Using artificial intelligence to improve shrimp post-larvae quality


For years, aquaculture lagged far behind agriculture in the use of advanced technologies, which negatively affected efficiency, profits and sustainability across the industry. But recently, with the introduction of new technologies, we"re starting to see big changes in how fish and seafood are farmed.

Canadian technology company XpertSea is now bringing AI and related technologies to the aquaculture industry, which produces more than 50 percent of the sea-based protein consumed around the world.

Since 2011, XpertSea has developed solutions that transform aquaculture into a modern, efficient and sustainable source of food for our planet. The XpertSea platform replaces traditional hand-counting with precision hardware and software tools for rapidly counting and analysing aquatic species, with 95 percent accuracy or better.

Combining artificial intelligence, computer vision and the Internet of Things, the XpertSea solution is increasing the availability of quality food, reducing the environmental impact of food production, and improving profitability across the aquaculture food chain.

The future of aquaculture through animal data

In contrast to agriculture, much of the work performed in shrimp hatcheries is still done manually.

For example, counting is done by hand. Shrimp post-larvae are still sized by hand to determine growth and feed, and even health assessment is done by visual inspection. All of these methods are unreliable and time-consuming, and as a result the industry tends not to collect much animal data.

This creates real challenges, because in a livestock industry, the most important data to collect and understand is the animal data. However, the challenge is not only to collect animal data, but more importantly to collect accurate animal data that can provide important insights.

Data-driven decisions to modernise the shrimp industry and increase profitability

XpertSea has visited over 250 shrimp producers around the world. These on-site visits revealed that in Southeast Asia, shrimp farmers lose an average of 50 percent of their production solely due to practices that cause stress for the organisms and make them vulnerable to disease.

To solve this problem, XpertSea developed the XperCount, a smart device for counting and sizing early-stage aquatic organisms such as shrimp post-larvae and live feed. Made of FDA-approved materials, the device and its counting process are 100 percent safe for live aquatic organisms.

Known by customers as the "Magic Bucket," the XperCount is a portable device with a user-friendly touch screen. A fully connected device, it uploads data to an analytics platform that can be accessed from anywhere. With advanced cameras and sensors, the XperCount uses two different imaging concepts — optics and photonics — as well as machine learning to gather information. This eliminates the compromise between speed and accuracy found in traditional counting methods such as hand counting.

Using the XperCount is simple. After selecting the relevant app for the animal type to be counted, the technician follows directions on the touchscreen interface. Depending on the species, the technician places a sample of between 250 ml and several liters in the bucket. The XperCount then automatically counts the animals and calculates their length, while storing photos for visual assessment and record keeping. Data for different organisms and samples is stored in the cloud, so that quality parameters can be securely accessed from anywhere and tracked over time.

This business-friendly technological approach moves aquaculture inventory management firmly into the 21st Century. Having precise, reliable data empowers everyone along the aquaculture food chain to make informed business decisions, based on factors like the number of organisms in a production, their size and health, the amount of feed they required, the precise quantity of a shipment, and growth trends over time. Standardising these practices and making business transactions transparent is a giant leap forward for the aquaculture industry and a path to greater profits.

XpertSea continually works toward developing new counting applications to fit the needs of all types of aquaculture producers and to make the XperCount as flexible a device as possible. A host of applications are available to assess the quality control of shrimp nauplii and post-larvae (L. Vannamei and P. Monodon) well as artemia nauplii, rotifers and various types of microalgae (Chaetoceros; Nannochloropsis; Thalassiosira; Skeletonema; Tetraselmis; Isochrysis; Odontella; Chlorella). Applications for Nile Tilapia larvae and Rainbow Trout eggas and larvae) will soon be released.

Hatchery benefits

Shrimp hatcheries using the XpertSea solution can rapidly optimise the accuracy of their post-larvae production while gaining new insights that lead to better business decisions. Shrimp hatchery managers save time and money by eliminating time-consuming hand counting and hand sizing.

Production managers maximise post-larvae survival by packing the right amount and improve their relationships with buyers by providing independent proof of the total shipment quantity. They also reduce production costs and avoid wasting feed by knowing the exact number of their organisms.

Quality control managers improve live feed culture management by tracking microalgae cell density and artemia hatching rates to optimise their harvest and product quality. The XperCount also allows them to limit the impact of disease by keeping their organisms healthy with optimised stocking densities and feeding. And with the online portal, decision makers can track growth and quality with informative and easy to understand reporting from anywhere and at any time.

Farm benefits

The benefits of this technological approach are many. Shrimp farmers can keep their animals healthy and optimally fed by precisely stocking the perfect amount. They can quickly and accurately evaluate each shipment they receive and monitor their animals during grow-out.

Farmers can sample supplier runs with the XperCount to analyse quality parameters and visually inspect physical characteristics before purchasing. By keeping track of performance, they can choose the best suppliers and increase yield.

Research centre benefits

Academics using the XperCount are now able to accurately count various types of live feed and a wide range of aquatic animals. They can remove human error and variability with consistent and automated data acquisition. They can also eliminate time-consuming and strenuous hand counting and sizing through using the device.

Canadian technology to help feed the world

XpertSea employs more than 35 people in specialties from machine learning and computer vision to data science, software engineering and animal nutrition, with local representatives and partners in Asia, South America and Europe.

With this new technology used in 48 countries, shrimp producers can now get accurate data enabling them to make informed decisions. With more than 10 billion organisms counted and more than 100,000 aquaculture production reports uploaded on the platform, aquaculture producers are improving their processes, increase their yields, and operating in a more sustainable manner.

by Valerie Robitaille, CEO of XpertSea

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