Credit: Dave Allen NIWA

Posted on 07 November 2017

Smart aquaculture

A new aquaculture project from the Science for Technological Innovation (SfTI) National Science Challenge to develop technologies for sustainable, more productive, marine farming aligns well with our mission. It is led by Dr Chris Cornelisen, who also leads our Managed Seas research theme.


Ocean farming has unique challenges. Farms must be physically accessed by boat, stock health and condition are manually recorded, and high costs and delicate equipment are barriers to implementing new technology.

SfTI’s two-year Precision Farming Technology for Aquaculture project is investigating how advanced technologies –artificial intelligence, underwater communications, laser and imaging sensors, drones and robotics – can be combined with practical applied research to enable aquaculture farmers to remotely manage their farms and stock.

Complementary research

Some of the field trials are planned to take place in  our ‘case study area’ of Tasman and Golden Bays. This means the SfTI project will benefit from our physical oceanography and modelling research, in particular the Stressor footprints and Forecasting contamination risk for safer beaches and shellfish harvest projects. Vision Mātauranga will also provide a link between the two Challenges.

“This is a great example of the Challenges working together to align research for maximum impact, efficiently using resources and exchanging knowledge,” says Chris, who also manages coastal science at the Cawthron Institute.

“We’re developing new chemical sensors that can identify the amount of food and nutrients in the water for managing stock condition, and imaging sensors that use artificial intelligence to let farmers ‘see’ their farm and stocks in real-time from a computer or mobile device. This kind of tech promotes sustainability and efficiency, complementing the aims of our Managed Seas research theme and Sustainable Seas.”

Added bonus

The project’s innovations are likely to have applications beyond aquaculture; for example they are likely to aid biosecurity and environmental surveillance in ports and harbours.

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Related projects

Forecasting contamination risk for shellfish harvest and beach use
Forecasting contamination risk for shellfish harvest and beach use
  • Completed project

We have developed a near real-time forecasting tool for Tasman and Golden Bays to help predict when aquaculture sites and beaches are safe t…

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Stressor footprints and dynamics
Stressor footprints and dynamics
  • Completed project

We investigated how coastal waters and oceans mix and transport materials that can stress marine ecosystems.

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