My morning commute takes me past a blue Subaru Outback emblazoned with a “don’t eat farmed fish” bumper sticker. This being Portland, Oregon, I’m guessing the driver is more concerned about sustainability than keeping a job as a commercial fisherman. Why the concern? Turns out that farmed salmon consume a lot of feedstock made from fish harvested in the ocean. Also, fish can escape their open water pens, and disrupt the existing habitat in wild rivers and streams.
A good friend of mine, Carl Ivar Holmen, has dedicated most of his career to finding solutions to these problems. For example, he is developing an algae bioreactor to allow large scale commercial production of Omega-3 fatty acids and Astaxanthin, a pigment used as a feed additive.
He is also working with a team of Scandinavian technology partners on a project called Aquafarm Control. They have developed a novel system to monitor every fish raised in open water pens. A tiny capsule, injected in the salmon fry during the vaccination process, is able to transmit data via radio frequency as the fish matures. This intelligent management system allows farmers to optimize their feeding cycles and track biomass growth as well as immobilize any fish that escape through a containment breach.
Two years ago, Fat Pencil Studio delivered a series of illustrations that explain how the Aquafarm control system works. These images helped Carl Ivar pitch the concept to industry partners and propose a 24 month pilot project to develop the technology for commercial scale use. The project is now poised to move forward with the award of a USD $2.5 million grant from the European Union. Congratulations Carl Ivar!