Present day smolt production plants are still based on the same management principles and methods as the first generation of such facilities established in the 1980's, just in bigger scales. This is seen in that several of the most common cost driving operations, such as moving and sorting fish (e.g. internal logistics connected to vaccination), washing and disinfection of rearing tanks and general animal husbandry, are manually executed. AUTOSMOLT 2025 focus was on developing novel technology for data collection, -analysis, and autonomous operations and maintenance for the smolt industry. The combination of these tools can form a holistic approach that enables the future realization of standardized, predictable and intelligent smolt production. There is an industry-wide drive towards reducing the production time in sea by keeping the fish in land-based production facilities longer before being transferred to sea. Together with the ambitions of a five-fold increase in salmon production by 2050, this illustrates the need for an increase in smolt production capacity.
During 2020, the project work has mainly focused on activities to identify conditions and relevant rules for the transition from today's manual and labour dependent operations to the fully autonomous smolt production facilities of the future. Based on this, a process model for optimized and autonomous smolt production will be derived with an overall vision to improve the internal logistics and realize just-in-time bio production. The work also included the identification of system design requirements and specifications with respect to sensors and other instruments, system architecture, process control software, error management and safe modes. Sensor types and instruments necessary to develop a fully autonomous smolt production facility of the future are specified. The SEATONOMY method is used to address these challenges and derive the conditions for a holistic approach for the next generation smolt production units. The outcomes of this work show great potential on increasing level of autonomy in smolt production units with the overall goal to reach optimal operations.
The project was conducted by a consortium consisting of Scale Aquaculture, Brimer, Salmon Evolution, Andfjord Salmon, Posicom, Sinkaberg Hansen, WAGO, FESTO, NTNU and SINTEF Ocean.
The project partners have also contributed on the study by providing inputs on the level of automation in current production units. As a part of the research in 2020 a questionnaire was handed out to the partners involved in the land-based aquaculture industry in order to understand their positions and thoughts around the topic of smolt production. There are very clear examples of day to day operations which could already be automated that would lighten to load of employees considerably. According to the industry partners for the project there are several operations that should be prioritised for automation, the most important being tank cleaning, water quality monitoring, dead fish removal, waste collection and processing and autonomous monitoring of fish (behaviour, welfare, etc) and environment variables (flow, water level, etc). Furthermore, in 2020 we have also started the development of an interactive and user-friendly graphic interface for observation and interpretation of the sensor data and alarms.
During 2021, activities in WP2 and WP3 were targeted but they have not finalized due to the early termination of the project. Initial results have been obtained in WP2: Self-monitoring and rearing tanks. In particular, list of relevant sensors has been identified and suggestion for different modular and static sensor system have been proposed for future development. SW and HW requirement are derived and specifications for HW and SW are on place for further development. In 2021, activities in WP3: Autonomous tank operations involved concept study and overall system design. In particular, the study performed analysis of autonomous maintenance operations related to A) monitoring of conditions in fish tanks, B) feeding, C) tank cleaning and waste removal, and D) dead fish removal. In addition, we have identified the hardware and software solutions required to develop these systems. Extensive review of different flexible robotic solutions have been conducted that suggestions for development of dedicated robotic solution for land-based smolt production units have been discussed.
The obtained results clearly indicate that new methods and advanced technological solutions are needed to be developed and investigated to target the current and future challenges in land-based smolt production units. The industry partners indicated the importance on increasing the objectivity and level of automation in this industry.
This collaboration between researchers, technology providers and three fish farmers enabled a deep understanding of the challenges and benefits of adapting new methods and advanced technological solutions to target the current and future challenges in smolt-production units. Furthermore, by developing the requirements and specifications for the transition from manual and experience-based operations to fully autonomous and optimized solutions, the project contributes to improved HSE, fish handling/management and production efficiency/sustainability. The outcome of the project has provided the direction to technology providers which solutions could be adapted and developed in the future. The adapted holistic approach in this project indicated the benefits of the Industry 4.0 for improved production and efficiency to fish farmers participating in this consortium.
AUTOSMOLT 2025 will focus on developing novel technology for data collection, -analysis, and autonomous operations and maintenance for the smolt industry. The combination of these tools will form a holistic approach that enables the future realization of standardized, predictable and intelligent smolt production. There is an industry-wide drive towards reducing the production time in sea by keeping the fish in land-based production facilities longer before being transferred to sea. The reason for this is twofold, in that the fish are then larger and more robust at transfer and exposed to risk factors occurring in the sea-phase (e.g. pathogens and parasites) for a shorter period of their lives. Together with the ambitions of a five-fold increase in salmon production by 2050, this illustrates the need for an increase in smolt production capacity. Although this is now countered by upscaling existing and building new smolt facilities, the methods used to manage these bear similarities to those from 1980's, being mainly manual and experience-based. The ambition of AUTOSMOLT 2025 is to realize the potential of using new technologies and autonomy principles to enable more objective and automated monitoring and control of smolt production. This will usher in a paradigm shift in how smolt are produced in providing more precise methods for handling the biological production process, which will be key to handling the challenges of fish welfare, HSE and fish loss in this industrial segment. The project will do this through targeted research on holistic solutions for autonomous smolt production, technologies for self-monitoring tanks that continuously inform the farmer on the state of the process and autonomous solutions for handling the physical actions in operations at smolt facilities. Innovations from AUTOSMOLT 2025 are expected to contribute to industrializing smolt production in general and provide increased value creation in all links from supplier chains to fish farmers.