Japanese tech firm leads project to boost Scotland’s fish farmers

A Japanese-led consortium has launched a £1.1 million project to boost Scotland’s fish farming sector through better harnessing of technology such as underwater vehicles and artificial intelligence.

Together with partners including salmon producer Loch Duart and Scotland’s Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC), Japan’s Uhuru United will develop a new software platform to bring together data from different technologies across farms.

It aims to accelerate the aquaculture sector’s digital transformation and improve sustainability, productivity, and operational efficiency.

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Over the last 20 years there has been significant growth in the use of technology across aquaculture including fish health diagnostic tools and remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs).

The project will look to capture data from different technologies used across fish farming to improve productivity and efficiency.

However, the vast majority of technologies tend to work in isolation, limiting the value of data that can be taken and increasing the amount of time required to monitor operations.

The new project, known as Aquaculture Insights and based at Badcall in the far North West of Scotland, will create a single software package that combines multiple data sources, offering insights that its backers say cannot be provided by existing systems. The initiative will also enhance the visualisation and transfer of data from connected devices and systems, including underwater LED lighting systems and and AI-enabled biomass cameras.

The partners also include Amsterdam-listed Signify, Norway’s Optoscale AS and London-based SB Telecom Europe and the project has received funding from the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), which is part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

Yosuke Kurihara, project director of digital transformation specialist Uhuru United, said the project would use cutting-edge internet-of-things (IoT) technologies to best understand how to maximise the efficiency of food production for a more sustainable future.

“Scotland and Japan have built very strong links over the years and being part of a sustainability project within Scotland is also very apposite with the recent COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow. This is a true post-Brexit project demonstrating how the UK nations can work together to play an important role as a bridge between Europe and the wider world.”

Heather Jones, chief executive of SAIC, said: “Better access to insightful data could be transformative for aquaculture, helping the sector to be more efficient and sustainable, while also helping fish farmers to develop new ways of working.

“Aquaculture Insights could have significant potential for aquaculture, supporting its sustainable growth ambitions, which need to be underpinned by technological innovation and excellence.”

Loch Duart produces more than 6,000 tonnes of salmon each year from its farms in Sutherland and the Outer Hebrides and employs more than 190 people. Loch Duart salmon is supplied to leading hotels, restaurants and retailers at home and across the world.

A Marine Scotland commissioned report last year found the aquaculture sector contributed approximately £885m to the wider Scottish economy and supported 11,700 jobs. It also found wages in the sector are often higher than in other industries, with salmon production staff costs averaging £43,000.

Scottish salmon is the UK’s largest food export by value. Latest figures show Scotland’s salmon farmers exported a record volume of fresh fish to the EU in the first half of 2021, valued at £183.4m.

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