Aquaculture 4.0 with Smalle Technologies

Smalle Technologies plan to contribute to the sustainability effort to ensure the security of food supplies, energy and natural resources, as part of their Aquaculture 4.0 strategy.

Smalle Technologies wants to contribute to the global food, energy and natural resources sustainability through innovation in Blue Growth sectors such as aquaculture or offshore clean energy – they are part of the Blue Economy, aligned with the Aquaculture 4.0 strategy.

The aquaculture industry is revolutionising in order to meet the enormous demand for seafood in Europe. Historically, demand has outweighed production and therefore leads to a hefty dependence on external markets. With the emergence of “Industry 4.0”, European aquaculture is applying innovative and disruptive technologies in order to transform fishery management strategies.
“Industry 4.0” is a term given to the current trend of data exchange and automation in manufacturing technologies. According to Epicor, Industry 4.0 takes the emphasis on digital technology from recent decades to a whole new level with the help of interconnectivity through the Internet of Things (IoT), access to real-time data, and the introduction of cyber-physical systems. Cyber-physical systems have the ability to make decentralised decisions, track material processes and create a virtual copy of the physical world. Over IoT, cyber-physical systems communicate and co-operate with each other and with humans in real-time. These systems are located in decentralised plants known as “Smart Factories” which have the capability to run autonomously with the intelligence to self-correct. Industry 4.0 is still in its infancy but has incredible growth potential in the European manufacturing sector. The so-called “4th industrial revolution” is projected to allow a 15-20% increase in the sector by the year 2030. In addition to the growth the revolution can provide, the benefits of Industry 4.0 include improved productivity, efficiency and reduced costs. Companies will be able to produce more, in less time, while allocating resources more effectively.

However, becoming a “Smart Factory” doesn’t happen overnight and comes with a cost. In addition to monetary costs to implement the technology, IT security issues that can arise due to the massive exchange of data between manufacturing systems. Also, companies will have to decentralise decision making due to the digitalisation of the value chain, which completely changes the management structure of many plants. Nevertheless, companies that employ the technologies of Industry 4.0 will see an immense drop in operation costs and material waste.

Aquaculture 4.0

The agricultural sector is going to face substantial challenges in order to sustainably feed the 9.6 billion people that the FAO predicts are going to inhabit the planet by 2050. Food production must increase by 70% and this has to be achieved in spite of the limited availability of arable lands. The European Commission, in the H2020 Innovation Action Call of October 2017, introduced the term “Aquaculture 4.0”. This term embodies the application of Industry 4.0 technologies to aspects of the Aquaculture sector, such as the development of sustainable smart breeding programs and feeding methods. Using real-time data analysis with cloud computing processes, companies are able to predict future events and have tighter control over farming activities. Technology implementation, such as Recirculation Aquaculture Systems (RAS), aides in a company’s process of becoming more efficient and sustainable. Another example is the Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture, which consists of the cultivation of different species in a way that uneaten food and wastes of one of the species are issued to feed other species.

Real Time Tracking

The quality of water is one of the most crucial aspects of appropriately raising fish. Depending on the species, some fish require very precise conditions in order to properly grow. Commonly required facets for suitable growth include dissolved oxygen concentration, water current, pH, salinity, turbidity and hardness. Today, traditional farming entails periodic, on-site measurements of water quality to ensure the adequacy of the living conditions of the fish in their immediate environment. These water parameters are traditionally measured by technical staff using hand-held instruments, taking a reduced number of recordings during the working hours. However, as we’ve seen in the past, a fluctuation of any of these water variables can occur within a matter of hours. These sudden changes could potentially to lead to undesirable effects such as poor growth, undetected disease symptoms and/or death of the fish.

In addition to the benefits real-time monitoring of water brings to fish farming activities, this technology can also substantially mitigate water pollution. The amount of oil and fuel spilt every day is staggering and effects the quality of life for marine animals. Unfortunately, with a large amount of traffic in the oceans each day, oil spills are inevitable. However, the current technology in place does not have the ability to quickly detect spills when they occur. This causes the oil to spread and potentially continue to pour into the water for long periods of time. Moreover, bacterial contamination in coastal waters can be troublesome, particularly in tourist areas. In order to combat these issues, real-time tracking and response technology needs to be in place to reduce the effect of pollution in water.

An example of a supervision and control system that could significantly reduce the effect of oil spills is ShieldForcis, designed by Smalle Technologies. ShieldForcis is a system to control and protect marine pollution in port areas, mainly hydrocarbons. The system contains a network of sensors and UV fluorescence installed at certain points from the port to detect marine pollution. The data is transmitted in real time and wirelessly to SmalleData, the Smalle Tech acquisition and Visualisation Technologies. ShieldForcis integrates three aspects to appropriately act upon a spill. First, there is a detection system put in place. The system uses sensors which can be installed on a land firm or in buoys anchored to the same harbor. When a pollutant is detected, the system immediately conveys the information in real time to SmalleData and the containment system gets activated. The containment system is the second aspect of this technology and it consists of a series of high-density polyethene (HDPE) pipes. The pipes are perforated in the upper part and embedded in the bottom of the port through concrete weights, forming a perimeter around a determined area. When air is injected into the tubes through a system of compression, the tubes release bubbles and form a vertical air barrier from the bottom to the surface. The air barrier confines hydrocarbon (or other pollutants) in a small space. At the moment the control system picks up the presence of an active pollutant, the barrier system immediately acts in the area in which the hydrocarbon has been detected. Finally, the third part of ShieldForcis technology is the verification system. The verification system consists of a high definition camera with color vision and infrared. The system can be installed in a fixed location or in a marine drone, supplemented with florescent UV sensors as well. The use of infrared allows the detection of hydrocarbons or other pollutants in water in conditions of reduced visibility.

Continually, in the field of water pollution control, Smalle Technologies provides a solution that performs real-time bacteria detection in coastal areas. The contamination of recreational waters, such as beaches and lakes, with fecal bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E. coli) can compromise the safety of the swimmers and also result in financial loss and or reputational damage. The autonomous sensor system designed by Smalle Tech comprises a self-powered buoy with a multi-parametric electronic sensor installed in it. That sensor can provide real-time information of the water Total Coliforms and (optionally) other parameters, such as Ammonia, Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD). Moreover, the information obtained can be sent continuously to the coast (or the cloud) using a wireless transmission equipment included in the sensor system. This data can trigger an alarm system, or it can be monitored through a dashboard in SmalleData.

Smalle Technologies in aquaculture 4.0

Smalle Technologies is a spin-off of the University of Barcelona, established as a company in 2012. They develop products and services for real-time monitoring in marine fish farms and explore new sources of clean energy in order to decrease fossil fuel dependency and help repair the environment. The team consists of physicists and engineers focused on research, development, and innovation. Smalle Technologies wants to contribute to the global food, energy and natural resources sustainability through innovation in Blue Growth sectors such as Aquaculture or offshore clean energy, and are part of the Blue Economy, aligned with the Aquaculture 4.0 strategy.

Hector Martin
Smalle Tehnologies SL


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