Marine Instruments introducing futuristic shrimp feeder
Production of vannamei shrimp is estimated to reach around five million metric tons in 2019 – with a turnover of EUR 100 billion (USD 115 billion) according to the Food and Agriculture Organization – and growth of the industry is set to continue.
With a current average production capacity of around 1,500 kilos per hectare, the challenge is to optimize growth through more effective use of technology.
Spanish company Marine Instruments, which specializes in the development of high-tech equipment in the fishing sector, including the manufacture of satellite buoys for tuna fishing, has entered this arena with a prototype intelligent, integrated system for shrimp feeding.
The Aquo Smart Feeder uses passive acoustic technology, which is already in use in the industry, and combines it with active acoustics, to determine when the shrimp are feeding and when they have had enough. This means that shrimp growth can be optimized and feed waste reduced.
Feed management is just as important as feed formulation, especially in shrimp farming, because the impacts of under- and over-feeding on commercial and environmental sustainability are more acute and can lead to issues such as cannibalism, bacterial proliferation, alteration of pond chemistry, poor food conversion ratio and growth, and ultimately, lower survival, according to the company.
The active acoustic sensor is based on echo sounder technology that creates pulses of sound that rebound off the shell of the shrimp, providing useful data used to determine shrimp presence and activity. The system includes temperature sensors and can operate with other sensors such those used to determine oxygen levels and salinity.
The combined systems enable the feeder to identify shrimp appetite and eating activity and, in the medium-term, a biomass estimation without the need for separate analysis. Solar panels ensure the feeding system is maintenance-free and autonomous, and all information is uploaded to a remote computer for monitoring by Marine Instruments, and the data used to fine-tune the system.
The company told SeafoodSource the Aquo Smart Feeder is meant to complement existing automated feeding systems, rather than replace them. With the new technology, automatic feeders can determine the correct level of feed based on live data, taking any guess-work out of the feeding process, resulting in better-fed shrimp and faster growth, which can be difficult to manage by farm workers working without such detailed information.
Marine Instruments is the first company to utilize the two forms of acoustic technology in this way in automated feeding systems for shrimp, and hopes that it will revolutionize the industry.
“This is our first product for aquaculture, but we believe that there are many opportunities to develop new systems for farmed seafood that will help to increase production capacity. Aquaculture already provides more of the world’s seafood than fishing, and it will become more important in the future,” a company spokesperson said.
The system has been tested extensively in Nicaragua and Ecuador, and installation of prototypes and data collection will continue in Central America, leading up to a launch which is scheduled for mid-2019, the spokesperson said. The long-term plan is to target wider market areas, including Southeast Asia, and to apply the same technology to other species.
Marine Instruments launched its Aquo Smart Feeder at Aqua Expo 2018 in Guayaquil, Ecuador in October. The conference and associated trade show promote the continuous improvement in sustainable production practices of Ecuadorian shrimp, in order to improve the competitiveness of the industry.
The Marine Instruments spokesperson said the new technology received a warm response from industry representatives at the expo, herald a real breakthrough for shrimp production.
Photo courtesy of Marine Instruments