MULTIZONE AUTOMATIC FEEDING SYSTEM
by Westair, France
Why make things complex when they can be simple? That"s the question French engineer Sébastien Termet asked himself, when he was approached by a fish farmer to come up with a feeding system.
The first Westair product was built in his garage, and the unique solution he came up with was delivered to the customer, who was delighted with the results. That was in 2017, and now Westair"s workshop in Brittany designs and builds systems for the transfer of a variety of substances via pipes, along with equipment for dosing, cleaning and pipe inspection, as well as providing after-sales service.
The Multizone® automatic feeding system for aquaculture is a direct development of that very first system, built in Sébastien"s garage, the key to which is the unique Multiway® three-way valve that makes it possible to route a variety of powders and liquids through a network to deliver feed in precise quantities as required, based around the concept of real-time feeding.
Feed passes from storage silos to the DosAir® dosing management system, which routes all feed along a single pipe way, fitted with Multiway® valves, leading to each cage or tank in the farm, with options for one or more feeders for each tank.
"To keep the system clean, we came up with the CleanPipe®", Henri Herledan, CEO, says.
"This is a mechanical crawler that passes through the pipes in between feed deliveries, and it automatically removes condensation, or any sludge left in the pipes, making sure that they remain clean all the time."
The smart ideas that go into Westair"s systems don"t end there, as the package includes a control and management system, based around a single PC coupled to a pocket controller, that can be used to stop and start feeding processes.
"The touchscreen PC is loaded with all the software needed to manage the whole site, while the pocket controller is also ideal for remote locations," Henri Herledan says.
"There are also remote control options and site managers can control, monitor and check systems and equipment status via remote PC, tablet or smartphone," he says and explains that the Multizone® system collates data from a variety of sensors throughout an aquaculture installation, measuring oxygen and NH4 levels, temperature and water turbidity, and it communicates constantly with the feeder software, interrupting the feed process and flagging up an alert if parameters are exceeded.
"The intention is to replicate natural feeding patterns as far as possible, and to minimise losses of both feed and fish, and we aim to minimise power consumption, while also being able to offer consultation with our partners to provide options for utilising renewables, such as solar, wind and hydro-electric power sources," he says.
"We design our equipment, so it takes the best possible care of your fish."
Today, Westair continues to develop under the management of Henri Herledan, who initially joined the company as its Sales Director. A few months ago, Sébastien Termet stepped down from managing the company, passing the role over to Henri, and leaving Sébastien free to concentrate on his real passion, focusing on the technical side of the business and developing further innovations.
Henri Herledan has been overseeing the company"s robust growth, since he took over the helm as Westair"s CEO.
In fact, a number of Multizone® installations are currently underway, or under consideration by fish farmers in several countries, with some of them expecting to receive European funding within the coming weeks. Behind each of these is a project, aimed at building a new installation or extending an existing one, upgrading production facilities with the goals of improving hygiene, protecting both animal and human health, and raising the quality of each farm"s production.
Alexis Cleret"s fish farm, based in Monchel sur Canches in northern France, was the first to be fitted out with a Multizone® system last summer, and the results made an immediate impression on him.
"Sébastien Termet came to see me last winter to show me diagrams of the Multiway® valve. I was impressed with the 3D presentation. I thought the valve looked reliable, and as there is only one straight pipe, the pellet will not degrade," Alexis says.
"I liked Sebastien"s approach. He clearly didn"t come to see me to sell his valve. He came to find out what he could do to adapt his ideas. He wanted to make a system for us fish farmers and was making a big effort to meet a real need. My feeling at the time was that this could turn out to be a good system, and Sébastien explained about a new generation system with a flow of information, with the sensors gathering data and feeding it to the software. Any fault is detected and can be managed, which makes this system unique."
Sébastien started testing his prototype in a fish farm in Brittany but the trials were restricted by a water shortage, so Alexis Cleret offered to do the trials at his farm.
"It was very impressive that Sébastien was determined to come up with a machine that was as simple as possible and which required a minimum of maintenance," Alexis comments.
