The iFarm project has been scaled to the approval for four development licenses, and will be launched in Steigen, Nordland county, in January. The first transfer of fish to the sea is planned for autumn 2020.
Cermaq's strategy is to strengthen fish farming in coastal areas in order to utilize the natural advantages for production of sustainable food in the ocean. The future of Norwegian farming depends on the success of achieving the combination of sustainable and cost-effective production. iFarm is a unique technology for individual-based farming and is therefore central to Cermaq's strategy to strengthen coastal farming.
iFarm is based on image recognition and identification of each individual salmon and individual follow-up of each fish, e.g. a fish with sea lice can be sorted aside for treatment. At the same time, the need to handle the fish is significantly reduced, thus improving fish health and welfare.
"This is the best Christmas present we could get," says the euphoric and happy Fish Health Manager in Cermaq Karl Fredrik Ottem, who will lead the iFarm project.
Cermaq, BioSort and the Directorate of Fisheries have clarified how the project can be scaled to four development licenses. It also means that the project will not progress as far toward commercial testing as originally planned.
“The goal of the project is to develop prototypes with the central functions of iFarm to clarify whether it is technologically possible to operate individual salmon farming in net pens in the sea. An important part of the iFarm project is to document how the fish's behaviour and welfare will interact with the new technological solutions and functionalities”, says Karl Fredrik Ottem.
BioSort, the company which develops the sensor-based solutions in iFarm, has already conducted several tests at the Institute of Marine Research at their research centre at Matre.
“The key in iFarm is that we monitor each salmon using machine vision, establishing a health record for each individual, and can sort aside the fish that needs follow up. This will be useful not only for farmers, but also for authorities and consumers. We are looking forward to getting started, and several new positions will now be filled”, says Geir Stang Hauge, CEO of BioSort.
“Individualised farming, which is at the heart of iFarm, truly addresses animal welfare. If successful, this could have a great potential for the authorities if the administrations will have access to real-time information about, e.g. biomass, lice situation and disease conditions at each sea site”, says Chief Veterinary Officer Kristina Landsverk in the Norwegian Food Safety Authority
Cermaq invests NOK 580 million in iFarm. According to the plan, the first fish will be transferred in the autumn of 2020 to a sea site in Steigen municipality where the first stage of iFarm will be installed.
The development of iFarm is a unique opportunity for suppliers of equipment to take part in an exciting and high-tech development project in Norway.
“The iFarm project is a big boost for the region. We estimate that this will mean 17 positions only in Cermaq during the up till 6-year project period. iFarm is being developed locally, we will develop the actual construction in the net pen and machine learning here. This is a great build-up for Cermaq in Nordland and for the entire aquaculture industry”, says Cermaq’s regional director Snorre Jonassen, who has been central to the design of the iFarm project.