Tore Obrestad, technical manager at AKVA group, said: “In simple terms, what we have done is to combine two systems that have never been used together in this way in the aquaculture industry. A chain conveyor system, similar to that used in many other industries, is connected to the central feeding system that Ole Molaug developed in 1980 and goes via the buffer tanks to the cage. This gives you the opportunity to extract feed from any silo to any cage, and this is a considerable advantage for the fish farmer.”
Currently, it is usually the case that each individual cage is connected to one specific silo via a feed line. It creates logistical challenges, and requires a lot of time to move feed from one silo to another, for instance if smolt are to be fed or special feed is needed in a cage.
Efficient feed handling
Jan Rune Erikstad, project manager and product manager for feed systems at AKVA, said: “With the Flexible Feeding system, feed is fetched from a selected silo to a buffer tank, and then into the cage. This makes the feeding process much more efficient and makes it much easier to use several feed types, different pellet sizes and the like.”
He points out that this system also addresses challenges associated with the ballasting of feed barges, by having a complete overview of how much is sent from which silos to the buffer tanks.
The principle behind this flexible solution was explained to 40 fish farmers during the Biathlon World Championships in Hochfilzen in February, and Obrestad said the feedback was good. “All fish farmers that we have talked to about this have been very positive and this is definitely a system many people are eager to see. We already have customers who have made adaptations for this and we are regularly asked when it will be released, but we are making sure that it works as intended before we send it out into the world.”
The new standard
Flexible Feeding was introduced during Aqua Nor in Trondheim in August and has been tested at Alsaker Fjordbruk since the beginning of July, where it was described as “revolutionary” and “the biggest thing that has happened within feeding for many, many years”.
Erikstad said: “These are big words, but I am pretty sure that they are right. I do not know about anything else that can have as much impact on how feed is handled. I am of the belief that at least 50 per cent of all new barges will have this system in the future.”
Hans Helge Vik, production director at Alsaker Fjordbruk, added: “We are very positive about this system. By all means, there have been some issues, as with all new technology, so I do not want to brag too much just yet, but I am confident that AKVA group will find solutions for the challenges. Then this system will be a real time-saver for the aquaculture industry, and be positive for both the employees and the fish, as well as the bottom line.”
Step by step
Flexible Feeding is now being installed at two other selected customers, so AKVA can get feedback on how it works and make adjustments if needed. In addition, an in-house test lab is being developed at AKVA in Bryne for carrying out troubleshooting and improvements.
Obrestad said it is expected that the product will be released in 2018.