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Cermaq reported today that it has stocked fish in iFarm-net pens for the third time, this turn at the Hellarvika marine site in Steigen, Norway. The iFarm project aims to improve the health and welfare of fish in net pens with the help of artificial intelligence and in this phase, the focus will be on machine learning.

Individual-based fish farming

iFarm is a method that enables individual-based fish farming through the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning. The system’s sensors have artificial vision and recognize each individual based on the spot pattern of the salmon. A sensor chamber records the number of fish, their size, the number of sea lice, and possible signs of disease for each fish. The ultimate goal is to provide better health and welfare for the fish.

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Cermaq is testing the system at both Øksnes and Steigen, in Nordland. This time it is the Hellarvika marine site in Steigen that is being equipped with the iFarm configuration in the net pens. The team in charge is the same that was responsible for the very first iFarm fish stocked in Martnesvika in 2020. According to the release, they are excited to see how it will be to operate iFarm again.

“With the first version of iFarm, everything was new, and we had an incredibly steep learning curve, but as we got started with operations, we think it worked out quite well”, said site manager Tor Hansen at Hellarvika. “Now a number of adjustments have been made both to the set-up and to operations based on experiences gained in Øksnes, where we now have version two of iFarm, so it will be exciting to get started with operations, and to follow how the fish thrive in the third version of iFarm”, he added.

A 5-year project entering phase 3

The iFarm project is a collaboration between Cermaq and BioSort and is planned to last five years. The company has been awarded four development grants with iFarm and the first fish were released on the first version of iFarm in September 2020. In that first trial, the main focus was to establish an understanding of how the system affects fish behavior and to gain basic learning about its construction.

Then, in version 2 trials at Øksnes, the developers have worked with alternative versions of the sensor housing and operational adaptations, such as feeding fish under a net roof and achieving efficient handling operations at a sea site with a lot of additional equipment in net pens. Now, in this version 3, the focus will be mainly on sensors, data collection and machine learning.

“At Hellarvika, we will concentrate on the sensor arrangement to retrieve images with good quality and follow up the annotation of key parameters such as fish ID, lice, growth and fish welfare in the net pen, and on further developing sorters”, said the managing director of BioSort, Geir Stang Hauge.

Autonomous fish sorter

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Additionally, the mechanism that classifies fish will also be further developed in this third phase. “After a successful test of the first-generation sorter in net pens where we saw that the mechanical sorting mechanism worked with fish swimming through the system, we are now testing the second generation, and we will try to lead the fish from the sorter into another volume through a pipe”, Hauge added. “The aim is to validate that it is possible to take out individual fish according to specific sorting criteria”, he claimed.

Over time, the sorter will become autonomous and, together with iFarm’s sensor system, will be able to make its own decisions based on defined criteria, such as the discovery of lice or wounds. Cermaq says this is an extensive and complicated development process, requiring “the development of precise machine vision, rapid processing of large amounts of data and interaction with a mechanical sorting unit with its own control systems”.

When the iFarm system is fully developed, it will represent a technological leap in the development of cage farming, as well as a significant contribution to solving the challenges that aquaculture faces in Norway. “It’s complicated work, and it’s work that hasn’t been done before, so it’s demanding, but also very exciting”, the managing director of BioSort concluded.

About Cermaq

Cermaq is a leading global producer of sustainable salmon and trout with operations in Chile, Canada, and Norway. Headquartered in Oslo, Norway, the company supplies salmon to customers in more than 70 countries around the world, has some 2,800 employees, and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corporation. Its goal is to drive the transition of the food system towards healthier and climate-friendly food. With an approach based on transparency, performance, and partnerships, Cermaq has set ambitious climate targets in which innovation for clean agriculture – with examples such as this iFarm system in Norway or semi-closed containment system in Canada – plays a key role.

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