HiSea runs live service and platform demo webinar, highlighting accuracy, for aquaculture users

The EU-funded HiSea project held a live webinar on 10 December 2020, on The Benefit of High-Resolution Water Quality Information for the Aquaculture Industry, in which the HiSea team ran live demonstrations of HiSea services focusing on the needs of aquaculture. A recording of the webinar is now available publicly.

Participants joined the webinar from around the globe and included representatives of at least 16 aquaculture farms, nine research institutions, four government bodies, two environmental agencies and eight other kinds of organisations.

“I can see the future of sustainable and technological aquaculture here, 100 percent!”, a participant commented in one of the webinar’s anonymous discussion and feedback rounds.

“We’re going in a new direction, in which we can use other types of information, different from in-situ sensors, in order to get data. And this is very interesting,” commented Nikos Katribouzas of HiSea aquaculture partner Selonda. “If we can avoid paying for the instruments, to install them in a site, and [instead] use the satellite data and high accuracy models that come from the satellite data, and the remote sensing, and get the same type of information with a high accuracy, this is going to be of great value for us producers.”

The discussion and feedback rounds covered topics related to HiSea’s user interface, the parameters included, their visualisation, and HiSea’s planning going forward as a self-sustained platform, in terms of the project’s co-design and focusing on users’ data needs and how they would potentially use the HiSea platform as customers.

HiSea project coordinator Ghada El Serafy of Deltares stressed the importance of HiSea being “co-designed with the users”, on the basis of users’ expertise and experience in guiding the process, through questions and feedback, and in helping to test the program by providing data to validate the service.

“We are putting the user at the centre of the implementation of the service throughout the whole project,” El Serafy said. “We are having the partners with us at the table. The HiSea Project is designing and co-designing this service with the user. And this is where we are having the feedback from, our partners and then a wider community. This will allow HiSea to present services that are of benefit to the sector.”

Specifically, the sector participants were asked to comment on the specific parameters checked, such as temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, wind and waves, and more. “The benefit or novelty of that is that this will allow the operation and planning, the management of marine activities, to improve, because we are providing also information on uncertainties and probabilistic forecasts within those services,” El Serafy noted. “The most important thing of it all is the fast provision of data in the format that is required by the user, in the way and the speed that the user would like to have it.”

Pedro Galvão of HiSea partner Hidromod demonstrated the use of tools in the platform using examples from various kinds of aquaculture facilities in Greece, Ireland and Portugal. The usefulness of the information in precisely planning feeding or water pumping activities, and thereby reducing operational costs, was clearly shown. HiSea can also provide data for specific locations going back up to forty years, helping in site selection and farm management. Additionally, Galvão presented the HiSea platform’s user interface and data acquisition, processing and security features.

Katribouzas summarised several examples of data – on surface water temperature, chlorophyll and turbidity provided by satellite observation and modelling – compared with the same measurements received from on-site checks and marine sensors. “You can see that it is very close, so we can rely on this data,” he said. “The good thing here is that the satellite can give you the data without deploying any sensors. Also, the resolution is 10 meters, so it is a high-resolution model with high accuracy.”

The HiSea platform is a “tool that is very flexible and can be customised to the needs of each end user, and provide real-time information about what is happening, what are the values of the data today, also we look back at history and we can compare history, and also we can see forecasts,” Katribouzas added. “This is going to be a very helpful tool, to click on the site that you want and see the forecast on that site, which is information that does not exist today. And all of this will come without having in-situ sensors. I think this is all of great value.”

Julie Maguire, of HiSea’s partner in Ireland, the Bantry Marine Research Station, explained that “in-situ sensors are expensive for individual companies and especially small producers, to install and maintain and know how to use the data.”

Aquaculture businesses are expected to benefit from HiSea through optimisation of farming activities and planning, decreasing costs, reducing feed waste and reducing fish disease outbreaks. HiSea tools will help farms plan optimised feeding rates and harvesting schedules, and enable them to anticipate low water quality events and manage crises, and improve fish growth overall.

El Serafy noted that use of HiSea services would also assist aquaculture businesses in licensing and contacts with EU bodies, in the context of the “blue economy” and the EU’s Blue Growth Strategy, as well as trends towards requiring improved environmental monitoring of aquaculture farms in the near future.

“HiSea is an EU project. They are aware of [HiSea] and have already seen the benefits for the environment and society, and for a sustainable aquaculture, and they support our project,” El Serafy said.  

In response to a participant’s question as to whether users sharing information would be rewarded or allowed to use the HiSea platform for a lower price, El Serafy called for more potential collaborators to come forth.

“We still have one year to go, so if you are interested in sharing data, I think there are plenty of ways for benefitting if you are joining now. If you join now, if you are interested in sharing your data and having your site as a validation site, then is the time to do it, because then the reward is really great because then we can start working directly within the project… partially included into the project costs. It would be beneficial for both sides, for both of us, to start working together within the lifetime of the project. The benefit would be in adjusting the system to your needs, validating the service to your needs, with your site, with your data,” El Serafy said.

Julie Maguire added that “Anyone we have asked for data, be it government or private companies, they gave it to us, because they realise the more data we have the better the service will be, and it improves the service, so it’s a win-win.”

How exactly the HiSea platform would run and provide services for users beyond the project cycle was also discussed. One participant suggested that a basic HiSea platform service could be offered for free, and that receiving more specific information would require payment. The free part of the platform would then help advertise and increase the tool’s popularity among a large audience, according to such a concept. Another participant proposed that HiSea tools would be provided publicly, and the cost of using the HiSea platform could be automatically included in aquaculture licensing fees.