Synopsis of findings from the report “Feasibility Evaluation of Innovative Fish Farming Technologies to Prevent the Spread of COVID19 and Increase Productivity at Ontario Aquaculture Farms” by Ron Hill, Velocity Aqua.
The Ontario Aquaculture Association, in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, commissioned Velocity Aqua to perform a feasibility study to examine innovative technologies that could be adopted by the Ontario aquaculture sector with the dual purpose of reducing transmission of the COVID19 virus and improving efficiency in the sector long term. Velocity Aqua interviewed 14 prominent industry members to representative sample of a) how the industry was dealing with COIVD19, b) how sites and facilities are preventing the spread of COIVD19, c) what technologies where in place, d) what innovations could be adopted to both reduce the risk of transmission while also providing long term production increases.
Results of the interviews were compiled and 5 categories for net-pens and 7 categories for land-based facilities were identified for study. Categories had their feasibility rated based on: effectiveness to prevent COVID19, cost, impact on efficiency, ease of installation, time to implement, labour reduction, and labour specialization needs. The categories (materials handling equipment or centralized feeders) are designed to be broad enough for farms to work within to find appropriate equipment, technology or upgrades for their specific farm needs and shortcomings. The focus is on farming technologies that will limit the spread of COVID19 rather than purely protective equipment.
The highest scoring technologies for net-pens are automation equipment. Fish pumps, centralized feed systems, materials handling equipment and automated harvesting equipment scored well for providing COVID19 reduction by dropping the shoulder-to-shoulder labour required for tasks and allowing for proper physical distancing. The highest rated technology, fish pumps, scored high for being easy to use, requiring no specialized training and being easy to implement and install. Fish pumps are also highly recommended because they are a keystone technology that allows farms to adopt more automation that requires a fish pump to operate such as automated harvest equipment.
Fish Pumps – 9.14
Materials Handling Equipment – 8.43
Harvesting Equipment – 7.43
Centralized Feed systems- 7.14
Boats and Barges – 6.71
Land based farms in Ontario are much less uniform than net-pen farms and technology level differs across the industry. There is wide variation in what technologies they require. Different facilities have much different needs based on what technologies are already in place. Technologies to reduce labour at Ontario land-based farms will go the furthest to reduce the spread of COVID19, but the impact of each technology will be specific to conditions on the farm. Automation technologies scored the highest at land-based farms as well, providing the best physical distancing and reducing people congregated to perform labour while providing long term improvement to production and efficiency.
Fish pumps again scored extremely high for reducing COVID19 spread and increasing production. Also Egg sorters also scored very well for being able to prevent COVID19 by clearing crowded incubation rooms and vastly increasing egg sorting and counting capabilities.
Fish pumps – 9.57
Egg sorters – 8.21
Automated feed systems 7.14
Accessibility Controls – 7.07
Fish Counters and Graders – 6.93
Monitoring and Control Units – 6.39
HVAC upgrades – 5.93
Automation technologies, like fish pumps, are the most feasible recommendations and will allow many operations to further protect their workers from the spread of COVID19 and to expand their production without expanding their footprint. Automation technologies are safer for fish and humans, and eliminate much fish stress, reduce the risk of dropping fish and diminish the risk of worker injury.
Download a condensed fact sheet: Covid-Safe Technology Fact Sheet