Carbon Foot Print & Energy Cost Reduction for Sustainable Shrimp Aquaculture- Recent Development

Aquaculture today

According to the FAO 2016 report on the state of Fisheries and Aquaculture, world captured fisheries and aquaculture production in 2014 was at close to 170 Million tons. The marine fisheries production increased significantly and but aquaculture production. By 2030, the demand for fish is expected to touch 260 Million tons. The gap is expected to be closed with increased aquaculture production. With increased income, and a more health conscious population, people are turning more and more to fish consumption than beef, pork and chicken. Asian countries like China, Thailand, Indonesia and India are leading in terms of aquaculture production. India’s export of aquaculture is higher than any other agriculture commodity. With its vast coastline and large number of farmers engaged in farming fish, India has an excellent opportunity to increase its aquaculture production and export farmed fish to USA, European Union, Japan etc.

Sam Siril Nicholas, Maheshwaran M L and Gunalan B Journal of Fisheries an Aquatic Studies; conducted a random survey with a structured questionnaire for exporters to do the SWOT analysis of the Indian seafood industry. Besides identifying several strengths and opportunities of Indian seafood industry, they have reported some weaknesses and threats to the Indian fisheries industry. Major respondents (72.97%) mentioned that high establishment costs result in high unit cost of production. This clearly indicates that establishments must be inefficient in terms of energy, water usage and productivity of men and machines. The same group of exporters identified unsustainable fishing practices and high cost of compliance with quality standards of buyer countries as some of the major threats. This has an implication on quality standards and eco-certification.

On October 5, 2016, over 55 countries covering more than 55 per cent of Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions ratified the Paris Climate Change Agreement. The Paris accord on climate change was adopted in December 2015 and would now come into force soon because of recent ratification. This shows the resolve of the international community to meet the climate change challenges. The Indian government has decided to ratify the Pairs Agreement on climate change. India is an emerging economy. It has a large population having no access to electricity. The country has to face a unique challenge. It has to generate more energy for development and the same time meets its obligation of reducing Green House Gases (GHG).

The fisheries sector consumes high energy especially from fossil fuel.  The activities include fishing, fish feed & aeration in aquaculture, post-harvest processing and product distribution. All these activities depend on use of fossil fuel; thus giving rise to a large carbon footprint. One would need to address the heavy energy consumption of this sector and encourage the reduction of GHG.

In this context, Eco label and carbon foot print certification have a great significance. Eco labeling promotes sustainable fishing. The consumers and importers thus have a satisfaction that the fish has been caught in an environment friendly way. There are multiple Eco label certificates in the market which are recognized by the fisheries industry. Though there is no simple and inexpensive way to issue a carbon foot print certificate, experts are attempting to integrate Eco label and carbon foot print certification to a single certificate.

While the Indian government will address issues such as favorable policies, supporting infrastructure & environment, subsidies etc., there is a need to look into use of the digital platform for sustainable fishing keeping in mind the expected multi-fold growth in the aquaculture sector. Fortunately, India has a vibrant IT industry and the fisheries sector should leverage this advantage. Thus, India can find its own unique inexpensive solution to challenges highlighted by the aquaculture sector.

The following sections outline the technology trends and possible tech- solutions to several problems in the aquaculture industry.

Technology Trends

Given the natural reproductive capacity of many inland fishes and the local-level, informal trade of most inland capture fisheries, well managed inland fisheries are likely to be the most sustainably produced source of animal protein on the planet. Even sustainable aquaculture, of both herbivorous and omnivorous species, has a more efficient food conversion ratio (/2kg of dry feed per 1 kg of grain) than poultry (2-to-1), pigs (4 to 1), and cows (7 to 1). Yet, aquaculture as practiced today in many parts of the world involves high energy use and carbon footprint and unsustainable water management practices. Technology will have a major role in bringing in sustainable resource management for aquaculture.

A new school of thinking emerges from the advancement of sustainability in aquaculture, as a means to improved productivity and profitability. With the increasing automation, it is now possible to use fewer resources to produce higher quantity and quality of produce, far less susceptible to external risks such as disease breakout; in a sustainable manner. Optimum resource utilization is not only the key to sustainability, but also vital for productivity improvements and improved profitability. The competitiveness of this industry will increasingly depend on sustainability of the aquaculture, besides many other socio-economic and environmental compulsions and its impacts.

