Clean energy in aquaculture: using technology to grow healthy fish

Can healthy fish be produced using clean energy in aquaculture and without ‘pollution horrors’? Novaton of Switzerland believes so.

Written by: Issam Kabbani / Government Europa News

Novaton, a Swiss multi-innovation company, combines clean technologies with clean energy in aquaculture to build and operate smart cleantech aquaculture farms. Chairwoman and co-founder of Novaton Christine Ledergerber says: “The result is 100% natural, healthy, chemical-free seafood.” Using Novaton’s processes, natural healthy seafood can all be cultivated and produced at large industrial scale and sold at affordable economic prices.

With so much information available on the internet, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of – and angry with – the vast amounts of unhealthy food available on global markets. Experts agree that the bulk of meat, fish, vegetables and other food products sold to consumers are too often weak in nutritional values, polluted with chemicals and riddled with unhealthy saturated fats and hidden sugars. The global population is growing and so is the demand for healthy chemical-free seafood and vegetables; while the old fashioned frequent consumption of red meat and saturated fat is steadily decreasing.

In this day and age, one could think there is no hiding from technology for any industry. Well, almost. Old-established players in aquaculture remain conservative and a majority still operate century-old methods which have long proven disastrous to consumers’ health and the environment. For example, cultivating shrimp in vast open earth ponds, exposed to unstable water quality and crop disease still represent more than 80% of the world’s shrimp aquaculture: this is where Novaton is positioning its offer of clean energy in aquaculture and the technological know-how for modern, healthy fish farming. Novaton calls this concept ‘positive aquaculture’.

In addition to offering clean solutions to replace the unsustainable methods practiced in the aquaculture industry, Novaton’s business model of building and operating cleantech farms is “designed to attract newcomers and investors looking for fully packaged solutions to leap right into a rare triple mega-trend business opportunity: [to] invest in clean aquaculture, clean energy, and hardcore business sustainability,” says Issam Kabbani, CEO and co-founder of Novaton.

Reports abound of marine fisheries reaching saturation. The seas are being depleted of fish faster than they can reproduce. Oceans are contaminated with heavy metals and plastics. The majority of marine farms cultivating salmon, seabass and other in-demand fish breeds operate diesel engines, which pump feed and chemicals into fish-filled cages anchored close to shores. These farms have for decades neglected to treat the accumulating waste from fish, from diesel and from rotting unconsumed fish feed in the sea, creating ideal environments for festering sea lice and pathogens which attack the fish; forcing the farms to increase their use of medicine and chemicals or face massive losses. How can this remain a source of commercial seafood much longer?

Together with Norwegian partners Salmo Solar, Novaton has developed a cleantech marine fish cage operating on solar energy which can function remotely in exposed seas. This autonomous industrial fish cage can be customized for growing salmon, seabass, seabream and other marine species without diesel.

Novaton is currently in the process of developing smart industrial aquaculture platforms able to produce perfectly healthy natural fish inside polluted seas and lakes. This solution is called the ‘Novaton Chessboard’ and will operate on hybrid solar-wind energy systems. These platforms will deploy clean energy in aquaculture to cultivate organic fish in recirculated clean water basins, suspended and isolated inside the polluted waters of seas and lakes. Kabbani says: “Imagine a floating chessboard where the white cases are basins filled with clean unpolluted water, treated to grow organic fish and the dark cases are solar panels, all operated with smart automated management systems.”

The importance of clean energy in aquaculture

To this day, fish farmers remain exposed to critical factors dramatically affecting their harvest: unstable water quality, crop disease, high crop mortality and unpredictable behaviour from surrounding natural elements.

For years low labour costs and outdated cultivation methods substituted for water pumps, filters, aerators and skimmers but created other serious problems and increased the pollution in open ponds: untreated organic waste, high crop mortality rates and the increased use of chemicals and antibiotics to combat pathogens attacking fish and shrimp were all cultivated in increasingly polluted environments.

Not all farmers can afford modern equipment; and energy costs remain an underlying issue. Usability of equipment is dependent on the availability of electricity. Unfortunately, energy supply remains scarce and expensive in most developing countries. In Indonesia and Thailand, electricity costs between between $0.12/kWh and $0.15/kWh (€0.11/kWh-€0.14/kWh) and is often supplied by coal operated electricity plants. Sometimes it is totally unavailable in rural areas. Vietnam subsidises some of the electricity costs incurred by farmers, but for how long is this sustainable?

Clean energy in aquaculture is one of Novaton’s core proficiencies and strategies: by introducing low cost solar energy whenever possible, smart water management systems can play their essential role at affordable costs.

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