SAIC engineering workshop: a review21st July 2016
By Robin Shields, Aquaculture Innovation Manager at SAIC
Having joined the SAIC team as an Aquaculture Innovation Manager in May 2016, my first assignment was to organise a technical workshop entitled ‘Engineering new approaches to increase production’.
The objective was to engage a cross-sectoral audience in identifying aquaculture production challenges that are amenable to engineering solutions. As well as helping to direct future SAIC investments, the workshop would provide an excellent opportunity to fast-track my connections with the Scottish aquaculture industry and research community.
Fast forward six weeks, scores of emails and phone calls, scoping visits and much speaker engagement, and we had a buzzing gathering at the Edinburgh campus of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), with delegates from 16 companies and five academic institutions.
The workshop kicked off with an information session covering the Scottish aquaculture industry (Robin Shields, SAIC), precision agriculture and the UK Agri-EPI Centre (Dave Ross, SRUC) and the FloWave Ocean Simulator (Stuart Brown, FloWave TT), followed by short ‘research capacity’ presentations by University of Edinburgh, University of Stirling and Heriot-Watt University.
Having ingested this information, two breakout groups then discussed ‘Engineering approaches to fish parasite control’ and ‘Engineering challenges to salmon farming in high energy marine environments’. The key findings from which are outlined below:
Breakout one: fish parasite control
1. Fish health challenges rarely occur in isolation; simultaneous water-borne insults can include sea lice, amoebae and hydrozoans. These multiple challenges deserve an integrated approach to health management rather than treating each factor separately.
2. The latest generation of mechanical systems for removing sea lice could impact upon fish welfare. Best practices are needed to ensure high welfare of fish undergoing treatment (including cleaner fish).
3. Fish are likely to be less resilient to handling when undergoing treatment for parasites. ‘Gentler’ live transfer methods may help to ensure a successful outcome.
4. There is much variation in the reported success of mechanical devices such as sea lice deflection skirts. Cohesive data collection and interpretation is needed to improve deployment success.
5. Efficiency of sea lice removal could be improved by understanding the engineering limitations of attachment and detachment (physical, biological and chemical aspects).
Breakout two: high energy marine environments
Delegates identified the following broad challenges: stronger currents, large wind-driven waves and swell, long distances from land, telemetry, treatment logistics including sea lice exclusion and Health & Safety compliance. In more detail:
1. Adaptation of existing equipment will be required (e.g. circular HDPE cages) and/or completely new designs, such as ‘closed’ systems. The chosen devices should be cost effective and as simple as possible, as complex engineering solutions rarely work.
2. Computer modelling and tank testing are needed to design, evaluate and mitigate risk for ‘high energy’ marine farming devices. This should include testing the effects of current speed on fouled versus un-fouled nets and deformation of pens and nets.
3. New mooring grid designs will also be needed that enable the tops of pens to flex while moored at the sea bed.
4. New pen and net designs should account for fish biological requirements, for example to enable access to the seawater surface for swim bladder inflation.
Following the breakout sessions, delegates enjoyed a well-deserved buffet lunch and networking session. This was followed by a much-anticipated demonstration of FloWave – the world’s most sophisticated ocean simulator (see photo). The inquisitive audience recognised the value of FloWave to optimise and de-risk new aquaculture devices using hydrodynamically-scaled models and options for collaboration were discussed.
The key findings from the engineering workshop are now being followed up with stakeholders, for incorporation into new aquaculture innovation projects.
I thoroughly enjoyed organising and participating in this workshop, I’m very grateful to my colleagues for all their hard work and to the delegates for contributing their time, energy and ideas. Looking forward to the next challenge!