The first and foremost parameter that needs to be continuously monitored and optimized is the dissolved oxygen (DO) in the water. Aeration is a process that expends considerable energy. There would be a significant opportunity to optimize the aeration process and reduce not only the energy consumption, but also improve the productivity. This is a dynamic aspect that needs to be automated for optimization. Besides, there are several other parameters that need to be monitored such as the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), Ph, ammonia, nitrogen, Escherichia coli, turbidity, phosphate, and conductivity. It thus becomes imperative to monitor energy and water along with some or all the above and automation of these activities will be the future trend.

The ongoing industrial revolution 4.0, triggered by the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data Analytics can radically alter the landscape of sustainable aquaculture. India is at strategic advantage for this transformation, sooner or later considering the pace and ease of technology adoption today. Indian aquaculture being second in the world, and moreover India with a very long coastline and inland water with a large agrarian population can be engaged very profitably for aquaculture. The profound strategic advantage for India is its well-developed IT Industry that can quickly transform aquaculture into a modern industry, leveraging IoT and Big Data. It can significantly reduce the cost of automation, optimization and sustainability compliance, placing India at a competitive global advantage. This will also increase multifold the production of aquaculture across India improving productivity, profitability and sustainability.

Energy & Sustainability

Sustainability is the primary concern of every industry today. There seem to be little means or tools to overcome this challenge at present and we have to look in to the tools and technologies that can be engaged for achieving sustainability in a profitable manner. There could be several approaches to sustainability. The fundamental question we are trying to address is ‘how are we going to find the economic means and right technology for sustainable aquaculture for majority of our farms’?

We need to figure out what can be done such that it is environmentally and socially sustainable, yet economically feasible. Energy is a high cost natural resource can be reduced often, without affecting the productivity. It is often the first step towards sustainability, considering the economic benefits. More importantly, energy has direct impact on the dissolved oxygen and several other parameters. In other words, by optimizing the energy, it is possible to improve productivity. Energy is the driving force behind all automated operations and hence one can control and optimize the operations using energy. A new architecture for control and automation is emerging form this philosophy that can automate and optimize all critical functions is an integrated manner. This could soon become the foundation of sustainable aquaculture.

The IoT Era of Aquaculture

In this new era of IoT & Big Data, the access to the operational data and reacting with a high level of intelligence is increasingly becoming the order of the day. Perhaps the most striking feature of all this would be a drastic reduction in cost for very high level analytics and automation for continuous optimization. The cost of such integrated technology solutions could come well below a tenth of the current market price of the piece-meal technology solutions available today. This will make the technology available and accessible to even the very small and marginal farmers.

A Smart Grid for aquaculture and agriculture, monitoring the electrically driven machines using cloud computing can engage these farmers for integrated irrigation and aquaculture at a larger scale in specific areas, with significant environmental benefits and reduced water treatment costs. All these aspects of sustainability will have a cascading effect on reducing the cost of farming with improved productivity. There could be significant gains through co-management of aquaculture and agriculture, reducing the water treatment cost. A fully integrated and highly intelligent solution that can be subscribed by any farmer is just a matter of time.

Aquaponics, a food production system that combines soil-less vegetable growing (hydroponics) and fish farming (aquaculture) within a closed re-circulating system is gaining popularity today. This combination of food production methods (hydroponics and aquaculture) decimates the problems associated with the individual production methods. For aquaculture, the main problem with Recirculation Aquaculture Systems is the production of Nitrate rich waste water that must be treated or dumped, and this becomes a major environmental problem. For hydroponics, the main problem is the complete reliance on chemical fertilizers to grow the vegetables. When both methods are combined in an aquaponic unit, the nutrient-rich waste water from the fish tanks, which would normally need to be treated or dumped, is used as an organic fertilizer for plant production. In turn, this removes the need for chemical fertilizers for plant growth using hydroponics.

