Summary

Aquaculture has immense potential for improvement through innovation, and countries like Colombia are actively contributing to this progress. By embracing new technologies and addressing existing challenges, the industry can become more sustainable and productive, contributing to a healthier planet and improved food security.

IN AQUACULTURE, WANTING TO IMPROVE IS THE KEY.

Innovation is the result of the relationship between need and wanting to change something, knowing what is happening and applying the change, but also understanding what is causing the problem, what you want to improve and the means. In aquaculture, “there is a sea of problems that could be solutions.”

More than good ideas, innovation is creating or modifying a product and its introduction in a market, in such a way that it helps to build added value and at the same time solve problems, always aiming at improvement. Its starting point is the discovery and understanding of a need, and it is consolidated through actions that make it possible to achieve it.  

In aquaculture, the World Bank has made it clear that “innovation is key to improving the farming and extraction of marine and inland species, but also to improving the quality of life of fishing and aquaculture communities.  Its potential to improve productivity is especially relevant in a context in which the food security of millions could be at risk.” 

There are incalculable innovation options that companies in this sector can use to create added value and better results between the production cost, quality and ratio of fish, depending on each of their particular needs. The misPeces website noted that these options can be leveraged with technologies, however, “the concepts of science, technology and innovation should not be confused.”  Technology and innovation are allies, but not synonymous.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stresses that “the expansion of aquaculture and effective fisheries management depend on innovation in the fisheries and aquaculture value chains. So, what is innovation? Innovation is the relationship between need and wanting to change something; knowing what is happening and applying the change, understanding what is causing the problem and what you want to improve and the means. The key is to bet on continuous improvement.  

FAO has managed to establish that innovations in aquaculture in the world include, among others: “technologies that diversify the economy and food production, improve production efficiency in hatcheries or aquaculture farms while mitigating environmental impact; technologies that reduce the incidence of animal diseases or parasites or reduce or eliminate the use of antibiotics in the treatment of animals; advances in recirculation technology at sea or on land; new feed ingredients; reductions in carbon footprint through improved energy efficiency or energy regeneration; and social programs aimed at improving living and working conditions on farms or in processing plants. Significant efficiency gains can also be achieved by reducing waste and losses during the production and post-harvest phases.”

Aquaculture specialist for Sightline Systems, senior consultant Laura Toro, points out some of these emerging modern technologies: AI, big data, IoT, sensors, artificial machine vision and robots, which, although they have been taking center stage, are only some of the tools through which the aquaculturist can achieve his goal and solve problems.

She gave as an example that currently, worldwide, “about 73% of aquaculture technology companies deploy at least one type of sensor, including half that use cameras. Algorithms are also improving exponentially.” And as for AI, “about one-third are used to estimate biomass or forecast growth (41%), optimize feeding (34%) or monitor health or predict disease outbreaks (26%) among others.  Much of this data is collected with underwater cameras and analyzed using image recognition algorithms.”

WHAT ARE THE WORLD’S LARGEST COMPANIES DOING?

Companies such as AquaChile, a salmon producer born in the south of Chile and one of the largest companies in the sector worldwide, believes in “the need to innovate and constantly improve, seeking to make the different processes and stages of modern aquaculture more efficient.” In this organization, innovation has allowed them to make continuous improvements in the entire process: from genetics, through freshwater production, culture centers, feed production, industrial processing and marketing. 

FAO also documents different innovations that are taking place in the sector around the world. For example, among the cases cited, it details that vaccination can produce significant economic benefits. This “has been recognized as an essential way to reduce antibiotic use in the aquaculture industry in the UK and Norway. For example, an economic analysis of Streptococcus agalactiae vaccine in tilapia farms in Brazil showed that the survival of vaccinated fish could increase by more than 60-80% and they could have a feed conversion ratio of +5-10%, resulting in significant savings, as well as significant sales and profits.” 

THIS IS HOW COLOMBIA IS EXCELLING 

In general, several countries with a tradition in aquaculture have designed their own national development strategy, where different actors converge, for the sustainable development of aquaculture. A good example is China, the world’s largest aquaculture producer; as well as African countries, among others. These countries, “based on technological development and a great capacity for research and development, have made technological innovations in aquaculture to achieve the objectives of sustainable development,” says FAO.

Colombia is also betting on innovation. The aquaculture expert and former director of the Colombian Federation of Aquaculture (FEDEACUA), César Pinzón, pointed out some examples that deserve to be recognized, depending on the front in which it is: genetics, nutrition, production and new species. 

In genetics “we are working on the hardiness of native species and bringing all the growth in terms of biomass of genetically ‘modified’ ones.” They are also working on “disease resistance, not only in Colombia but in all Latin American countries”, so the expert believes that “we could work a little more closely together to obtain faster answers and not duplicate work.”

Likewise, in nutrition, it is key to improve the use of proteins ingested by the animal. And although on this point we still have “a long way to go”, efforts are being made to improve the digestibility of all products. The challenge is to use local raw protein because approximately 85% to 90% of the raw feed used to make fish concentrates in Colombia is imported. 

Meanwhile, in production, it has been possible to advance in the use of technology where more can be produced in less space and with less effort. “Colombia really has a great potential and is taking advantage of it with the use of techniques called IPRS, a high density system yielding economic and technical results. In that we are more ahead than other countries in Latin America.” 

Finally, he contextualized that finding new species is another front that deserves attention, because in Colombia there are only four species that can be cultivated, however, in Chile the number rises to 13, while in Brazil it is much higher.  “There is a sea of problems, which could be solutions, there is a lot of work to be done,” he concluded.

AQUA Sightline is a powerful mobile app that operates even without a constant internet connection, is easy to use, and is already available in stores for Android and iOS devices.

By Caterin Julieth Manchola Pajoy, Journalist. Colombia.  Photo: Government of Huila, Columbia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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