It is desirable for any primary producer to understand the health and welfare of their stock. This will ultimately enable optimal production and return on investment. The challenge in any aquaculture system is ‘observing’ the physiological and behavioural responses associated with environment, production and other stressors; all factors that impact on the animal health and welfare and so overall production efficiency. Suboptimal health is often associated with culturing conditions, and this is predicted to become more prevalent and unpredictable with a changing climate. There is therefore an immediate and long-term need to overcome the 'observation' challenge. How do we know if conditions are optimal, and the observed performance efficient and sustainable? Generally for aquaculture species, such as mollusks it is through measurements of growth rate and survival, equating to biomass produced, rather than on metabolic and behaviour observations on the animal, that are difficult to observe and poorly understood. Therefore there is limited information available for optimising the commercial environment from the animal’s perspective. Sub-optimal conditions lead to stress, and there are multiple (observed and unobserved) stressors or stress events within a commercial grow out system, the impact of which on an abalone’s physiology is poorly understood. Measurement of an animal’s response to stress is usually retrospective of the event and via invasive sample collection (an additional stressor). This project took advantage of the development of a new research tool (“biologger”) for the in-situ measurement of physiological and behavioural parameters to gain an understanding of the response of the abalone to a range of commonly experienced and predicted stressors in a commercial system. This research will provide knowledge for refining farm management protocols, and in the longer-term for developing real-time bio-monitoring of farm management protocols.
Aquaculture Sentinels: Smart-farming with Biosensor Equipped Stock Journal of Aquaculture Research and Development 7(1):393 · December 2015
Aquaculture is globally the fastest growing primary industry (>6% per annum). Smart-farming, using sentinel animals equipped with miniature biosensors alongside environmental sensors and farm management systems has the potential to revolutionize all sectors of the industry. Real-time animal and environmental monitoring together, will support improved farm management decisions, animal welfare, social awareness and consequently sustainable productivity. Biosensors that monitor the physiology and behavior of sentinel animals provide information on animal well-being and its responses to environmental change and management actions. In turn, this information is extrapolated to help with stock management decisions. This paper introduces the sentinel animal concept to commercial aquaculture with a case study using oysters fitted with biosensors that measure heart rate, and other parameters. We demonstrate how sentinel animals can be effectively integrated alongside environmental sensors into an on-farm sensor network and decision support system.