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4602 Lobster welfare tracking in highly intensive automated farming

Alternative title: Sporing av velferd på hummer i intensive oppdrettssystem

Awarded: NOK 5.3 mill.

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Project Period:

2024 - 2026

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The goal is to revamp the whole crustacean industry, replacing wild caught by reared animals. This project will first approach the European Lobster with the aim to adapt the results to any benthic crustacean. Land-based aquaculture uses seawater recirculation or flow-through to control the water parameters to avoid diseases, keep optimum water quality and environment. Today, lobsters (and most crustaceans) are only monitored at larval and juvenile stages (hatchery and nursery). The larvae`s hatch and when they get to the juvenile stage they are released to the ocean or transferred to cages. Lobsters are highly cannibals; thus, they must be grown in separated appartments. Adult lobsters grown onshore are usually fed manually and are periodically moved by hand to larger cages as they grow. The Lo-Track project will close the final gap to achieve a fully automatic production,- feeding and handling of lobsters during all stages, including image processing, vision systems and robotics from egg to harvest. The project will include both portion sized lobsters (24 months to reach harvest size (20 cm -- 250-300 g)) and baby Blue lobsters (9-12 months to reach harvest size (12 cm - 100 g).

Current approaches to animal welfare are dependent of manual supervision and manual measurement of the animals' growth. So far, there has been little effort into automating the process and create a scientific method to estimate the welfare from measurable indicators. Aquaculture shall advance towards a more balanced approach considering both positive and negative factors in animal welfare across all the rearing value chain. The Five Domains Model provides a framework for the assessment of animal welfare using a systematic, structured, and comprehensive approach. The five domains are divided into survival-related factors: 1\. nutrition (e.g. assessing the appetite of the specific lobsters), 2\. environment (e.g. temperature, and salinity), 3\. health (e.g. parasites and diseases), ii) situation-related factors: 4\. behaviour (e.g. use shelters and narrow places like in the wild), and iii) the affective experience domain: 5\. mental state (e.g. aggressive behaviour). The application of the Five Domains Model to a specific species requires in depth knowledge on species-specific behaviour, biology and ecology considered in relation to the specific physical, biotic and social environment in the production system. The project aims to develop the first comprehensive framework to study, assess and improve the European Lobster's welfare during rearing. This is a breakthrough that will close the gap in the literature and will set the foundations to create an evidence-based, automatic welfare optimisation solution.

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