Robotic Aquaculture

Underwater technology optimizes health and sustainability of fish farms


According to NOAA, aquaculture has maintained an annual growth rate of 5.8 percent since 2005—and 13 percent annually within the U.S.—making it the fastest growing sector of food industry in the world.

There are questions, however, surrounding the long-term environmental impact and sustainability of fish farming. Robotics is helping to answer these questions and to optimize the nutrition of the seafood produced by aquaculture.

A collaborative research group from University of Florence and Universidad Politécnica de Madrid has designed an autonomous underwater robot to monitor real-time water quality in fish farms. Equipped with an electrochemical polyaniline film pH sensor, the robot collects acidity data carrying insights into the prevalence of carbonic acid and hydrogen ions in the water.

The prototype mimics both the appearance and function of a living fish in order to minimize environmental disruption and fish stress. It is able to change its swimming pattern based on collected pH data to identify areas of irregular acidic concentration, giving farmers control of water conditions and subsequently the health and wellness of the fish population.

In the same vein, Massachusetts-based tech corporation Aquabotix unveiled last week its Live Remote Viewing product feature—the world’s first digital, inspection-class remotely operated vehicle (ROV) platform.

Designed for Aquabotix’s Endura ROV and AquaLens Connect, an underwater photo and video system, Live Remote Viewing will allow off-site users to conduct lower-cost, higher-quality inspections of fish farms and other aquatic infrastructure. Continuous live feeds will monitor fish behavior, feeding habits, and net and mooring conditions to influence management decisions that will improve the environmental safety of aquaculture operations.

Photo Credit: C. Rossi, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid

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