One of the most-traded food commodities worldwide is, Fish with developing nations exporting the most of fish to the rest of the world. According to representatives and experts from the food industry, the oceans and inland waters exhibit colossal window of opportunity- even more in the coming future- contributing to food security and adequate nutrition of the growing population worldwide. Aquaculture is the “breeding, rearing, and harvesting of animals and plants in all types of water environments.” Experts believe that aquaculture is one of the most efficient and sustainable ways to produce protein- thereby, catering to nutrition needs and food security in many parts of the world. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA Fisheries) a US government body responsible for studying, analysis, and protecting the nation’s ocean resources and their habitat, in 2014 alone, the value of the aquaculture market was US$160 billion.

Fish produced from aquaculture is mostly meant for human consumption, however, the by-products are used for non-food purposes. The global aquaculture market is predominantly dominated by Asia (89 percent), with China accounting for almost 62 percent, followed by India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Egypt. Leeching on the opportunity, “startups in seafood and aquaculture technology, raised US$193 million in 2016, a 271% increase on the US$52 million raised across both 2014 and 2015”, according to Agfunder, a leading platform for accredited investors looking to invest in curated food and agriculture technology companies. Additionally, the ‘2030 Agenda’ adopted by United Nations member states in 2015,  “sets aims for the contribution and conduct of fisheries and aquaculture towards food security and nutrition in the use of natural resources so as to ensure sustainable development in economic, social and environmental terms.”

This brings us to the next part. What more can be done to enhance and improve aquaculture production? Enter Internet of Things (IoT) that has taken the world by storm. Established players and startups are leveraging the power of IoT to develop technologies that pulls data from various sensors and satellites. The massive data recovered from such sensors is put to use to make aquaculture operations more efficient and eco-friendly using cloud-based analytic software tools.

Predictive Software, Cloud-Platforms, and Counting Fish Larvae among More IoT Technologies to Drive Aquaculture

Predictive Platform for Shrimps: Recently, Cargill, a key player in the aquaculture market, launched a predictive software platform that uses machine learning to help farmers manage risks and make better decisions in shrimp farming. Experts believe that this platform will help the shrimp farming industry as shrimps are often exposed to disease and weather risks. Data such as shrimp size, health, quality of water, feeding patterns and weather conditions can be collected by farmers using mobile devices, sensors and, automated feeders. The farmers then make sense of the data using algorithms and make informed decisions regarding feeding strategies and favorable harvest dates. Using IoT-enabled sensors and software, an Indonesian startup is helping shrimps farms to monitor water quality. Conditions like dissolved oxygen, temperature, humidity, pH, salinity and total dissolved solids is measured by this all-in-one device and the data is instantly accessible on a smartphone application. Employing specific algorithms, the data is then used for making corrective actions.

Weather Predicting Technology for Oysters: The Yield is an IoT-powered platform made especially for oyster farming industry uses sensors to collect climate-related data like water temperature and depth, salinity, barometric pressure in the water and sea-tide height- which is then used for a three- day weather prediction on harvesting conditions.

Fish Counting Made Easy: A Canada-based aquaculture-focused startup launched a technology empowered by AI and computer vision to better control fish inventories in fish farms and hatcheries. This IoT-enabled device helps in counting shrimp larvae. The device named XperCount- that allows people one person to count up to five bags of larvae in about 25 minutes, is connected to a portal where consumers can access data and analytics related to counting in the fisheries and hatcheries.

Watching Fish Behavior: An IoT device that runs on solar energy using sensors and machine learning to detect fish behavior and if the fish is ready to be fed was added to the aquaculture industry. Experts believe that the device named UmiGarden is important when it comes chances exercising caution interms of overfeeding. The device uses computer-vision technology for facial recognition to study fish behavior. Additionally, UmiGarden also uses satellite imagery resources to leverage data about environmental conditions, which might affect fish behavior including water temperature. Additionally, Indonesia-based eFishery launched a smartphone-controlled automatic fish feeder that uses sensors to track hungry fish. Experts believe that hungry fish become aggressive creating more turbulence and ripples in the water- sending a signal to the sensors.

IoT for Deep Ocean Research: Scientific agency NOAA and other research institutions have been collectively studying Deep Ocean life through various offshore ranches. NOAA and other research institutions use Navy Oceanographic Meteorological Automatic Device (NOMAD) that helps them to collect and transmit diverse oceanographic data. This data is then used for assessing environmental footprint and optimize farming operations accordingly. An addition to this facility, a device named Cytobot was introduced- enabled with microscope and machine vision that detects harmful algae growth in deep ocean.

What’s next? 

Considering that the consumption of fish is on an all-time rise, fish farming is witnessing an overhaul worldwide and exploring ways to make it more efficient and fruitful in terms of breeding and quality and quantum of production. From using artificial intelligence for monitoring and behavioral analysis of species to machine learning for analytics and predictive modeling, the fish farming sector is continually leveraging the power of IoT. Additionally, mergers and acquisitions will further solidify the IoT trend in aquaculture boosting the market further.

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