Transforming Aquaculture Through Software
As a new and rapidly growing food sector, aquaculture brings a range of important economic opportunities. However, it also faces challenges such as gaps in the knowledge required to run profitable and efficient operations. Now, mobile technology is helping to address this by providing aquaculture operators with the data they need to optimise and improve stock performance, and make decisions for maximum profit, reports Bonnie Waycott.
Aquanetix is a Cloud software application that started development in 2013. Designed for fish and shrimp farm managers, it uses cloud technology for electronic data collection, making it easy for operators of all educational levels and cultural backgrounds to gather important, real-time farming data and transform these into management reports. This allows staff and site managers to make informed operational management decisions on a daily, or even hourly, basis. Before launching Aquanetix in January 2015, founders Diogo Thomaz and Stella Adamidou had long recognised the potential of Cloud and mobile technologies to literally bring production data to the hands of fish farming professionals.
"Before, aquaculture management applications were administration tools for office-based roles such as secretaries or top management, not for the everyday management of fish and shrimp farms," Diogo Thomaz said. "But Aquanetix has transformed this completely."
Aquanetix can be applied to all farms that use commercial feed regardless of species or farming method. Customers at over one hundred farm sites, from salmon farms in New Zealand to tilapia farming companies in Africa and Central America, use the software and mobile app to farm more than 30 different species in hatcheries, nurseries, grow-out sites, sea cages, tanks, earthen ponds and RAS technology. After collecting the necessary data, they can quickly decide on the next course of action in order to optimise the performance of their stock.
The software combines a simple user interface with very powerful algorithms that process and report data as clear, useful and actionable descriptions of what needs to be done in each production stock to improve performance. Its biggest focus is feeding, the use of feed and the management and motivation of staff that are responsible for the feeding process. Diogo Thomaz and Stella Adamidou believe that good feeding, conducted by motivated and informed staff, is key to aquaculture's success.
"Factors like feeding behaviour must be taken into account if we are to understand and optimise the use of feeds," he said.
"Feed is also the number one cost in grow-out farms, so optimising its use is essential for business success. We believe it's the key area in which farmers can maximise performance and margins."
In hatcheries and nurseries, where feed is crucial, regular information is critical for managers to decide how much live or artificial feed needs to be distributed to which tank or when to grade or wean a specific batch of larvae. Aquanetix makes this information available in real time. Managers can then review the last hours and days of data collected for each tank and decide when, what and how much to feed or whether any other action is required, such as grading or transfer.
It has a main data input platform (Android mobile app), a web dashboard application where managers can access very targeted reports and see in detail how their species is performing, and a business intelligence and reporting platform (third-party software) for the production of up-to-date custom reports and dashboards. Aquanetix can also implement a number of these on behalf of users who don't yet feel confident using the business intelligence platform. Although the web dashboard requires internet access, the mobile app can be used offline. With no need to install anything on the computer, access is simple and any user can register online for an Aquanetix account. It also takes very little time to get up and running. For a medium-sized farm, preparation takes around half a working day, and if a farmer is happy to go ahead, full support is offered for setup, staff training and sessions on interpreting reports and making business decisions.
"The biggest advantage of Aquanetix is that data is collected and goes to the server in real time, being processed immediately," Diogo Thomaz explained.
"Aquanetix also engages staff and workers involved in feeding. This not only provides managers with performance data for each person, but also empowers workers and gives them a sense of responsibility over business performance."
Feedback has been positive. Some customers have achieved very good reductions in production costs, mainly through improved FCRs, while others have stressed the benefits of knowing how their staff are performing, using reports to compare the performance of teams and training those that under-perform.
Currently based in the UK, Aquanetix also has teams in Greece, Portugal and Germany, and is working to establish various partnerships including currently collaborating with an Australian business intelligence and reporting platform.
"We've just entered the Asian market," Diogo Thomaz said. "We still need to work on software localisation to the many languages and species farmed there and will be looking for a suitable partner to help us expand there. We're also expanding our reach into other areas like training, consulting and developing technologies that facilitate interactions with other stakeholders such as feed suppliers or final customers. We'll need to invest more resources into scientific and technical production models, support materials and language localisation, but our focus is firmly on expanding our market reach and developing new features and modules that will add more value."
Aquanetix is demonstrating its software at this year's Brussels Global Seafood Expo. Visit them at Hall 8, Stand 4590
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