India needs to reinvent aquaponics as a combination of aquaculture and agriculture in a less intensive form cost effectively, using smart grid in a manner that can be applied to the large population engaged in aquaculture and agriculture, more profitably, at lesser cost. The smart grid that monitors water and its key parameters such as DO could be a very cost effective service delivered through the smart grid. All these emerging trends will make aquaculture and food production methods quite different from what it is today, with greater precision using technology and data analytics. China is already taking a lead in this space with 16 provinces adopting these technologies covering all its dimensions form sensing, communication and analytics. Smart data will be a prerequisite for sustainable aquaculture in future and India should find smarter and cost effective ways to connect each farm t monitor key parameters.

Sustainability Challenge

Sustainability challenges could affect the farmer, the communities or the entire environment. Sustainability generally affects all these dimensions and the viability of aquaculture in the long run. The examples of the sustainability issues that affect us directly are the high energy cost of a farm facility. Unsustainable water use could be another example of community level effect. The high carbon foot prints and the corresponding environmental effect could have a detrimental global impact.

The challenges faced by a small farmer could be different from a large aquaculture facility. The high energy cost and low yield due to unmanaged oxygen levels could be the best example fo r ahigh priority problem to be tacked first for a small farmer. The Ph levels or ammonia not in the desired levels could also play havoc. A frequent disease breakout may be the highest concern for a farmer. The challenge is when the farmer realizes the problems a tad too late. This paper is aimed at drawing the general trends and evolving the best strategies for farm level sustainability monitoring and resource optimization, particularly for a small farmer.

Many of them would be even operating without the basic sensors that can detect the dissolved oxygen or energy use in aeration. In case basic energy meters and DO sensors are provided, one can monitor the dissolved oxygen levels and compute the efficiency of aeration. The more parameters we monitor the more accurate would be the response to sustainability and productivity. It may be necessary to monitor maximum critical parameters such as DO, BOD, pH, ammonia nitrogen, Escherichia coli, turbidity, phosphate, and conductivity, as well as water temperature etc. Small farmers understand much of this through their own experience. The first and foremost challenge for a small farmer is to use minimum energy while maximizing the yield by optimally managing the dissolved oxygen. Remote monitoring of the farm level energy use and carbon footprint will aid the farmers in optimizing energy use and DO and subsequently, productivity.

Monitoring DO & Carbon Footprint

At a basic level, the oxygen levels at one or more locations of the pond can be monitored. The sensors can be shifted to study the variations at different areas and levels of the pond. Monitoring dissolved oxygen can become complex, given the fact that the oxygen levels at different parts and different levels can be different. Various factors such as stratification of water, forming different layers, building several areas of low oxygen levels in the pond, etc. can be detrimental to the health of the stock and its yield. Managing this would be a formidable challenge as the internal water flow and hydraulics can be too complex to understand, without scientific analysis however there could be several experience based, data based or advanced model based approaches to identify the problem and find the best fit solutions for optimum results only based on energy and DO sensor data.

The minimum requirement for a scientific approach would be metering and monitoring the energy use and the oxygen levels on a real time basis. This can be further optimized based on the data analytics for optimum aeration cycles. A remote monitoring service for carbon footprint and oxygen levels at the pond can be made available at a nominal cost to all farmers. This could be the first and foremost step towards sustainable aquaculture that can be easily offered across the country. An incentive form the Government would ease the access to data and production to provide farmer advisory information for improved productivity and sustainability. This data could be very valuable to the Government for supporting and improving aquaculture, by identifying the farming cycles, energy use and outputs from each farm on a real time basis all over the country.

Popular Methods of Improving DO

While these are the standard approaches for aeration, some of the latest technology provides far more energy efficiency and flexibility. The most notable one is a new patented design of SAR aerators that avoids the need for high mechanical energy or agitating water. The system works with the help of a pump that pushes water through a cylinder radically, where nano air bubbles are introduced in a tangent. The water and nano air bubbles get mixed at a high velocity in the cylinder, diffusing the air into the water. The device is static, while it can be operated with a pump, pushing water into it or fitted through a natural flow of water, without the need for any energy. This technology can provide many advantages for aquaculture. Due to high volume achieved by a single aerator, multiple traditional “splashier” style aerators can be replaced with one such aerator.

