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All aquaponic farms need well defined production goals and a plan to fulfil those goals. Specifically, it is helpful to define the following aspects well in advance:
The species to be used
The size of fingerlings needed initially and the target size of the adults to be sold at the end. This will help to define the productive cycles on the farm (types of tanks, etc.)
The optimal densities and housing conditions for each stage of growth. This will help to define the maximum load of live biomass in the installation, and annual production
The health management to be used to maintain optimal conditions for the fish
The level of training of the personnel involved
The welfare of the fish and the economic viability of the installation will depend on compliance with the objectives that are budgeted in the project. We need to know whether fish are reaching their expected growth and transforming feed adequately, and whether mortality is higher than expected. We should know the expected growth curve in relation to the water temperature. That, along with the duration of the production system, will help to design a production plan that will be the basis for the operating costs. Once production has begun, it should be monitored adequately.
There should be clear traceability back to the source of the fish. We need to know the number of fish and their initial size on the first day that they were housed. On a daily basis we register each of the production activities that were carried out, such as the daily source of feed, the cleaning mode, and measures of physical and chemical parameters. In Figure 3 we present an example of the control sheet. These data are collected daily for each of the tanks and should be stored in the monthly report and processed in order to be able to determine the evolution of farm production. Periodically we should weigh a sample of fish to estimate growth in each tank. We should capture enough fish to represent the tank, normally at least 10-15 individuals per 100 fish. Feeding is then adjusted periodically according to that average fish weight.
Figure 3: Data sheet to note details about the tanks and the fish on a daily basis
There are many software control programs on the market, such as those made by the Norwegian company AKVA GROUP, which are used to manage feed. They provide two programs. Fishtalk covers most aspects of control and planning on the farm, as well as production costs. The reports generated and the analysis of the evolution of production are the basis for the decisions to be taken by the manger, both in the short and long terms. AKVAconnect is related to the platform software provided by AKVA GROUP and controls the automation and optimal adjustments of processes and activities on the farm. It offers complete control, with permanent vigilance of the interaction between machines, sensors, and other processes.
Other examples of the information produced and processed during fish production is STEINSVIK for salmon production. In Figure 4 we can see a control screen for the production unit, with physical conditions and growth, fish appetite, fish inventory, the daily rhythm of feeding, etc. For other examples see www.aqua-manager.com.
Finally, as part of the production plan, it is important to maintain feeds under proper storage. Usually feeds are in the form of dry pellets made by extrusion, and hence are relatively easy to store. The quality of the pellets is high and they are quite compact, with limited losses in water since they will not break down easily. To maintain the quality of the dry feeds it is important to store them in silos or in a dry storage area that is insulated from excess heat. If the feed gets humid it can become contaminated with fungi, which in turn produce mycotoxins that can harm fish.
Figure 4: Control screen for the Steinsvik automation program for aquaculture farms.
Copyright © Partners of the Aqu@teach Project. Aqu@teach is an Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership in Higher Education (2017-2020) led by the University of Greenwich, in collaboration with the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (Switzerland), the Technical University of Madrid (Spain), the University of Ljubljana and the Biotechnical Centre Naklo (Slovenia).
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