An innovative project meant to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve management and oversight of Cermaq’s salmon-farming operations has moved into its second phase.

The iFarm project – a collaboration between Cermaq, BioSort, and ScaleAQ – formally launched in January 2020. It uses a closed pen with a narrow surface opening, forcing the farmed fish to travel through an image-capturing station that is able to identify individual salmon while they are swimming, enabling the monitoring of growth rates, lice count, and mortality rates inside the cages.

Phase one of iFarm took place at Cermaq’s Martnesvika farm-site in Steigen, and primarily focused on perfecting the project’s equipment and its use, according to iFarm Project Manager Karl Fredrik Ottem.

“Among other things, we have seen that the design of the sensor housing and the openings the fish must swim through to get to the surface affect the fish’s swimming pattern,” Ottem said. “We are dependent on the fish choosing to swim through the sensor house, so in this phase we are putting out six different sensor houses with different geometric designs, to test which houses the salmon prefer. Then we will also know which sensor houses we will use in phase three, when we are going to stock fish for the third time in the project.”

Phase two is taking place at Cermaq’s sea site in Vesterålen, Norway, with the farm fully stocked in recent months. Ottem said initial work has focused on perfecting camera-cleaning and equipment-maintenance processes and procedures.

“There are large and complex installations that either have to be lifted up to be maintained, or we have to go under water to get to it, and it has been demanding to find good routines to make this happen while we take care of the fish’s well-being,” Ottem said. “But we also take these experiences with us when we look at the design and adjustment of equipment and setup for the next phase.”

The project has already notched one success – according to Ottem, iFarm salmon have fewer sea lice, primarily due to the fact that the farms sit 10 meters below the ocean surface, a depth at which sea lice are less common.

“We reckon that we have saved a minimum of one de-licing operation on the iFarm fish during phase one at Martnesvika, even though we only have iFarm set-up in single-net pens there,” Ottem said. “At Langøyhovden, we have iFarm set-up in all the net pens, and it will be very interesting to see what effect it will have on lice levels eventually.”

If the project is successful, Cermaq stands to gain from the conversion of four development licenses into permanent licenses, justifying the company’s planned investment of NOK 580 million (USD 64.7 million, EUR 58.3 million) in the iFarm concept. 

Photo courtesy of Cermaq

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