Using technology to boost aquaculture’s productivity and sustainability

ByMabel R. Acton

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Norway leads the world’s aquaculture industry; the country’s cold coastal waters teem with carefully husbanded fish stocks, as Tor Hansen, Sea Site Manager, Martnesvika Norway at Cermaq explains:

“Cermaq produce salmon for the global market. We check the water quality all the time, 24/7, measure oxygen, temperature and salinity in the water. We work outside in nature, so we have to take care of nature at the same time that we produce food. It’s one of the most important things we do.”

Cermaq takes its responsibility towards the welfare of fish and the wider environment seriously, wherever their farms are based. Harald Takle, Head of Strategy and Seawater Innovation at Cermaq explains how the company’s R&D department has informed their actions:

“We are responsible for the wellbeing of the fish in our care and we are also responsible for the wellbeing of the nature where we farm. Therefore, Cermaq based all its farming decisions on science and knowledge. Cermaq has an R&D department that drives knowledge development throughout the value chain from egg to harvest. This helps us secure a safe childhood for the juvenile fish that we have in our freshwater facilities and also for the healthy growth of salmon in a clear, cold ocean where we have our sea farms.”

From the shore, much of this technology is hidden. Below the surface, however, cameras and sensors are part of a developing technology to monitor and keep a health record of each individual fish, allowing Cermaq to intervene early without removing the fish from the cage.

This is just one of the practical outcomes of research that aims to improve fish health, fish value and reduce the footprint of production, above and below the waterline. Takle gives an example:

“Cermaq has made a roadmap describing how we will pilot, validate and implement new digital tools in our operations in Norway, Canada, and in Chile. We are working on implementation of machine-assisted feeding systems that satiate the fish with very little feed loss.”

The food sector contributes to almost a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. The seafood sector has a central role to play. It’s a climate friendly food source, it’s healthy, and for us to feed a billion more people on the planet in the coming decade, this is becoming imperative. We can find the best solutions and together we can scale impact. That’s why partnerships and collaborations are so important in tackling climate change.

Sine Raastad, Business Development Manager at Cermaq says that it has to be about building trust and knowledge too:

“Cermaq is selling to over 50 countries around the world and each market has different needs. Our job is to educate the consumer about where and how the fish has been raised so they can be confident that our product is safe and responsibly produced. Traceability across the value chain is one of our top priorities in the markets.”

Reducing the environmental impact of farming is at the forefront of Cermaq’s agenda, and as Erik Giercksky, says, the solution to the pollution problem is one that will have broad benefits:

“Everybody’s very keen to see how this global industry can take a leap towards using technology on site to limit any harmful footprints on fish health and the environment. This advanced technology can be made available for the whole industry.”

For Giercksky, being at the top of the industry means using science to drive towards sustainability, delivering results and working with investors, customers, and regulators for a better future:

“New technologies and science can really drive this transition into a more sustainable aquaculture industry. Companies like Cermaq can share their insights. We need much more of this if we’re going to fulfill the promise of providing nutritious and healthy food for everybody.”