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Smolts were transferred to the iFarm last week. Photo: Cermaq
Smolts were transferred to the iFarm last week. Photo: Cermaq

The first smolts have been transferred to Cermaq’s iFarm, a novel concept that aims to improve animal welfare by treating each fish individually.

By using artificial intelligence and machine learning, Cermaq will be able to identify each fish in a pen, allowing for targeted health interventions and individualised health records.

The five-year project was awarded four development licences by Norway’s Directorate of Fisheries last December, and last week two iFarm pens were stocked with salmon.

Karl Fredrik Ottem, Cermaq's project manager for iFarm, said: ‘This is a very exciting and important phase in the project; now we will see how the fish behave in the actual iFarm environment, and whether our modelling and predicted outcomes for behaviour are accurate.

Performance

‘The technology will, if the project is successful, represent a leap forward for our ability to secure fish welfare, and for performance and overall farming practices.’

The fish are kept lower in the system using a net roof. When they rise to the surface to fill their swim bladders, they are guided through a portal, or chamber, where a sensor can quickly scan, recognise and record data on that specific fish using recognition data based on each fish’s unique markings and structure.

The weight of each fish is measured and lice are counted. Any wounds and signs of illness are also registered in the fish's health record and treatment is adapted to the individual's needs so that only fish that require treating are singled out.

Prototype

‘A prototype of the sensor itself will not be in place until November, allowing the fish to become used to their new environment over the coming eight weeks,’ said Ottem.

‘Until then, we will spend time observing the fish's behaviour in the cage, how they move and how they eat, so that we can make any adjustments before we install the sensor.’

The iFarm technology was developed by BioSort and the equipment supplied by ScaleAQ and delivered in early summer.  

Completed

The pens were pre-assembled and then transported to Cermaq’s sea site at Martnesvika, Nordland, in northern Norway, where the final assembly of nets was completed.

The system will initially be installed in two pens with slightly different layouts of iFarm, each holding approximately 150,000 fish.

The knowledge and experience gained from this first stocking will be used to optimise the design for the second stocking, planned in 2021.

‘What we are trying to achieve with iFarm is to develop a technology that, in the long-term, can lead to better fish health and welfare and help strengthen the competitiveness of coastal farming,’ Ottem added.

‘We have high expectations that the health and welfare of the salmon can be improved with iFarm, if we succeed.’

The iFarm components at the Cermaq site
The iFarm components at the Cermaq site
The pen seen from above. Each iFarm system will house approximately 150,000 fish. 
Photos: Cermaq
The pen seen from above. Each iFarm system will house approximately 150,000 fish. Photos: Cermaq