Covid-safe Technology Focus: Fish pumps

Covid-safe Technology Focus: Fish pumps

This is from a recent research study into Covid-safe technologies on Ontario fish farms by Ron Hill of Velocity Aqua. Learn more by reading: Ontario Aquaculture Association partners with OMAFRA to explore Covid-safe technology options for Ontario fish farmers

There is a clear demand and need in the Ontario aquaculture sector for increased automation. Adopting more sophisticate automation equipment can help prevent the spread of COVID19 and increase production by dropping the manual labour needed for routine tasks like fish movements, grading, counting, shipping, feeding, egg husbandry and harvesting. The most identified technology needs identified by Ontario’s farmers were increases to automation.

Fish pumps are the standout technology recommendation for both net-pens and land-based sites, based on feasibility to implement and industry demand. These amazing pumps allow the farmer to suck the fish through an intake hose and pump them to the desired pen, tank, raceway, or truck. The design allows fish to pass through the pump without being damaged by the impeller and motor. Fish can easily be pumped long horizontal distances, eliminating netting, and carrying buckets of fish around and instantly streamlining many processes. Flex hoses are attached to the pump with cam-lock fittings. Flex hose is easy to manipulate and can be cut to the desired length for intake and return lines. If more permanent lines are desires in lieu of hose, high density polyethylene pipes are available.

Fish pumps are a considerable technology to prevent the spread of COVID19. By eliminating congregated workers harvesting or moving fish the risk of transmission is much reduced. Significant labour is instantly eliminated from a job where the pump can be used in lieu of humans. After setup, the pump can be operated by one or two people who crowd the fish and observe the pump and fish flow. Traditionally many workers are used in an “all hands-on deck” approach to harvesting or transporting fish with nets and buckets in close quarters.

Fish pumps are portable, usually mounted on a pushcart but can be mounted anywhere the farmer desires including on boats. The do not require lengthy setup or any special training to operate. They are designed to be user friendly and easy for technicians to operate. The larger the fish pump, the larger the fish that can be pumped. The major drawback of fish pumps is their high cost, especially for models that will pump larger fish. A 3” fish pump, good for fingerlings is going to cost in the $25,000-35,000 CAD range depending on company, extras and the amount of hose needed. Moving up to a 10” pump that will move fish up to 5lbs the cost rises to $130,000-150,000 CAD.

Fish pumps are a keystone technology in automated processes. Adopting a fish pump allows the farmer to adopt other pieces of equipment that must be used with a fish pump to be effective. Harvesters, graders, and counters are significant pieces of technology that need a fish pump to supply fish and make the process time efficient. These other technologies will further reduce the risk of COVID19 spread and increase overall production by continuing to reduce the labour needed for farm tasks.

Download a condensed fact sheet: Covid-Safe Technology Fact Sheet

Download the full report: Feasibility Evaluation of Innovative Fish Farming Technologies to Prevent the Spread of COVID19 and Increase Productivity at Ontario Aquaculture Farms