Aquaculture vaccination company Aqualife has announced today its brand new piece of technology, the semi-automated fish vaccination unit Inoca, with another fully automated unit in development. Aqualife has succeeded in vaccinating more than 1.6 billion fish since its beginning in 1996, with the hopes to branch out into automated vaccination technology, and change the old, manual process.

In a press release dated today, Chief Executive Office Gordon Jeffrey said: 'We started thinking about automating manual vaccination way back in 2003, and at the time were awarded a government grant to look at the feasibility of building such a system.' It was not, Mr Jeffrey explained, feasible at the time. 'Now the technology has caught up and we commissioned the building of a proof-of-concept system called 'The Inocubot' – a fully automated vaccination system using cameras to determine where the fish is, so we can instruct a robot to inject it, while also determining the fish health, fins and gill colour, and storing the images for future use.'

He then detailed their current commercial prototype, with plans to roll it out from 2022.

Phil Brown with Gordon Jeffrey

Testing on the Inoca unit has been completed, boasting the ability to switch between different vaccination strategies and manage different species. Thanks to its automation, the Inoca unit requires less than half the operators required in a manual vaccination operation.

On working with Umi Debt Finance Scotland, Mr Jeffrey explained: 'We're hungry for funds. We're transitioning from a service-based company to a tech-led business, and that requires funding. And of course, there's been the impact of Covid.' Their relationship with UMi, 'were a pleasure from start to finish. I liked their personal touch, and the way they really wanted to know about the actual business, which is quite unusual – most funders just look at the figures.'

From UMi, Fund Director Tom Brock commented that Aqualife's achievements and aims were admirable: 'Gordon and his team took an idea of semi automation and in just 19 months developed a unit which will speed up vaccinations for a much wider range of fish, making the entire process quicker and more affordable.'

Speaking on the unit itself, Gordon said that the Inoca is 'simple, light and extremely quiet' compared with other units and had already received interest from Africa and Asia.

Gordon concluded with the hope that if automating vaccinations is feasible for fish, the same can be done for humans – having been awarded a feasibility study grant by Innovate UK to look into this.

For more information on Aqualife Services click, HERE.

For more information on UMi Debt Finance Scotland click, HERE.

Image credit: UMi Debt Finance Scotland

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