Atlantic Salmon farming in Switzerland: How a group of companies are collaborating to bring the industry to the heart of the country
Swiss Blue Salmon, in collaboration with Billund Aquaculture, announce that they will be designing & building a 3400m/t whole round Atlantic Salmon farm next to the idyllic Walensee in the heart of Switzerland.
The location of the project was chosen based on it having the perfect trifactor that includes an abundance of high-quality water, ease access to power and other key utilities and the nearest major market (Zürich)is less than 1hr away.
Swiss Blue Salmon's vision of becoming the smartest farm in the world is not driven by financial incentives or for that matter having a fancy title, but rather by an ambition and vision of wanting to participate in the charge of farming salmon locally in a sustainable manner.
This vision will require continuous improvements and a strong network where it will collaborate with our strategic partners, such as Billund Aquaculture, ReelData, amongst others. The company believes that the benefits linked to these emerging technologies, such as machine learning, could crudely be divided into four categories:
- Operational Expenses: Reduced feed waste, enhance fish growth, reduce costs associated with maintenance etc.
- Risk Mitigation: Reduce biological, mechanical, and electrical operational risks and keep a tighter control to eliminate human-error and any subsequent impact of incidents.
- Animal Welfare: Improve fish health and water quality, identification of stress events, and increase product quality.
- Other factors: Improved transparency, increased customer satisfaction and trust amongst investors & creditors, enhanced inhouse decision-making, and a more sustainable profile for the
AI solutions are still under development and there's no doubt that the company has only scratched the surface of what the potential is with these within aquaculture. It will therefore be critical to set up the fish farms as flexible as possible for any future solutions to be implemented with strategy aspects automated from the start.
Gaining a better understanding
The company will of course include Machine Learning (ML) technologies already in the market from companies such as ReelData and work in collaboration with them on further advances. ReelData's autonomous feeding systems setup will be integrated as a crucial part from the start.
This system will help the company to gain a better understanding of the fish appetite and subsequently cater to it. This will help it to thereby reduce overfeeding and optimise growth from the start. The company also expects to see a better average water quality and overall animal welfare as a result of this enhanced control of the feeding regime.
Swiss Blue Salmon's vision of becoming the smartest farm in the world and subsequently retaining that 'title' will depend on how good it is at staying innovative. It has therefore committed itself to participating in the development of new solutions with a range of strategy partners, which it believes will give it a competitive advantage.
Its partners will also be able to tap into hundreds, if not thousands of sensors onsite in combination with supplier data, photos, videos, and onsite in person measurements & observations. This data collection will over time become the backbone of Swiss Blue Salmon's future improvements linked to both economical and environmental aspects, which it sees as part of the 'Wheel of Innovation.'
A high level of cybersecurity
Swiss Blue Salmon will store all of the data on a Cloud based platform, which provides a high level of cybersecurity. The sharing of data from the Cloud platform would ultimately be controlled by Swiss Blue Salmon and give it ultimate control over who has access to it.
Keeping in mind that the company aim to give access to an unprecedented amount of farming data to our strategic partners allowing them to gain a deeper understanding of the inner workings of these immensely complex facilities.
The company will, in return, become their first point of contact for future ideas whether it's hardware,
software, biological processes etc. Its setup especially opens up for more possibilities when it comes to ML, as it's not restricting the learning process to a certain amount of parameters, but rather giving it the opportunity to see correlations between parameters, which it wouldn't be able to find itself. This will undoubtedly yield some interesting results down the line
Developing strategic partnerships
The company also recognises that it's important also to develop strategic partnerships within the
academic world. The young minds of the future will be key with regards to its ability to stay innovative and they're often not constrained by preconception, hence they're more prone to thinking outside the
Swiss Blue Salmon is therefore working on building up relationships with well renowned Universities in Switzerland such as ETH Zürich, ZHAW, and EAWAG.
With regards to sustainability – this is not just a word to Swiss Blue Salmon but it is also a mantra. The company has been exploring multiple different avenues when it comes to improving the overall footprint of its finished products. At this stage it has identified three major aspects which required a significant dedication from it to bring Swiss Blue Salmon to the top of the class.
First off, recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) plants have always been pointed out to have an above the norm energy consumption when compared to net pen production. The company therefore need to reduce the amount of power required and find sustainable energy sources. Its investigations have led to significant decrease in power consumption from the grid through the following initiatives:
- Cooling of the fish farm will come through the use of a passive
- The heating setup will be based on two parts, with the primary part being passive heat recovery to ensure an optimised usage of active heating source. The active heating will come from a highly efficient heat pump system.
- Swiss Blue Salmon will furthermore utilise highly efficient air heat recovery system which will enable it to further bring down its heating and cooling demands.
- In combination with renewable energy from the grid, an onsite solar panel installation will ensure the company secures a green power profile.
Swiss Blue Salmon
The second leg of Swiss Blue Salmon's quest for higher sustainability is linked to how it processes the fish and especially what it does with its in excess of 1000mt of annual waste, or side streams as it calls them. There are a range of good upcycling potentials, which stretch from making leather from the skin to delivering raw materials into the cosmetics and/or pharma industry.
The company therefore aim towards utilising the fish from 'nose to tail' and it will dedicate a substantial amount of time to solving this puzzle with yet another key strategy partner, Dantech – a company that has a longstanding history within processing plant optimisation and upcycling. Dantech are also specialists in linking the solution with the end users, hence bridge the gap that many face when finding actual off-takers to the upcycled products.
Thirdly, the last major challenge Swiss Blue Salmon sees within fish farming as a general is the footprint of the feed. This is not only linked to the energy consumed during sourcing, manufacturing, and delivery of the feed, but also towards the feed manufacturers efforts on finding new sustainable raw materials to produce their feeds from.
There's already a growing trend towards eliminating the fish-in/fish-out (FIFO) ratio, which is contributing to a reduction in overfishing of the oceans. The elimination of fish oil is one of the two components linked to FIFO, which is rapidly being replaced with products such as algae oils. The interesting aspect is that in some cases the algae-based products give an even higher content of omega-3 in the finished product, hence boosting the value of not only the main product, but also the side streams.
The company can therefore through conscientious choices improve the finished product such as filets, along with increasing the revenue of side streams. It's of course easy to say all these things, putting them into action is where the major challenge lies. And there can be no doubt that Swiss Blue Salmon are relying on experts from its strategic partners to help it to make the right choices through informed decisions.
The company expect to be challenged on its current perceptions, so that it can disrupt the status quo, and ultimately lift the bar for what is expected of a salmon producer.
Article contributed by Sune Moeller, CTO, Blue Swiss Salmon, Switzerland.