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A Sea of Opportunity for Canadian Aquaculture Tech

By August 15, 2019 August 21st, 2019 No Comments
Scientist using tech machines to look at salmon farming data.

Canadian technology used in aquaculture is well positioned to enhance sustainable seafood farming globally.

Canada’s reputation for sustainably farmed seafood, largely enabled by new technologies and innovations in aquaculture, is world renowned. This technology is easily transferable and provides Canadian aqua-tech companies a sea of opportunities said Dr. Marlon Lewis, a world renowned oceanographer and Professor Emeritus at Dalhousie University.

“When it comes to food production, this is a very interesting space now and Canadian technology is well positioned to enhance sustainable seafood farming globally,” said Dr. Lewis, whose research interests span a broad range, from upper ocean physics to biological processes to the ocean’s role in global climate.

“Canadian technology has strong potential in countries, especially in Asia, that are increasingly moving towards aquaculture,” Dr. Lewis told RaisingOpportunity.ca. According to Fishsite.ca the aquaculture sector is flourishing, being the fastest growing form of food production in the world with a market value of $13.3 billion. In the next 25 to 30 years, the global population will rise to 10 billion people and as investors commit their interest to the sector, start-ups in seafood and aquaculture technology have raised $193 million in 2016. Fundamental to aquaculture is understanding how fish grow and what factors influence fish growth from a health, feeding, and biomass perspective, Fishsite.ca reported.

This is an industry that’s changed so much, you might not recognize us.

John Paul FraserExecutive Director, BCSFA

“The industry is shifting towards precision fish farming, enabled by technologies including machine-learning and computer vision,” The report said. Tim Kennedy, executive director of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA) said not enough is being done by Ottawa to identify the value of and innovations in the nation’s aquaculture technology industry.

“There are incredible strengths between the agriculture and aquaculture sectors and bringing them together will provide a climate that can generate innovations and shared technologies,’ said Kennedy. He pointed to Norway where technology from the offshore oil and gas industry is being used to develop deep-sea fish farms. These offshore production systems can withstand 100 foot (31 meter) waves and can be put anywhere in the open sea. Kennedy said his association is pushing Ottawa to conduct research in Canada’s growing aquaculture technology industry to get a map of the eco-system. “This will be a great tool to market Canada’s aqua tech innovations around the world,” he said.

On Canada’s West Coast where farm-raised salmon generates over $1.5-billion towards British Columbia’s economy, resulting in about 7,000 jobs, $500 million has been invested and planned in new technology, innovation and skills training from 2016 to 2022. “We’ve come a long way from our humble ‘wood pen’ beginnings in the 1960s,” said John Paul Fraser, executive director of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA). “Today, British Columbia’s ocean farming containment methods are highly technical, integrated, production systems that lean on real-time data and clean technology solutions, many of which are home grown in Canada,” said Fraser. “This is an industry that’s changed so much, you might not recognize us.”

The BCSFA has just released its new report BC Salmon Aquaculture: Innovation and Technology which highlights some of what the industry is doing currently;

  • Ongoing development of state-of-the-art monitoring—combined with machine learning and artificial intelligence—will allow the industry to further optimize its use of sustainable feed with as low a reliance as possible on wild fish resources.
  • Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) in virtually every aspect of the ocean farming business. From managing feed systems smarter, to repairing ocean farming production facilities, to proactive fish health treatments.
  • Industry is testing new platforms to track, compare, and improve treatment strategies against sea lice. These platforms are based upon treatment effectiveness data across the entire industry; this database allows the platform to determine the best treatment to use under a given set of conditions (e.g. environmental, fish health etc.). The platforms will also allow the treatment effectiveness at a specific farm to be compared with the industry average.
  • BC farmed salmon processors continue to identify and implement new technologies that will ensure that discharged wastewater will not negatively impact the marine environment. For example, the implementation of fluidized bed reactors will allow the removal of 80-90% of the organics within wastewater.
  • The industry is currently developing floating, semi-closed production systems. These S-CC systems will make use of a large but controllable water intake, solid tank walls, and optimized internal water hydraulics—and will have the potential to extract particles from the discharge water.
  • The industry is currently developing ocean farming technologies that will allow salmon farming to take place in more exposed deeper water coastal areas. Higher velocity water currents in exposed areas will facilitate a further reduction in the already minimal impact of salmon farms on benthic quality.
  • State-of-the-art floating closed containment systems have been designed to reduce losses in sea production, protect the environment against undesired impacts, increase productivity, and at the same time reduce production costs. The walls of these systems are impenetrable to both sea lice and pathogens—and escape-proof for the farmed salmon. Their water intake is filtered and then treated with UV light to prevent lice, algae, bacteria, and viruses from entering the production environment.
  • Post-smolt programs focus on rearing smolts (juveniles) to a larger, more robust size within land-based recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) before transferring them to ocean-based production systems.