Global demand for protein-rich foods on the rise, and aquaculture has proven to be a successful way to feed the world’s population growth. The output of the global cultivation of fish has, for the first time, reportedly overtaken that of wild caught fisheries, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 2016 Report. The largest advantage of aquaculture is how efficiently fish transform feed into body weight. In fact, farm-raised fish are nearly seven times as efficient as raising beef. For countries with higher rates of food insecurity, aquaculture also provides a new means to meet local demands. It is for these reasons that the aquaculture industry is growing faster than any other food sector. To sustain future growth, the aquaculture industry must continuously innovate better ways to raise, monitor and harvest livestock. Underwater video technology and remotely operated vehicles are leading the way to smarter aquaculture farms.
Photo Credit: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Remotely Monitoring Cages
Just as farmers tend their flock, fish farmers must monitor the conditions inside their fish pens at all times. Poor weather conditions, predators, parasites, disease and damaged nets all pose constant threats to profitability. Underwater cameras have come a long way in recent years. Fish farmers now have the ability to deploy networks of high definition, pan and tilt, underwater cameras across their facilities to continuously monitor every fish cage for signs of trouble. Underwater cameras can also be controlled remotely from a laptop or phone, giving fish farmers a 24/7 view of their facilities from anywhere.
With potentially hundreds of cages to inspect, fish farmers require a quick, low cost alternative to sending divers into the water. Using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), inspectors can check each net for holes which need repair, while also getting a closer look at the health of their livestock. The versatility and maneuverability of an inspection class ROV allows a single operator to efficiently inspect and upkeep each aquaculture pen. Below is a video demonstrating how an ROV can be deployed inside an aquaculture pen for inspection of nets and livestock.
Underwater Sensors to Monitor Water Conditions
Video isn’t always enough. The successful growth and operation of an aquaculture facility is driven by data. ROVs built for aquaculture have a variety of sensors designed to capture these data points and keep fish farmers informed. Using a laser scaler, an ROV can accurately measure the length of a fish and determine how close to harvest size they are. Monitoring water quality is critical when large volumes of fish are kept in close proximity. ROVs outfitted with probes to measure temperature, pH and dissolved oxygen can quickly determine if water quality is stable, or in decline.
The goal of aquaculture is to maximize the harvest of fish while minimizing the impact on the surrounding environment and wild populations. By using technology like underwater cameras and ROVs, fish farmers are able to monitor their operation and grow to meet the demands of our world.