As fish stocks began to diminish in recent decades, fish farming was seen as a way to supply the world’s growing demand for fish while taking the pressure off of wild fish populations. But the thing is, fish farms have been far from environmentally-friendly.
In an effort to help make fish farming more sustainable, researchers from Norway have developed an underwater robot that autonomously inspects the living conditions of the fish and their pens.
The new robot aims to tackle the most common issues with marine aquacultures, such as non-native fish escaping and upsetting the local ecological balance, as well as the risk of spreading diseases to their wild counterparts.
To mitigate such problems, fish farmers typically use human divers to regularly inspect the nets for holes and to check the fish for signs of viruses or bacterial infections. But the presence of divers can be stressful to the fish, and the inspections are usually time and energy-consuming. This is where the new aqua droid comes in.
Called CageReporter, the robot is designed to autonomously work its way around fish pens. It’s equipped with a 3D computer vision system, which helps it to check the conditions of both the netting and the fish themselves. It also uses AI-algorithms to observe the behavior of the fish, adjusting its movements to disturb them as little as possible.
As part of its inspections, the robot measures the water’s temperature, oxygen levels, and light levels, indicators that help the farmers assess how the fish are doing. If it detects any problems with the net, it lets farmers know the exact location where repairs are needed.
So far, CageReporter has been successfully tested at two aquaculture facilities located off the coast of the Norwegian city of Trondheim.