Automatic feeding systems for land-based aquaculture and sea farms
by Andrew Wilkinson, International Aquafeed
If you have ever considered whether you need an automatic feeding system in your fish farm, then this article is definitely for you. If the answer to this question is YES, then the next question is quite possibly, which type of system are you going to choose?
As you have probably already studied the different options offered across the market, this article will focus on Fish Farm Feeder's (FFF) centralised, pneumatic, automatic and customised aquaculture feeding systems.
First, in order for your fish farm's automation to be both efficient and cost effective, the automatic fish farm feeders must be located in a centralised position that is equally distant from all the fish farm's tanks.
This single measure saves on the installation of unnecessary pipes and consumption of electricity.
In theory, concentrating the feed in one machine should mean much greater robustness and reliability of the feeding process in your fish farm.
It is also worth bearing in mind that FFF's systems use the air from a compressor or blower to convey the feed from the silos to the tanks or cages. This feature offers fish farmers yet further reassurance as systems with applied pneumatic conveying technology are widely considered to cause the least damaging to the feed itself.
FFF also use specifically configured computer software to actuate a customised Feeding Plan (with programmed doses and hours) and an automaton or PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) to drive and control all the electrical and mechanical equipment that makes up the feeder.
This degree of automation in the programming allows the implementation of unattended feeding, allowing for a reduction in labour costs.
Customising the selector, silos, dispensers and blower
The equipment required to fully automate feeding at a fish farm is very extensive.
In order to correctly size an automated feeding system for aquaculture, the following factors need to be considered in order for the system to be fit for purpose.
The first of these considerations is the number of tanks or feeding points that are required, as each point will require a high density polyethylene pipe in order to connect the feeder to the tank. The maximum quantity in grams per tank and day will also need to be established in order to prevent the usual array of issues commonly associated with either underfeeding or overfeeding from occurring.
By indicating the number of pellets and the different sizes required, the feeder can then be specifically configured to meet the needs of the particular farm.
These needs can be further met by also establishing the maximum distance in metres from the feeder to the tank located furthest from the feeder and the maximum estimated consumption per day in the fish farm.
Fish Farm Feeder also suggest that ascertaining the number of hours that the fish can eat and be fed during, as well as the maximum number of doses that are required distributed per tank and per day can be delivered, will ensure that your operation remains effective and profitable.
Data and automation
Aquaculture feeding systems must be sized not only according to feeding criteria, but also according to the systems intended final application.
For example, during the hatchery, pre-growing and on-growing stages in aquaculture, each stage has its own requirements and feeding needs. These variations therefore do not allow for a single feeder design that caters for the very specific needs for all of these feeding stages.
By adhering to their own standards and guidelines, as well as industry specific legislation, Fish Farm Feeder aim to design a feeder for a fish farm that is tailored for each fish farm's needs.
In a hatchery for example, micro diets can go from 150 microns to 1000 microns, with doses that can go from two grams up to 100 grams each.
Then, in the pre-growing phase, the pellets can range from 1mm to 4mm. The indicative minimum dose size in this instance is 100 grams, with the maximum being set at 10 times the minimum.
Then, in the on-growing phase, the pellets can be of any size from 5mm and over, with indicative dose size of 500 grams and maximum of 10 times the minimum.
The maximum recommended feeding distances in land-based aquaculture will be around 400 metres, with the possibility of up to 800 metres at sea.