Innovation in sustainable aquaculture

Steffen Kildal explains how Askvik Aqua AS is improving sustainability in aquaculture with novel simplicity and advanced Pulse Electric Field solutions

Norwegian technology company Askvik Aqua has, despite its relatively short lifespan, taken point in developing several novel tools for the aquaculture industry. Founded in 2015 with the purpose of developing a novel sea lice treatment method, the company has since instigated and completed several development projects that have resulted in concrete tools that are put to use against sea lice challenges in Norwegian aquaculture. Solutions span from electric fish traps to crowding nets that prevent the re-infestation of sea lice on salmonids and high-tech Pulse Electric Field parasite control for Closed Containment Aquaculture Systems.

Repetitive treatments are harmful to the fish

Sea lice is the single most important growth inhibitor of the salmon industry, and continuous operational efforts to mitigate this problem, unfortunately, lead to increasing animal welfare issues. Frequently repeated treatments against sea lice, often separated only by days or weeks, cause serious health problems for the salmon. Chemical and medical methods are almost non-viable, as sea lice have become resistant to the treatments after years of use. As candidate methods to fully prevent infestations yet are to be proven, the alternative methods are mostly mechanical and thermal, implicating that all the fish need to be moved from their pens to a ship-mounted treatment system.

The conventional method for moving fish is to crowd the population with a dedicated crowding net before transporting them in large pumps. As the fish are crowded and stressed, measurements indicate that more than 50% of the sea lice that inhabit the fish skin may be released to the sea. These escaped sea lice are still vital and may, within minutes or hours, reinfect the fish in the neighbouring pens or sites. With fish continuously reinfected, the harsh treatments need to be iterated every few weeks to keep infestations levels down, with serious impacts on fish health and welfare.

Reinfestations may be avoided

In close collaboration with major equipment producers AKVA Group – Egersund Net and OK Marine, and salmon farmer Bremnes Seashore, Askvik Aqua has developed a novel crowding net that collects released sea lice during the crowding process. The method greatly reduces the probability of excess iterations of treatments, securing better fish health, welfare and – as a consequence – improving growth, survival rates, and overall fish quality. The catchLICE™ net is fine-meshed and retains the sea lice while securing permeability for oxygen treatment and sound throughput of water. The procedure is very similar to that of conventional crowding and may even lighten the physical workload for operators.

The collaborating partners expect the full potential of catchLICE to be released with adding different sizes of the net to the portfolio, and with complementary products ensuring quick and easy handling, cleaning, and storage of the system.

Askvik Aqua will, even after product inauguration, be a part of the further development of the system, towards international markets as well as the Norwegian home market.

The Askvik way

Identifying the true needs of the customer is imminent to any successful product development, and Askvik Aqua only seeks out and solves those challenges that the fish farmers themselves have labelled as critical.

When the problem is well-defined, the next step is to identify partners who have the capabilities to contribute and accelerate the development processes before project plans are laid out. Askvik Aqua is situated in Ryfylke, an area densely populated with aquaculture production sites and companies in Norway’s south-west region. The company’s development processes have benefitted from strong collaboration with both suppliers and customers.

Delivery on the customer’s true needs is key to proving product value. Letting the customer co-identify the solutions in the project’s early stages provides important knowledge that streamlines development.

The Askvik portfolio

The Askvik Aqua team is clearly committed to innovating aquaculture processes and will continue to develop solutions for a more sustainable aquaculture industry. Thus far, in addition to the catchLICE solution, the portfolio covers:

  • The Electrofilter™ system for discharge water, neutralising parasites from well boats and treatment vessels;
  • The Electrofilter system for intake water, preventing primary infestations of parasites in Closed Containment Aquaculture systems; and
  • The Askvik Electric Stunning system, securing optimal animal welfare in harvesting and slaughtering processes.

Searching for and identifying new issues to address in aquaculture is a never-ending task. A collaborative business model and true determination are prerequisites to succeed.

If you need to ask, Askvik!

Steffen Kildal
Askvik Aqua AS

Please note, this article will also appear in the fourth edition of our new quarterly publication.

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