Empowering Aquaculture with Optimized Performance

The world’s population is expected to grow by nearly 2 billion people in the next 30 years, making practical solutions to food insecurity imperative. One of those solutions is global aquaculture, among the fastest-growing agricultural sectors. 

Production has already increased by 54% since 2011 and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization is aiming for a further 35% growth in aquaculture production by 2030 to address rising food demands and combat global hunger. [1] As demand ramps up, so does the need for sustainable aquaculture technology to support farmers to grow healthy and sustainable crops. 

Around $6bn is lost annually by the global aquaculture industry from diseases caused by pathogens due to bad water quality and treatment, according to World Bank estimates. The sector faces the challenge of maintaining a consistently healthy yield while meeting stringent domestic and international regulations on biosecurity and fish welfare.

For aquaculture producers, working with a trusted partner can help them avail of global expertise alongside regional and local knowledge built over decades of working with fish farmers, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), integrators, well boat manufacturers, and processing plants. 

Xylem designs, manufactures, and maintains a wide range of systems for every aquaculture application, helping customers control costs while enhancing operations. The company’s Norway-based Aquaculture Center of Excellence has more than 40 years of experience working with land-based recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), flow-through systems, and cage farms. 

Adapt and thrive 

Globally there has been a movement away from open cage aquaculture towards less polluting alternatives, with Canada, Norway, and Denmark leading the move towards land-based facilities in a bid to protect the environment and ensure a long-term future for the industry.

For those looking beyond open cage farming, closed fish farming solutions allow full control of inlet water and wastewater, while semi-closed solutions offer a hydraulic calculation of water flows in the system with inlet diffusers.

In 2020, Xylem Water Solutions established an Aquaculture Centre of Excellence in Norway to support European aquaculture customers produce healthy and robust fish stocks. The center aims to build on local experience and take it to the next level with a focus on sustainable solutions and the welfare of fish. 

Since the 1970s, Xylem has contributed to finding solutions to farm-related challenges and meeting industrial requirements, using the team’s application knowledge on projects from hatcheries to land and sea-based installations harvesting fully grown meal-sized fish. 

Close collaboration with Norwegian research institutes including SINTEF, the Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research, and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, as well as international research institutes, helps channel knowledge to colleagues in other countries to help customers optimize performance.

Taking RAS technology to the next level

Xylem has partnered with one of the largest land-based recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) technology providers in the Nordics to design and deliver optimal facilities that increase production while reducing both the consumption of natural resources and carbon footprints. 

The partnership brings together expert competencies, design solutions according to production needs, and state-of-the-art technologies to enable farmers to flourish under RAS operations. With systems typically developed for the first phases of fish life, modern RAS facilities have maximized production by reducing the development time from fry to smolt to just six months, whereas in the wild, it takes between two and five years before salmon smolt can live in saltwater.

Knowledge shared between organizations ensures constant development from project to project, creating a unique understanding of key factors needed for the sustainability of any aquaculture system, particularly RAS systems. 

Over the last few years, the trend to build larger facilities has increased the need for safety as risk levels are much higher if something goes wrong, meaning application knowledge is even more critical to ensure stable and reliable life systems for the fish. 

Solutions range from the design of pump pits, to ensure the best hydraulic condition for the pumps; installation advice on pumps and design; choice of materials and corrosion protection; technical training for pump hydraulics, to improve understanding of pump curves/datasheets; 3D models and drawings; document control, IOM and technical description; plus, maintenance, service, and troubleshooting.

The typical scope of supply covers main circulation pumps, inlet pumps for fresh water and seawater, oxygen pumps, sludge handling pumps, booster sets for fresh water, circulation pumps for heat exchangers, dead fish handling systems (ensilage), and fish barrier pumps.

Inspiring sustainable innovation

Many new developments are taking place to fulfill increased demands which present ever greater challenges for RAS technologies: for example, there is a drive to develop systems that take the fish from later stages through to fully-grown meal-size fish. 

While the aquaculture market grows internationally, the experience and technology demonstrated by the industry in northern Europe paves the way for accelerated development. New projects with new species of aquatic life challenge the status quo and lead to advances in solving changed water parameters, such as the temperature and salinity of a RAS system. 

With new advances come innovative solutions that contribute to sustainability efforts and reduce the environmental footprint of a fish farmer. For instance, an organic farm breeding White Tiger shrimp needed a pumping system to keep almost 185,000 gallons of water in constant motion in its rearing and filtration tanks, with no wastewater produced. 

With almost 100% humidity in the hall housing the rearing tanks, the tropical climate and saltwater that had to remain at 82F to 86F posed a challenge for common electrical systems. In this case, saltwater-resistant plastic pumps, designed as double pumps to ensure operational safety, were selected by Xylem’s experts, while additional biofilters accelerated the process and ensured the health of the shrimp. 

The balance of the water was maintained by constant controls and measurements; water was only added to compensate for evaporation.

With biosecurity threats on the increase, choosing the right equipment and instrumentation is vital. Choosing a tailored approach to boost growth does not mean compromising on ethos or performance; the latest digital sensors and analytics equipment can help fish farmers maintain stable conditions, with options for remote monitoring and control to provide data in real-time, allowing a rapid response when needed.

Rapid changes are driving innovation, and many fish farmers are opting for a more sustainable approach with long-lasting chemical-free solutions like UV disinfection systems to support vital eco-systems in the long term. The bespoke solutions available to the industry offer the opportunity to optimize performance, lower environmental impact, and safeguard a cleaner, healthier, and more productive future for the aquaculture industry.

[1] https://foodinstitute.com/focus/as-aquaculture-gains-global-momentum-american-segment-snagged