Improved growth with big data
Grieg Seafood is starting to see results from years of investments into digital infrastructure. In British Columbia, big data has helped reduce starvation days and improved fish health and welfare.
“Early detection of toxic algae’s allows us to put in place mitigating actions quickly and avoid mortality.”
Environmental Monitoring Specialist
Grieg Seafood British Columbia
Along the coast of British Columbia, toxic algae blooms may suddenly enter inlets and cause spiking mortality rates on the farms.
“Feeding the fish when there is harmful plankton in the water is very stressful for the salmon. In the worst cases it causes immediate mass mortality, and even when this doesn’t happen, we could see effects of a bloom months after it occurs from gill related issues,” says Liam Peck, Environmental Monitoring Specialist at Grieg Seafood British Columbia.
MITIGATES PLANKTON DAMAGE
There are hundreds of thousands of plankton species in BC waters. Only a few, however, are harmful to the fish. Although farmers are well trained and well versed in species recognition, the most harmful ones are often the most difficult to identify.
“The default action of the farmers is to feed, but that should only be done when it is safe. In some cases, however, there may be uncertainty or apprehension about what may be in the water. As such, many feeding days may be lost simply because farmers don’t want to take a risk without a system to support their decision. These lost feed days impact growth negatively,” Peck continues.
Grieg Seafood BC has collected data on harmful algae for years, and is now using a data platform and satellite images to find our whether plankton may be headed towards a site.
“Our goal is to roll out a machine learning platform to help the farmers make decisions about whether plankton in the water are in fact harmful, and in turn to avoid unnecessary fasting days. In addition, early detection of toxic algae will allow us to put in place mitigating actions proactively instead of reactively to avoid mortality. The next step to predict harmful plankton occurrences in advance and give the farmers another tool to farm better. We are working on that now”, Peck says.
Feeding when oxygen levels are low is stressful for fish, and it has been difficult to detect such conditions in traditional farming.
“Now we have installed oxygen sensors across almost all our farms, most of which have sensors in every pen. We are able to monitor oxygen levels real-time on an app on our computers and phones from wherever we are. Similarly to algae monitoring, this platform helps us initiate appropriate mitigating actions when oxygen levels drop, and to stop feeding only when there is actually a water situation that require us to do so,” Peck continues.
In the Esperanza area, where toxic algae blooms can be a challenge, the number of fasting days was reduced by 41 percent on Grieg Seafood’s farms in 2018. The growth rate improved with 7.2 percent. Mainly because of new, digital decision-making support.
Grieg Seafood is now implementing the same monitoring system in Shetland.