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Intelligent Fish feeding through Integration of ENabling technologies and Circular principle

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - iFishIENCi (Intelligent Fish feeding through Integration of ENabling technologies and Circular principle)

Reporting period: 2020-05-01 to 2021-10-31

The iFishIENCi H2020 project is using advanced digital technology to support the sustainable development of European aquaculture. Improving the efficiency of fish farming methods, and especially those used for feeding, can achieve greater profitability and sustainability of the way we grow fish. This is important because fish are an essential part of a healthy diet, and much of the fish we eat comes from fish farming. As the world’s population grows, so does the demand for fish, and to avoid depleting wild stocks, we need profitable, sustainable aquaculture. iFishIENCi innovations will create new global markets and value chains by integrating Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) based solutions with aquaculture. This will support sustainable, socially acceptable expansion of European aquaculture, providing employment and alleviating Europe’s dependency on imported fish.

Aquaculture depends upon good farming conditions for efficient growth of healthy fish. For this reason, iFishIENCi is developing iBOSS: a combination of digital sensors, cameras, and automatic equipment for continuous monitoring and adjustment of all aspects of the cultivation environment, including fish behaviour. iBOSS will feature artificial intelligence for exploring relationships between water quality and fish behavior, health, diet, and growth. Fast growing healthy fish require a high-quality diet tailored to specific species and environments. Efficient feeding and novel feed ingredients are also needed for aquaculture to develop sustainably, because the production and use of terrestrial crops and the use of fishmeal and fish-oil as ingredients are associated with environmental impacts. iFishIENCi is exploring new ways of feeding fish using feed containing novel ingredients, such as algae cultivated using CO2 capture and valorized wastes.
These innovations will be integrated into sea-based fish farms, ponds, and high-tech Recirculation Aquaculture Systems. By improving efficiency, iFishIENCi will increase the profitability of European aquaculture, whilst reducing its environmental impacts.
During this project period, the international consortium of the iFishIENCi project, consisting of 16 members from 8 European countries focused on various innovative technology developments. Partners defined key water quality parameters and to monitor these, an assortment of digital sensors was selected. The sensors, which automatically collect data and accurately detect small changes, have been installed in land-based and marine aquaculture facilities operated by project partners. Despite initial teething problems, they can now collect data continuously and during the 2nd period of the project new experimental sites were added to the iBOSS platform. Fish behaviour is important because it is an indicator of fish health and the suitability of rearing conditions. Experiments have been carried out to investigate how feeding regime and environmental parameters affect fish behaviour and metabolism. Further information about behaviour is being collected by echo-sounders that monitor the physical location of fish within the water in cages. A novel experimental protocol has been designed for observing how fish behave as their level of hunger changes. The algorithms detected the presence of groups that disappeared after meals but reformed before the next. The data produced by these experiments are being used as inputs to, FishMET, a digital simulation of fish metabolism and fish growth that will be which will enable iBOSS to monitor and improve the efficiency of feeding protocols.

Continued development of this fledgling AI is now being supported by new and refined algorithms for processing information generated through ongoing and future experimentation. The iBOSS cloud platform has been developed to enable digital communication between AI, monitoring devices, and feeding and other automated cultivation technologies. To reduce the dependency of carnivorous marine fish aquaculture upon wild-caught fish and to increase economic circularity through using wastes as valuable resources, Nannochloropsis gaditana, a species of single-cellular algae and yeast Candida utilis are being cultivated and tested as a feed ingredient. Partners developed diets using these feed ingredients and also produced an immune-stimulant extract from the algae. Project partners performed experiments that compared the growth and quality of trout and tilapia fed on experimental diets with that of fish fed standard commercial feed. The project is also investigating the possibility of producing strains of catfish which grow well and remain healthy upon feed when given feed containing reduced amounts of fishmeal. with genetics that facilitate efficient digestion of processed animal protein, so this protein source be used to replace fishmeal. Because of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic situation the project had to modify the planned communication and dissemination strategy and focus on online possibilities in these activities. Various online workshops and conferences were organised by project partners and in cooperation with other H2020 projects. Through these events the information about the project’s progress and results are effectively communicated across iFishIENCi partners and to policy makers, industry members, and other relevant stakeholders. Focus group surveys have taken place to understand consumer and industry stakeholder’s perceptions of aquaculture food products. The partners also conducted market assessments, and business models and plans have been designed to bring the products to market. Methods were developed and screening research has been carried out to analyse the environmental and economic sustainability of aquaculture production chains integrated with iFishIENCi products. To understand how environmental change may affect aquaculture, a model was developed to predict how climate change will influence the cultivation of different commercially important species in different regions of Europe.
iFishIENCi is bringing together scientists, experts in AI and IoT, fish farmers and specialists in market innovations including the use of digital technology in aquaculture. A unique, mathematical feeding model based upon the latest findings in fish physiology, camera observation of feeding behaviour and advanced fish tagging technology is being combined with AI and IoT (Fish-Talk-To-Me). This model will be applied to data from a ‘first-of-its-kind’ experiment due to commence very soon A unique antioxidant feed supplement has been created from a novel algae feed ingredient, and new methods of growing the alga using valorised aquaculture waste is under development (Waste2Value). This is being combined with advanced AI and IoT to develop a cutting-edge monitoring system (iBOSS), which will be incorporated into the new state-of-the-art Recirculation Aquaculture facility (SMART-RAS). Built using the most advanced technology, this controlled aquaculture environment will enable precise feeding of fish. A combined environmental-economic Life Cycle Assessment and costing model has been designed and will be the first such assessment applied to aquaculture.
Individual fish in a video recording being identified by the algorythm
The iFishIENCi project team together with the Project Officer during the kick-off meeting in Malta