions and timetables necessary to Policy Roundtable this fall in China.
(AIP) was officially launched in 2011. in order to complete their diet. Therefore have to fight day in day out with the extreme
with total or partial loss of harvesting sites and achieve the sustainability objectives defined by
SFP has now initiated two research projects SFP they are located partnerships with
salmon farmers need to protect the net cages area is also developing in. In comparison,
to millions of dollars in fish loss resulted from a the group. SFP will play a leading role in engaging Chinese universities and large feed manufacturers is
assess the impact of tilapia farming on the with special sea lion nets that involve the the maximum current velocity in Norway
external environment. The first project, started stakeholders, providing scientific advice and facilitat- to around 0.5 knots in salmon producing areas.
lack of inspection of the underwater environ- original nets. improve feed sourcing for tilapia farming in
in April 2011, involves monitoring water qual- ing communication.
ment and installations. Extreme weather conditions with very fast
To complete the image before we look at China. This work is to be undertaken through
ity on selected farms in Hainan province, and changing winds (there is a feeding efficien-
the ROVs in this context, a couple of other research projects on improving lot of ocean and
was undertaken by the Hainan Institute of Up-to-date progress
aspects have to be explained. The harvesting cy very few land masses at these latitudes) are
and developing alternative feeds with fewer
Aquaculture. Dozens of water quality param- just another problem of working in this area.
sites are all located in relatively protected impacts on wild fisheries.
Since this harvesting happens in Patagonia, SFP has worked closely with local tilapia associa-
there are some peculiarities related with this inshore waters, not in the open Pacific Ocean.
eters such as chemical oxygen demand (COD), tions to assess different tilapia standards that are
nitrogen and phosphorus content, and heavy available in the market. A workshop all but calm. More InforMatIon: ROVs
region at the world’s end: in this case the sea Nevertheless, these waters are introducing
metals were analysed for five farms over two three international standards for tilapia farming, i.e. Sustainable Fisheries Partnership started to ask for
lions. These predators find it most interesting With currents of up to five knots and depth Insurance companies
croppings (10 months). The study helped BAP, GlobalGAP, and ASC, was held in Haikou Website: www.sustainablefish.org sites were moored
to attack the cages filled up with salmons over 500 m, salmon producing companies better control after the
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and sustainable aquaculture practices
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July-August 2012 | InternAtIonAl AquAFeed | 39
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July-August 2012 | InternAtIonAl AquAFeed | 41
and during the operational time. Additional to inspect the sea lion nets and to repair disinfection processes before and after leaving
problems arose through heavy bio-fouling, them. Since these nets sometimes reach as the fish pens. For many fish farms this asserted
increasing the weight of the nets by four to deep as 70 m, dive time is reduced also reduc- ROVs as the most cost effective and simple
five times their original mass. This was the ing the cost effectiveness of using a diver. solution for monitoring.
moment where ROVs appeared on the scene. Through lax regulations and control divers Some of the larger companies, such as
Mariscope started with the first inspections for very often suffer severe injuries from the long Marine Harvest, have developed ROVs to
the insurance companies around 2002. and deep exposure and mortality among the clean away the dead fish killed by disease from
Initially just a couple of mooring lines industry divers still remains relatively high. As the bottom of the nets using ‘lift up’ suction
were inspected from the top buoy to the a consequence ROVs started to be used per- tubes attached to the ROVs. Additionally,
seabed. These inspections demonstrated a manently for the net inspections. The divers over the years there has been an accumula-
tion of rubbish under the net cages.
Since this and bio-fouling continues to be a
problem and also the copper based antifouling
paints are decaying, ROVs are used to clean
the nets while installed. More and more,
ROVs are changing from purely inspection
systems to light work class units that are able
to pick up materials, carry instruments or carry
out cleaning tasks.
Next Generation ROVs
At Mariscope, System Integration is the
basis for new ROVs. These vehicles have a
completely different concept from standard
light work class ROVs. Normally these types
of vehicles are equipped with one or at best
two manipulators, a tracking device and some
kind of sonar. If you then have a couple of
laser pointers and a HDTV camera on board,
you are already at the top of the range. In the
case of the new generation of light work class
ROVs, the vehicles are equipped with a wide
range of oceanographic measuring devices.
You can think of them as small underwater
research vessels. Sensors like CO2, H2S, Oil
in Water CTDs, Turbidity and Chla just to
name a few, are installed on board and low-
ered under the cages, where other systems
can not get to. Here, under the cages, the
sediments grow and are contaminated due to
the activities on the surface and are the focus
for new diseases. Measurements will help the
producers to take the correct decisions for
the future of their sites.
But these underwater labs are also useful
in other branches like offshore, research, pol-
lution detection, salvage operation and others.
The more real data you have, the better you
will be able to take operational decisions.
Modern, high efficient microprocessor based
ROV electronics, coupled with high-end sen-
sors and measuring devices are opening a
lot of problems in the way moorings were that had been diving for years repairing and new world of opportunities for light work
deployed. Big risks for the salmon companies inspecting the nets can now be found operat- class and micro-ROVs. ■
and for the insurance companies appeared. ing the ROVs.
More and more, complete and periodical Over the last couple of years, the fish
inspections took place, reducing the amount farming industry in Chile suffered from several
of accidents and the risk of losing sites and diseases, some of them as a result of over Tel: +44 1224 790100
stock. production and increased stock density. The Fax: +44 1224 790111
Additionally, mooring companies had the industry was hardest hit in 2007 after the Email: email@example.com
possibility to check their work and learn how infectious salmon anemia outbreak, which Website: www.ac-cess.com
to change procedures to be more efficient. depleted stocks drastically.
Following this, laws in Chile were changed Website: www.mariscope.cl
Divers to ROVs so that divers and the equipment that serv-
Divers had been used since the beginning iced the divers had to go through stringent
40 | InternAtIonAl AquAFeed | July-August 2012
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