Set of vector stylized fishes. Collection of aquarium fish. Linear Art. Illustration for children.

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Is IoT the solution to Asia’s aquaculture problems?

  • Like many other industries faced with a crisis, aquaculture is turning to tech

Rising populations mean a growing demand for food, and that’s putting more and more pressure on the agriculture sector tasked with providing it.

Faced with a crisis, like many other industries, it’s turning to technology as a source of innovation.

IoT sensors and systems have been utilized to monitor and improve the efficiency or productivity of other agriculture technology (agritech) solutions, as well as to provide data analytics on weather patterns, crop productivity, and seasonal changes, to name a few. All this is contributing towards a global smart agriculture market that is expected to be worth US$29.23 billion by 2027.

Recent efforts towards discovering alternative food sources have led to renewed interest in aquaculture farms as a means to sustainably cultivate fish. But, over the past two decades, the aquaculture industry has seen annual production tripled while feed prices also have risen dramatically.

To cope with providing increased yields while maintaining sustainable fish populations, governments with major agriculture and fishing industries have started employing new technology. One method is to harness IoT devices and machine learning to help farmers improve feeding operations, which can be prohibitively expensive.

Aquaculture technology provider UMITRON recently launched in Singapore with what it claims is the world’s first real-time, ocean-based fish appetite detection system. Its solution uses efficient machine learning and image analysis techniques to extract data from video streams, and this can be analyzed to accurately quantify fish appetite.

A smart feeding system, meanwhile, can be managed remotely from smartphones, so aquaculture farms can time feeding periods and calculate the right amount of feed.

By using IoT, satellite remote sensing, and artificial intelligence (AI), the company helps farmers improve farm efficiency, manage environmental risks, and in turn, increases business revenues.

Like other areas of agriculture, aquaculture is at risk of extreme weather or natural disasters, which can devastate fish populations.

In Taiwan, inclement weather can often set in just before harvest season, and this caused local IoT solution startup Quadlink to develop a system that monitors actual water quality in real-time to help fish farmers stay on top of pond conditions.

Connecting to a cloud platform, the system reports fish pond water quality data every five minutes and can issue alerts to farm operators’ mobile phone app, allowing them to stay on top of water conditions at all times and thereby effectively lower costs, risks, and accidental losses.

The system will also accumulate data on breeding cycles, and use analytics to not only monitor but to make trends more predictable. Quadlink general manager, Cheng-Hsun Tsai, claims that the technology costs around one-tenth of what an imported system might, and it’s extremely competitive pricing has opened doors for a successful foray into Southeast Asia.

There are now aquaculture sites all over the Southeast Asian region, and Quadlink’s system is already in use to manage 600 hectares of fishing ponds in Brunei, while it’s now expanding into to Sumatra in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar with a promising outlook to expand into Vietnam and Malaysia.