There are several advantages of SAR aerators, starting with its compact design, and lesser agitation of water, using less energy and high oxygen absorption rate. Another advantage is that the water intake and discharge back into the one can be directed such that the water flow in the pond can be manipulated to have more uniform oxygen levels at all areas, without any additional effort. SAR aerators will be best suited to emergency oxygen supply to the pond at the critical hours. This would however need more intricate computations using sensor data and modeling.

The aerator design will be according to the specific need and design of the pond despite having the best aerators, if the aeration process is not optimally managed, either we waste a lot of energy or the pond will starve for oxygen at critical times. The best solution would be a combination of the right aerator and a smart monitoring and optimizing solution for the right levels of dissolved oxygen. The above aerators along with the Data matrix Virtual Pumping Solutions can have the best results, as Data matrix Virtual Pump systems compute the fluid flow, pump head etc. from the energy and along with the DO monitoring can continuously track and optimize right approach for optimum aeration is to start with the equipment that is available and introduce a monitoring system to identity the deficiencies, and then provide the best fit solution.

Water Quality Monitoring and Treatment

The other key parameters such as pH, conductivity etc., can also be monitored using sensors communicating with the local automation systems as well as the cloud. There are other key parameters such as BOD, E-Coli etc. are to be periodically tested and entered in the computer or through cell phones for he concerned to access the information in this space is an invention by an Indian Professor based in Canada for detecting E-Coli, at site using a portable device described below.

The Mobile Water Kit (MWK) which allows detection of E.Coli and total coliform within 2-3 minutes as oppose to conventional technique of 24-48 hours. They have also developed rapid Fluoride detection sensors for potable water and are also working on detecting other heavy metals in water. Also, work is underway to provide nature inspired solutions for water treatment to remove both bacteria and metal contaminants. The MWK is successfully deployed in number of communities in India and also in the US Country through partnership with local government and non-government organizations, which is a great example of translation research from MNT lab

These smart devices made available at a community level can immensely benefit farmers and aquaculture in our country. Governments need to encourage further research to validate the claims of the inventors and manufacturers and guide the industry to address specific challenges and an initiative for optimizing aeration will help farmers for improving the productivity and reduce carbon foot print of the industry.

Integrated Performance Management

The following screen show a dashboard of ‘Data matrix’ used by highly reputed industries as well as small farmers for remotely monitoring various plant utilities/ irrigation performances online, in a cloud computing environment. It derives the real time operating parameters of a fluid system such as flow rate, pressure, and dynamic efficiency of the system against a single point input of energy. This technology has the unique ability to decipher the water-energy-asset performance nexus to continuously optimize the performance. It brings down the instrumentation cost to a fraction of the conventional technology cost, while facilitating remote monitoring, control and automation. A virtual plant capable of remotely monitoring and controlling various field equipment for optimum plant/ farm performance can be built using basic instrumentation such as Energy Meters, DO Sensors etc. The technology would help to maximize the economic output at the least input cost and significantly reduce the manpower requirements for managing the farms. This solution will also monitor the carbon footprint at a farm level, and provide vital inputs to the Government and other stakeholders with real time data for the betterment of the industry.

These solutions integrate and automate the performance of farms and processing plants reducing manpower cost, enhancing energy efficiency and improving productivity, at a cost and convenience never imagined earlier. The best thing about this new generation of technologies is that it can be made available on Software as a Service (SaaS) model for small farmers to large industries quite quickly making visible impact across the industry.


Thus, we have seen multiple-technologies and innovative solutions, which could help the aquaculture industry in India in a big way. Such innovative solutions would be affordable even to the fsher folk, and provide team an edge in the future market which would be governed by quality and sustainability certifications… The emergence of producer companies and Self Help Groups (SHG), which are unique to India, would make it possible to roll out above technologies and solutions without much difficulty. The energy-water nexus technology, IoT and Big Data which could be analyzed and implemented with remote monitoring, would help large processing units to reduce the units to reduce the unit cost of production, improve productivity and reduces cost of maintenance of expensive assets. We believe that smartly integrating the IT platform and solutions will significantly enhance the aquaculture industry value chain from “farm t fork” and will enable the Indian aquaculture industry to claim leadership the world.



Source: Aqua Aquaria

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