Accurate biomass measuring is a prerequisite for both profitability and sustainability in aquaculture. OptoScale is nominated to the Innovation Award for its work on laser lights, advanced algorithms and a simple, but brilliant idea about how the weight of salmon can be measured more accurately.
In this series of articles, Aqua Nor wishes to present the three finalists for the Innovation Award 2017. The first nominee in the series is OptoScale of Trondheim.
New ways of measuring biomass, or average weight estimation of the salmon in the cage, is ubiquitous in the industry. OptoScale distinct themselves from the crowd – and much of the reason lies with the way they can distinguish individual fish from the population in the cage.
OptoScale, like many others working with biomass measurement, uses a stereo camera – i.e. two cameras that have slightly different field of view. By having two slightly different pictures of the fish, one gets a better depth of vision and of the circumference of the fish. In addition, OptoScale uses a laser beam which is sent out in a striped pattern, rather than the traditional LED light.
By lighting the fish with a striped pattern, one gets much more information than when using the traditional lighting, since the curves of the light stripes change with the fish’s circumference. In addition, the stripes will change even more if they hit a fish that is in front of or behind the fish that is being measured – in this way one is able to separate out individual fish from the population in the cage.
Sven Kolstø is co-founder and CEO of OptoScale.
Biomass measurement as decision support
Sven Kolstø is co-founder and CEO of OptoScale. He points out that precision in biomass measuring has great advantages, in addition to the established needs in aquaculture. “Traditionally, biomass measurement has been important for the fish farmer in order to get the most accurate estimate of slaughter weight. Accurate slaughter weight means improved profitability – the more accurate your estimate, the better price you will get. But the advantages are more numerous if the accuracy improves.”
Too large error margins
Kolstø claims that the advantages of accurate biomass measurement go beyond slaughter weight estimation. “Today’s technology often has a margin of error of 3 to 5 %. The fish grows at a rate of about 1 % each day. When the margin of error is larger than the growth rate of the fish, the weight data from the cage has no value beyond estimating the slaughter weight at the end of the production cycle. Our objective is to achieve only 1 % deviation by the end of the year – and with such precision the industry can use biomass measuring as a decision support from day to day.”
Practical use of the data
In this way, the aquaculture industry can utilize the trend that is now present in all growth industries: utilization of data. With daily updates of accurate figures, the fish farmer can rapidly determine if the fish weight suddenly diminishes, or if it suddenly increases. Thus he can regulate feeding, noise levels, and initiatives that stress the fish etc. against actual growth of the fish – and therefore he can decide what he needs to do more or less of. This also opens for comparisons across different cages and different locations.
At the same time that daily updated data is available, the fish farmer will also get more precise historical data.
SalMar as supporter
Kolstø emphasizes that SalMar has been central in the development and much of the reason why the company is now only months away from being able to take the system to market. “SalMar has been an outstanding partner from Day 1. We came up with the idea, called SalMar, and then a few weeks later we were working with them on their cages. They have made test facilities available to us, they make people available, boats and installations are available when we visit, and in general they are always accommodating and helpful,” says Kolstø.
The Innovation Award was the objective
For Kolstø it is special to be nominated for the Innovation Award. It has been his personal goal for almost two years to be nominated for this award – an naturally to win it. “We were at Aqua Nor in 2015, only a couple of months after we started thinking about whether this was possible. There and then we decided to win the Innovation Award in 2017 and launch our product then. This award is the industry’s own stamp of quality – there is a jury that understands the problems facing the industry, existing technology and the value chain, and they select the innovation they believe in.”
Celebrated with night work
There was, however, no great celebration when they were informed that they were nominated. “We had a big test the following day, so our celebration consisted of working through the night in order to be ready for the test in the sea”, says Kolstø with a laugh, and adds that they maybe got a little extra energy to work that night after they received news of the nomination.
A bright future
With working prototypes in the sea and three systems in production, OptoScale has now changed the focus to work on programming and the algorithms the interpret the pictures, 3D models and present the data in the online portal. “This now needs to be fine-tuned and by the end of 2017, our goal is to be able to estimate the weight of 1000 fish per day, compared to the 100 we measure today. And we shall also only have a 1 % deviation in our estimates.”
Here is one of OptoScale’s prototypes being installed at SalMar’s operations at Hitra.
The launch of this technology will be at Aqua Nor, stand E-402.
More information on the company’s web page (Norwegian), or by contacting Sven Kolstø at OptoScale:
Phone: +47 47 25 46 58