Making aquaculture more sustainable and efficient with Rheticus® Aquaculture
Is there a connection between aquaculture, climate change and satellite Earth Observation?
Fish and seafood play a significant role in the human diet and represent a very important source of protein. About 20% of the world’s population takes at least 20% of animal protein from fish.
According to the FAO, human population growth is expected to rise fish consumption by around 1.2% per year over the next ten years. By 2030, the production of fish and seafood products is expected to exceed 200 million tons compared to the current world catch fishing production of around 90-95 million tons per year. In addition, today about a third of fish resources are exposed to excessive exploitation, and this lead to the definition of the United Nations 2030 Agenda – Goal 14 “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”.
Aquaculture represents the optimal solution to ensure the production of fish and shellfish necessary to meet global needs. However, effective and sustainable management of aquaculture sites requires improvement of technologies and production processes. Nonetheless, fish and shellfish farms need to adapt their farming techniques to the environmental context, the habitat in which animals live. Temperature, chlorophyll and turbidity of marine waters significantly affect the growth rate and health of animals.
Climate changes have led to changes in the sea temperature and in the quantities of phytoplankton, factors that affect the growth rates and mortality of animals and, therefore, the productivity of farms and the quality of products.
It is clear that a deeper knowledge of these variables is fundamental for achieving an optimized farm management.
An extraordinary source of information comes, today, from Earth observation satellites. Their data allow to carefully estimate multiple parameters such as sea temperature, chlorophyll concentration (proxy of the presence of phytoplankton) and water turbidity (proxy of water quality).
Over the last 25 years, Planetek Italia has gained great expertise in this field thanks toseveral European Space Agency (ESA) and European Commission research programs, such as “Integrated Coastal Water Management for MED (ICWM for MED)”, “SAtellite Near Real Time Monitoring Network (SAIMON)” and “Marine-EO” projects, to name the latest.
As part of the European project “User uptake activities Copernicus Marine Environment Service (CMEMS) – Promoting demonstrations of CMEMS downstream services.”, coordinated by Mercator Ocean, Planetek has furthermore enhanced Copernicus CMEMS data and services, creating an innovative platform called Rheticus® providing on-demand geoanalytics services specifically designed for Environmental Reporting, Maritime Engineering, as well as fishing and aquaculture activities.
All these experiences have contributed to the development of Rheticus® Aquaculture service, specifically designed for the management of mussel farming sites. The service was developed by Planetek Italia in partnership with Bluefarm s.r.l. to provide mussel farmers with a weekly digital bulletin of updated information on trends of sea temperature and chlorophyll, on growth rate of molluscs, as well as growth trends compared with past ones. The service also provides an estimate of the optimal harvesting time and expected volume of productions.
Thanks to an agreement with the Mediterranean Aquaculture Association (AMA), 23 aquaculture sites distributed along Italian coasts are using Rheticus® Aquaculture to support the operational management of mussel farms. The first results of the initiative were presented in a workshop organized last 20 February 2020 during the Aquafarm fair in Pordenone.
The workshop confirmed a great interest of farmers to receive constantly updated information, useful for the optimal management of their sites in a typical Industry 4.0 logic suited to the aquaculture sector. Among many emerged ideas, there was a growing interest in extending the service to other species such as oysters, which are finding widespread use in Italian seas.