The aquaculture industry has been expanding and evolving rapidly. Today, aquaculture accounts for 50 percent of the fish consumed globally. Reliance on aquaculture is expected to continue to increase, at several times the growth rate of other meat production. This growing reliance on aquaculture presents huge opportunities, but also increases risks for producers.
As pressure to increase crop yields intensifies, concern is growing about the impacts of open aquaculture systems on the environment and wild species due to disease and increased waste production. At the same time, fish and shellfish raised in open systems are vulnerable to contracting diseases present in the natural habitat, and must rely on river or ocean currents to carry away waste products and maintain the proper conditions. Implementing effective biosecurity measures necessary to protect native species and secure a disease free environment for a healthy crop is difficult in open systems. These factors have increased the demand for land-based systems that separate farmed fish and shellfish from their wild counterparts.
Closed-loop systems, tank-based systems such as Re-circulating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) or flow-through systems, provide separation from native species and allow for increased production at aquaculture facilities. These contained systems make it possible to create the optimal conditions for crop health, improving yields and quality. RAS even uses less water.
However, increased production intensifies risk. The equation is simple – poor water quality and crowded conditions lead to stress and disease. It is essential to control the water environment needed to sustain crop health. But, control of conventional RAS and flow-through systems has been too complex, and difficult to operate and maintain. When a process imbalance can quickly set the stage for an outbreak that decimates the entire crop, it is critical to have the information needed to respond promptly to re-establish proper conditions.