New joint venture wants to boost smart aquaculture

In the aquaculture industry, fish length and weight are measured for efficient control of fish production - image NTT
Sheila Zabeu -

July 20, 2023

NTT Corporation has announced a new joint venture that will use Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other communication technologies to develop systems that contribute to more efficient and sustainable food production. NTT Green & Food Corporation is a joint venture between Japan’s NTT Group and the Regional Fish Institute that aims to address food shortages while mitigating the negative environmental impacts associated with on-shore seafood production.

Seeking to maximize the productivity of aquaculture facilities, the AI/IoT system in question monitors the fish and controls the growing environment by automation or remote operation. In addition, filtration and water current technologies are utilized to save energy costs.

By combining new fish varieties, with characteristics such as fast growth and increased fillet, and smart aquaculture facilities, the expectation is to increase productivity per land-based aquaculture area by around four times.

Cost benefit is the biggest challenge for land-based aquaculture to prevail - Regional Fish Institute
Source: Regional Fish Institute
Levar a aquacultura para a fase seguinte utilizando tecnologias de ponta - Regional Fish Institute
Source: Regional Fish Institute

How it will work

NTT Green & Food’s carbon dioxide conversion system uses three main processes:

1. Algae production and sales: Algae use carbon dioxide through photosynthesis while growing. By utilising NTT technologies – including the one employed in algae mass cultivation that adjusts to achieve optimal levels of temperature, humidity, nutrients and light intensity – it is possible to grow algae that can store more carbon dioxide than normal, as well as activate photosynthesis and increase the growth rate of the plants.

Algae can become food for fish and shellfish and also agricultural fertilizer due to its high nutritional value. NTT Green & Food will initially supply seaweed to aquaculture operators and farmers facing rising fertilizer and feed costs.

2. Production and sale of seafood: By using these algae as a food source, NTT Green & Food aims to increase the growth rate of regional fish. In addition, by utilizing breeding enhancement technologies in land-based aquaculture facilities, NTT Green & Food can reduce the impact of natural disasters, parasites such as Anisakis and the risk of infectious diseases during the production process. Recycling breeding water with fish and shellfish excreta as nutrients for algae can minimize water waste. The seafood produced from this project will be supplied to distributors, wholesalers and processors.

3. Development and delivery of a sustainable land-based aquaculture system: The company will also develop a holistic land-based aquaculture system to produce the consumables from the previous processes. This system will consist of three facilities: one to produce fish and shellfish, another to produce algae to feed them, and a third water purification plant.

A comercialização total incluirá a venda do sistema a terceiros através da NTT Corporation e das suas empresas operacionais. Ao colaborar com empresas locais na produção, transformação e venda, a NTT Green & Food pretende criar postos de trabalho, promover as indústrias locais e contribuir para o desenvolvimento de comunidades locais sustentáveis, proporcionando oportunidades de formação em tecnologias de ponta no domínio da aquicultura e da proteção ambiental.

Comercialização da tecnologia de conversão de dióxido de carbono - NTT
Source: NTT

Smart aquaculture

The global IoT market for the fisheries and aquaculture sectors is expected to grow considerably between 2023 and 2027, reaching a value of $1.2bn by the end of the forecast period, according to Market Growth Reports. The main types of IoT products commercialised in this market are focused on precision fishing, smart buoy technologies, metocean data collection (meteorological and oceanographic conditions), smart feeding, monitoring and control systems, underwater robots, among others.

It is to be expected that specifically in Japan, a country with a tradition in the fishing economy, novelties will emerge in this area. Recently, Kerlink, a company specialising in IoT solutions, and distributor GISupply announced a customised smart aquaculture monitoring system based on LoRa technology.

The solution allows operations to be optimised and decisions to be made based on real-time data, thus automating water monitoring. This process is often done manually by those responsible for collecting and analyzing data at the facility. Continuously monitoring water quality and temperature is critical to the production process.

According to Kerling, another benefit of the solution is its great return on investment (ROI), which allows it to install sensors that were not used in legacy systems, but which improve pattern recognition and predictive operations. These sensors measure dissolved oxygen, oxidation-reduction potential (ORP), salinity, pH, turbidity, brightness, ammonia, and chlorophyll. Models with SDI-12 or analogue interfaces are compatible with Kerlink gateways and a LoRa controller from Tekbox. Customers can develop their own applications in the cloud.

“Smart aquaculture markets want to adopt sustainable practices and expect IoT technologies to operate 24/7 regardless of what nature has to offer, even during blizzards. The reliability of our system has been proven in both land-based and open-ocean aquaculture farms, providing continuous readings of conditions and more confidence that they will meet their financial and production goals,” says Satoshi Kitaoka, President of GISupply.

Unicorns in the water

In early July, eFishery, the Indonesia-based startup founded in 2013, became the global aquaculture industry’s first unicorn, meaning it was valued at more than $1bn. The company aims to bring its fishery-focused smart feeding system to more than one million aquaculture ponds in Indonesia by 2025 and also grow internationally.

“Aquaculture is currently the fastest growing sector in the global fishing industry. The strategic support we have received from investors will help eFishery revolutionise this entire sector by integrating small-scale fish and shrimp farmers with the eFishery ecosystem, which spans the entire aquaculture value chain,” says Gibran Huzaifah, co-founder and CEO of eFishery.

eFishery’s solution for smart feeding uses IoT sensors to measure water movement for peives and acoustics for shrimps to optimise animal feeding and health, improve water quality and reduce waste. Based on the data collected and the smart IoT feeder, the operations of small-scale fish and shrimp farmers can be significantly improved.