SPAIN, Barcelona. UOC researchers developed an open-access aquaculture system to promote the sector's digitalisation, focusing on SMEs. Besides cost-effective open source licensing, the system allows aquaculture managers to digitalise their operations with minimal technical expertise. The project's ultimate goal is to use technology to enable facilities to operate semi-autonomously.
Researchers at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) have developed a platform applying the Internet of Things (IoT) to the cultivation of aquatic animal and plant species. As part of the research project ADO (Open Digital Aquaculture), the researchers Ioana Cristina Suciu, Guillem Boquet and Pere Tuset, together with the Wireless Networks (WiNE) group leader, Professor Xavier Vilajosana, published the results on the development, use and implementation of the platform, focusing on the applicability for small and medium-sized companies.
The ADO project was launched in 2019 to install low-cost electronic sensors to monitor pH levels, temperature, turbidity and oxygen levels in several farms in Catalonia. According to the research team, one of the main reasons behind the lack of digitalisation of aquaculture production is the highly specialised requirements and the low volumes of the niche sector, leading to high production costs that make the adoption of digital technologies economically viable only for large-scale factories.
"ADO is a complete platform created to take into account the needs of small and medium-sized aquaculture enterprises that cannot afford the cost of industrial solutions," explained Suciu. "It includes hardware, software and a user interface – the three key components of a digital system – and is designed to collect data from various sensors and display them in real time."
Open-source licensing to decrease costs
The researchers pointed out that solutions developed with open-source tools and the integration of existing general-purpose hardware and software platforms could significantly decrease costs, though using cheaper alternatives could lead to cost-performance trade-offs. They, therefore, provide information to help companies make an informed decision if ADO could be a suitable solution or if more specialised equipment is needed.
"The project uses the same general architecture as most of the available monitoring systems: sensor nodes, a server or local data storage solution and a web page or application to visualise the data," Suciu said. The difference lies in the communication protocol, the design of the user interface, the number of sensors, and the final cost. Suciu also noted, however, that "we are taking this project a stage further: our solution is designed to allow secure connections, integrated panels, the option to download data and the control and calibration of the sensors in real time. We also supplied a complete configuration guide, with details on the final price and technical specifications."
Accessible aquaculture farms
One of the competitive advantages of the technology developed by the UOC research team is its accessible cost. For example, a data acquisition system for a turbidity sensor can cost around €4,500. In contrast, a solution developed with open-source tools and the integration of existing general-purpose hardware and software platforms could cost less than €600 while including different sensors.
The ADO system is currently installed at a site near the Ebro delta managed by the Catalan Institute for Professional Aquaculture and Environmental Studies (IEPAAC). As Suciu noted, "Its take-up will depend on each aquaculture farm's finances and the interest this project generates."
Source: Universitat Oberta de Catalunya