The feasibility of developing a low cost, remote sensing technology to provide information critical to finfish hatchery operations
Since wild fish stocks began their drastic decline in the early 1990s, the aquaculture sector is the fastest growing food sector in the world. Production from U.S. marine aquaculture accounts for only 1.5 percent of the domestic seafood supply, leaving an enormous growth potential for the production of safe, high-quality seafood that is farmed under federal and state environmental standards. However, the development of economically feasible marine finfish production in the United States will require turning towards intensive aquaculture practices and will result in bigger engineering and bio-security challenges where advanced monitoring technology will play a critical role. A major hurdle in the aquaculture industry is the high cost related to juvenile production. Rearing and growing fish requires manual inputs at every level of the process. A higher level of monitoring and automation would help commercial hatcheries decrease labor costs and increase production. In this Phase I project, AXAT Inc. will assess the feasibility of developing a low-cost remote sensing technology to provide information critical to finfish hatchery operations. This research effort will focus on the feasibility of constructing a hardware system, developing an adequate experimental protocol for calibration of the system, and developing processing algorithms that will extract information from raw data to provide meaningful information to fish farmers. AXAT Inc. will perform the research efforts in collaboration with the Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research (CCAR). CCAR is a state-of-the-art aquaculture research center featuring a newly completed marine hatchery facility designed to produce marine fish such as Atlantic cod and halibut. AXAT Inc. will use CCAR rearing tanks to perform experimentations that will assess the potential of its remote sensing technology to monitor concentrations of live feed (artemia and rotifer) and densities of fish larvae in controlled, semi-controlled and in situ environments. AXAT Inc. believes this research efforts will lead to the refinement of its prototype system and will reduce technology risks associated with the development of a commercial product. In hatcheries, the possibility of automating feed distribution based on larvae biomass and feeding behavior would be a true innovation that will help reduce labor costs and increase juvenile production. There is also significant potential for this proposed technology to extend toward monitoring land-based and off-shore aquaculture facilities. The basic components involved in the technology allow for the development of a robust, reliable and low cost device. Long term monitoring of fish biomass and size distribution in large commercial tanks or off-shore ocean cages is the missing piece to sustainable aquaculture. AXAT Inc. believes it has what it takes to revolutionize the industry and wants to utilize this research effort to capitalize on the opportunity.
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