Smart control and monitoring of aquaculture systems
by Dr Andreas Mäck, Senect, Germany
From ponds, raceways and net pens up to recirculation systems
In these days, and presumably much more in the future, fish farming faces changing environmental conditions. Among them, varying water supply, due to different rainfall patterns or elevated temperatures during the summer months, are the most critical ones for fish farms. That´s why environmental monitoring or, even better, the control of environmental parameters, becomes more and more important for future fish farming methods.
On the other hand, due to new biosecurity challenges like parasites or disease spreading, closed systems become more interesting for producers. Within this scenario, the monitoring and control technology of the German manufacturer SENECT comes into play.
The name SENECT originates from SEnsors, conNEct and aCT, which describes the idea behind the control system:
With sensors, many parameters, like the oxygen concentration or the state of pumps, are measured
This information is collected and combined, ensuring step three can take place
The control system is able to act automatically.
In most cases the SENECT technology will control the system completely on its own, but if something goes wrong, e.g. because of mechanical problems, the user will be alarmed. So, in general, the SENECT control system automatises processes, but also stays in touch with the user, who is able to see all the measurement data, graphs, states and statistics on his smartphone, tablet or PC / Mac.
The hardware of the system consists of sensors, actuators and controllers. For the sensors, SENECT aims to deliver precise sensors with the lowest maintenance required as possible. Examples, therefore, are the optical oxygen sensor O2S or the hydrostatic water level probe PS. The user-friendly "plug-and-play" system of the sensors makes it easy to install and has the advantage that any SENECT sensor can be connected to any SENECT controller.
The second category of devices are actuators – by definition, these are the ones which act. This could be, for example, a solenoid valve for the oxygen supply, an automatic fish feeder or a drum filter. SENECT offers a variety of actuators, but also third-party devices can be connected and controlled.
Both parts, the sensors and actuators, are connected to the control units, which are the heart of the control system. Every control unit can stand on its own, it just needs a power plug, but also several controllers can be combined via Wi-Fi to build up entire systems.
All control units are equipped with a display and a keypad, so that the user can always see the measurement values directly, e.g. when standing at the fish tanks. He can use the control unit and set all settings at the location -even with wet hands. This is, for example, useful if feeders should be manually paused during tank works, like fish sorting or cleaning. But, of course, the controllers can also be operated remotely by using smartphones, tablets or PCs/Mac.
Due to its modular architecture, the SENECT control technology can be used in small, medium or large farms – even on trucks. Just the number of control units differs. This brings the advantage that also replacement of third-party old systems is easy and can be done step-by-step.
It´s "plug and play" compatibility makes the installation quick, easy and avoids mistakes, which, in total, reduces the installation costs significantly. This makes it also possible to reuse the components also for other tasks, e.g. in case the aquaculture system will be modified or re-build.
Its robust, splash- and water-proof housing makes the technology suitable for outdoor applications like ponds, flow-through farms or net cages. From a functionality view, the controllers can not only be used for "simple" tasks like oxygen control, they can control entire aquaculture systems. They unwrap their full potential when they are used in recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS).
There, many processes depend on each other, e.g. the drum filter operation, the pumps and the hydraulics. That´s why the SENECT AQUACULTURE|CONTROL combines all these functions in one unit, and connects the information from the individual devices, to facilitate the robust and reliable operation of the entire RAS.
A simple example can illustrate this functionality: if there is a problem with any part of the filter, e.g. the spray pump is defected, the controller detects this by its water level measurements and tries to solve this problem by using its emergency algorithm. However, the controller cannot repair the pump and, therefore, the water level gets more and more problematic for the pumps.
If all emergency actions show no positive effect, the pumps are deactivated before they run dry. Of course, the user is alarmed in this process, e.g. when the filter cleans significantly more often compared to the average operation.
Though the SENECT technology can be installed by the fish farmers themselves, SENECT offers, together with its local partners, the full line of service – starting right from the planning, over the selection of the required technology components up to the installation, training and service. This makes SENECT to a reliable partner, taking over the responsibility of the control of aquaculture systems.