Robot will ‘transform fish vaccination’

The Aqualife development team (from left to right): Lars Thom (design engineer), Kristian Clezy (head engineer), Susanne Drennan (design engineer)and Phil Brown (technical director) (photo: Aqualife)

A STIRLING based aquaculture company has won funding to create a ‘transformational’ fish vaccinating robot.

Aqualife, in partnership with the government backed Agri-EPI Centre, secured £250,000 from the Seafood Innovation Fund, awarded by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), to develop and launch the robot by the end of next year.

The robot, named Incubot 2, will be able to vaccinate fish at sizes below 20 grams, compared to the common weight of between 30 and 120g, said Aqualife.

This will allow producers to increase productivity by growing their fish out of hatcheries sooner. The robot will be capable of vaccinating most species of farmed fish, in large numbers, the company added.

Incubot 2 will be a mobile platform, allowing Aqualife to offer automated vaccination to smaller fish farms which cannot afford to invest in large scale immobile systems.

The robot will also help to improve fish quality, using artificial intelligence and ‘deep learning’ algorithms to increase vaccination accuracy and improve fish grading.

Auqualife chief executive Gordon Jeffrey said: ‘The aquaculture industry in Scotland aims to double its economic contribution from an estimated £1.8 billion in 2016 to £3.6 billion by 2030.

‘To achieve this, it must develop solutions to reduce fish losses, most of which result from disease.

‘Health and welfare issues have also attracted public attention. Aqualife wishes to play a key role in transforming the industry by embedding engineering excellence within our company to offer a range of truly innovative products and services. This grant ensures we will be able to do that.’

Agri-EPI project manager Phil Cassidy said: ‘Agri-EPI aims to stimulate collaboration and innovation to support sustainable food production and this project is a fine example of this. We look forward to managing the project to develop Inocubot 2.’

Jeffrey added: ‘Agri-EPI Centre has played a key role in us winning this grant. From initially pointing us in the direction of the competition to hands on helping us to prepare the application, Phil and the Centre have been crucial.’

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