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Third salmon farmer gets OK for automatic lice counting

An Aquabyte lice-counting camera system in place in a salmon pen. Image: Aquabyte.
An Aquabyte lice-counting camera system in place in a salmon pen. Image: Aquabyte.

Norway has taken another step towards the widespread adoption of automatic lice counting by granting a third fish farmer permission to dispense with manual counts.

Although a considerable number of salmon farmers are counting the lice on their fish by using hi-tech cage cameras and artificial intelligence (AI), Mattilsynet (the Norwegian food safety authority) insists that they use manual counting to provide official figures until the accuracy of the automatic methods is proved.

Two companies - Kvarøy Fiskeoppdrett and Seløy Sjøfarm – have already been granted dispensation from manual counting.

Now a third salmon farmer, SinkabergHansen, has been told Mattilsynet will accept automatic counting results from its Atlantis submersible cage.

Manual lice counting is more difficult in the Atlantis submersible cage. Illustration: AKVA.
Manual lice counting is more difficult in the Atlantis submersible cage. Illustration: AKVA.

Easier and better

“In the Atlantis cage, it is extremely impractical to operate with manual lice counting, so this makes it much easier and better for the company to operate,” said Bryton Shang, managing director of Aquabyte, which supplies one of the lice counting technologies on the market.

“This also makes it easier for other companies to invest in new innovations, when they are no longer limited by the requirement for manual counting.”

Shang told Fish Farming Expert’s Norwegian sister site, Kyst.no, that fish farmers are increasingly becoming interested in automatic lice counting, biomass measurement and functions that can simplify and systematise data on the site. So far, 20 farmers are actively using Aquabyte’s system.

“Most farmers probably need it and will probably over time switch to having their own integrated system for all data, but automatic lice counting is a natural place to start,” said Shang.

Bryton Shang:
Bryton Shang: "Several years of work" to get first Mattilsynet approval.

Fish welfare

The Aquabyte founder said the company also works with fish farmers to measure fish welfare at the sites, and is pleased that Mattilsynet has begun to grant exemptions for automatic lice counting.

“It is very good for the fish farmers we work with, they do not have to handle the fish and it increases fish welfare,” said Shang.

“It took us several years of work and hundreds of pages of documentation to get the first approval. The dispensations also show that artificial intelligence is something that is clean and that has been accepted as a tool by Mattilsynet.

Word-of-mouth recommendations

“We have many companies that have applied Mattilsynet for a dispensation at several locations, and automatic lice counting is on its way to going from something that is nice to have, to something that is a necessity. We are working on several applications now with farmers, and they are at different stages in the applications.”

The Aquabyte founder said some of the best feedback he gets from farmers is that they have recommended the system to other farmers.

“We also have several cases where farmers have planned to carry out lice treatments at the site after manual counting, but then they have dropped or postponed this after seeing data from the automatic counting. They simply get a better basis for decision-making before measures are implemented on the site,” Shang said.