The next generation of RAS aquaculture
by NederSnir, CTO, AquaMaof Aquaculture Technologies
The increasing number of aquaculture facilities based on Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) technology, both already operating and under construction, is testament to the fact that this technology is proving to be highly advantageous. NederSnir, CTO of AquaMaof Aquaculture Technologies, explores the advanced RAS techniques and technologies that will be employed in the next generation of land-based aquaculture installations, discussing the company's unique, multidisciplinary approach to indoor fish production.
Much has been written about the rapid increase in the number of onshore aquaculture facilities. This is due to several factors, among them increased demand for seafood due to population growth and a greater understanding of the nutritional benefits of eating fish; increased pollution of seas and oceans and over-fishing, resulting in a decline in fish populations around the globe; and a growing awareness of the significant environmental advantages of closed-containment, RAS-based aquaculture technology. It is this last element that is the key to securing a sustainable future for aquaculture.
Advantages of RAS technology
RAS technology offers several significant advantages over other existing aquaculture methods. Growing fish in a land-based, closed and controlled environment reduces the risk of disease contamination; no antibiotics or disease treatments are involved in a normal production process, so the fish produced are healthier; and water motion in the rearing tanks allows the growers to exercise the fish, which in some fish species results in a more natural fat and tissue composition.
Since RAS technology is not entirely dependent on proximity to a specific water source, the facility can be built close to market, resulting in a shorter time from water to plate, and reduced transportation costs. Another advantage is that the advanced filtering capabilities of RAS significantly reduce water pollution from feed, faeces and chemical waste, making it a much more sustainable alternative to other aquaculture methods.
In terms of efficiency and productivity, RAS enables continuous harvest all year round, and fish grow to commercial size faster when compared with other methods. Faster growth usually means better conversion of feed to fish mass, overall lower impact on the entire production chain and lower cost of production, thanks to the complete control of water temperature, and the ability of RAS to maintain optimum oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
Leading the way to advanced RAS-based installations
Dozens of RAS-based installations are successfully operating around the world, and as seafood industry stakeholders and financial investors increasingly recognise the many significant advantages of RAS technology, we are seeing greater demand for these facilities.
AquaMaof is a unique coming-together of aquaculture veterans and professionals, each competent in a broad array of sub-disciplines of aquaculture. Gary Myers, for example, is an aquaculture veteran with 40 years' experience, multiple patents issued and a pioneer of new-age aquaculture. AquaMaof professionals have been developing tailored RAS-based projects worldwide for well over a decade, using experience and knowledge gained in ichthyology, biosecurity, physics, chemistry, biology, process engineering, mechanical and electrical engineering, health safety and environmental engineering, civil engineering, and more.
The following are some of the advantages of our RAS-based aquaculture solution:
• 100 percent of the recirculated water from the fish tanks is processed through the main filtering complex
• Proprietary technology and Oxygen-Dissolving System – delivering more oxygen for less energy, with oxygen generated on site; recovering waste heat; and regulating the oxygen level in each tank, capable of delivering large quantities of dissolved oxygen during peak demand
• Low Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR) – achieved through optimised feeding modes, an advanced feed management system and optimal water conditions
• Fish channel for fish transfer through water – an economical, simple and safe way to move large numbers of fish through the production chain, from stocking to grading, to market
• Minimal maintenance – smart selection and allocation of system components result in a robust facility
• Minimal Liquid Discharge (MLD) – achieved through the implementation of proprietary water-reuse technologies.
A technological revolution
So, what will the next generation of RAS-based aquaculture facilities look like? As in almost any other industrial field, next-gen aquaculture will harness existing advanced technologies, using them to refine professional techniques to further streamline operations and improve facility performance in a variety of ways. Here are some examples of how this will be achieved.
The next generation of land-based aquaculture installations will make much more extensive use of automation, in two main areas:
• Computerisation systems, used for information gathering, analysis, troubleshooting, raising alerts, and inventory management – these will automatically provide crucial, real-time data for operators and management
• In technical activities such as scheduled maintenance, harvesting, grading and counting, dissolved-gas control, temperature control and more, which in the next-gen facilities will not involve human handling, enhancing bio-security and reducing human error
This automation and data insight will result in key advantages: it will allow us to increase the level of quality assurance; it will enable the successful operation of much larger installations; and it will allow for better utilisation of environmental conditions and enhanced understanding of the intricate dynamics between fish performance and RAS components.
By carrying out a process of site-specific optimisation, we aim to tailor each fish-farm facility to the specific site, resulting in a reduction in the space required and the streamlining of all stages of the work process.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI technologies will be used in the very near future. AquaMaof has begun to develop AI, using data mining and analytics in three stages:
Stage One - The facility's main data processor collects vast amounts of information that will be fed into a centralised AI system for analysis, to produce indicators on which future decision can be based;
Stage Two - The system will be 'taught' to recognise and predict patterns, using machine learning techniques to identify problematic processes. This knowledge will allow the system to generate predictions and early warnings of imminent malfunction;
Stage Three - The system will become 'independent', with a certain degree of control that will enable it to deal independently or request permission to deal with any problems that are detected, and prevent them before a malfunction occurs.
Advanced technologies will be employed to monitor criteria such as water and environmental conditions, to enable more accurate control of all relevant parameters for the system and for the fish themselves, resulting in lower production costs and improved quality of the final product.
Process improvements and enhancements
Almost every stage of the process will be updated and improved, including feeding, lighting and colour, microbiological biome control, tank-flow dynamics, and interaction of biological and chemical processes in the water. This will enhance overall production efficiency and allow upscaling of the facilities, resulting in reduced costs of production.
Since 2016, AquaMaof has owned a RAS-based facility designed and built by the company in Poland, of which private equity fund 8F has recently become joint-owner. Located near Warsaw, Poland, this facility serves as our R&D and training centre, giving us the unique capability to continue to rapidly develop our land-based indoor aquaculture solutions.
We are currently conducting trials with a whole range of advanced technologies, with the aim of creating a complete ecosystem that incorporates a variety of different technologies into RAS technology, to further streamline the process, reduce operating costs and reduce the carbon footprint of each future installation. We are already growing Atlantic salmon to market size (of between five-to-six kilogrammes) there.
These are exciting times in the field of aquaculture, with new technologies increasingly being deployed to enhance the whole process, from A to Z. By leveraging cutting-edge technologies and tailoring them to the needs of the industry, we ensure that aquaculture installations of the future will be more sustainable, deliver improved efficiency and productivity, and reduced costs while enhancing fish quality.