"He was determined to make a market-friendly system that worked well. "Between us, we"ll find the right solution," was what Sébastien Termet told me," Alexis Cleret says, adding that bringing the fish farmers and engineers together was the way to develop the new-generation automatic feeding system that Sébastien Termet had envisaged right from the outset.
Multizone® was born
This feeding system has many advantages. According to Alexis Cleret, his location is a busy one, with numerous regular deliveries taking place and a constant flow of leisure fishermen making their way through the site, particularly during the summer months. Installing the Multizone® system has simplified working practises significantly, and prior to this, feeding had been highly time-consuming.
"It reduces our manual workload," he explained. "We spent a lot of time handling and transporting food in small vehicles or in wheelbarrows, depending on the location on the farm, while the Multizone® system transports the granulate very quickly, and without degrading it.
"Generally, the fish farmer has the time to feed the fish only two-to-three times per day, whereas the Multizone® feeds three, four or five times per day, if necessary, spread over time and in a precisely defined sequence. This means that the oxygen consumption in each basin is optimised."
In fact, the Multizone® system spends more time distributing food than carrying it. The system takes the time to feed the fish.
"We do not stuff the fish with food," says Alexis. "But feeding has become more regular, so we have a better oxygen consumption, and the wellbeing of the fish and their digestion are improved. The transformation ratio should therefore also be better!"
Another important point is that the system feeds every day of the week.
Previously, we did not feed on Sunday, which was to give ourselves a break, but this wasn"t ideal for the fish," Alexis added. "But now the machine feeds automatically and we can also take it easy on Sundays."
An innovative technological advancement
Philippe Jorgensen, one of the owners of Abbeville-based Jorgensen Piscicultures in northern France, one of the largest producers of its kind, has been taking a very close look at the Multizone® system.
"The valve and the single pipe are what interest me. This is a true three-way valve, and it"s a genuine technological innovation. It"s compact and easy to change if any problems occur," Philippe Jorgensen said. "I can see that there are many advantages to this system. Feed distribution is simultaneous across the site and standardised. It provides the capability to feed more frequently, and the system as a whole is modest in size."
Jorgensen"s interest is in optimising its conversion ratio, and in freeing up time that could instead be devoted to maintenance and management.
"I"m convinced that Multizone® has the potential to help achieve these goals," he said.
Further projects are being examined by Westair"s team for farms in other countries, both in Europe and elsewhere.
The aquaculture sector has seen a strong growth since the 1950s. A shortage of resources, growing populations and steadily rising demand have led to a production boom. Nevertheless, this growth has to take place in compliance with increasingly stringent regulations and standards in terms of human health and animal welfare. This is where the Multiway® valve brings a real added value.
The Multizone® system optimises the entire feeding process, by routing the correct amount of feed, at the optimal rate, at the right time, under optimum hygienic conditions. The feed is spread evenly across each basin, which leads to better fish growth, as this feeding pattern means there are no longer dominant and dominated fish. The Multizone® system helps fish farms to improve their profitability as it feeds the fish more efficiently. The loss of feed is less, and the fish grows faster, consequently reducing its time in the tank.
This automatic feeding system reduces labour associated with manual infeed. The Multizone® system provides significant opportunities to optimise production, and enables the development of a sustainable, cost-efficient and safe aquaculture industry.
"We are currently working on a micro-dose feeding process for hatcheries, rearing, laboratories from 150µ à 1000µ pellets," says Henri Herledan.
At the end of last summer, for the first time at the International AQUA 2018 Congress in Montpellier, Westair introduced the Multizone®, automatic feeding system. We welcomed a large number of visitors from all over the world on our stand, including fish farmers, potential distributors, scientists, feed manufacturers, and other interested parties.
"We envisage that the Multiway® system will be used in a variety of industry sectors, including food, alcohol, cosmetic, pharmaceutical industries, oil and gas, and others. It makes it possible to streamline industrial processes, by reducing the amount of pipework needed. The system is also extremely easy to clean, and so it meets even the strictest hygiene requirements. Anywhere there"s a pipe, Multiway® can be installed," Henri Herledan says.
With patented innovations, that can deliver many substances with precision dosing, and a perfectly hygienic result, Westair offers its customers progressive transfer solutions.
Westair and its growing team of experts have numerous ambitious projects in progress.