AQ1 Systems “Sound” Feeding System for Big, Semi-Intensive Ponds
At the Tenth Central American Aquaculture Symposium (Tegucigalpa, Honduras, August 27–29, 2014), I interviewed, Régis Bador founder and manager of Innov’Aquaculture, a New Caledonia-based company that finds, certifies and markets innovative products for shrimp farmers.
Before starting Innov’Aquaculture, Bador worked for almost thirty years as a hatchery manager, farm manager and shrimp farming consultant. During that period of his career, he had the opportunity to test and use many products and technologies. Now he represents companies that invent and manufacture state-of-the-art products for shrimp farmers. He personally knows each of his suppliers and has tested or used many of the products he is marketing. He has personal contact with all his suppliers and can recommend products that best fit his customers’ needs. Shrimp farmers don’t always have time to search out good products, and they may not know how to evaluate them once they do find them. Bador says, “I do that for them!”
Shrimp News: In the past, we’ve talked a lot about your “top” product, AQ1, which monitors the sounds shrimp make when they feed and uses those sounds to control and optimize feeding through automatic feeders. Have you made any changes in that system?
Régis Bador: Yes, in the last two years, we’ve adapted the system to work in large, semi-intensive, shrimp ponds, which is an interesting evolution because in the past, most of AQ1’s work had been done in Asia and in Australia, in small, intensive ponds. We’ve discovered that if we add sensors (hydrophones) and automatic feeders to cover just five percent of a large, semi-intensive pond, we get the same favorable results that we got with installations in small, intensive ponds. After using AQ1 technology on a semi-intensive farm in New Caledonia for two years, the first farmer to invest in AQ1 reported the best performances since the beginning of his farm. The shrimp learned very quickly to come to the feeding areas when they were hungry. In his first trial, he put eight systems in a seven-hectare pond, stocked with 2.5 million blue shrimp (Penaeus stylirostris). He got over 30% better growth than when using two to four hand feedings per day, but his food conversion ratio (FCR) did not improve. In his second trial, with an automatic DO probe connected to AQ1, he observed that if oxygen levels were good, the shrimp were likely to feed at almost anytime—night or day—and that there were no daily patterns. All our trials have been done in commercial production ponds.
The AQ1 now comes with an oxygen probe and also records water temperature and rain fall. If oxygen levels drop, you can set the AQ1 to suspend feeding until the oxygen levels come back to a level the farmer sets in the software.
It’s not good to feed shrimp on a preprogrammed schedule because they are not always ready to eat. Sometimes they’re hungry in the morning; sometimes they’re hungry at 11:00 p.m. A day later that pattern might change. Many variables, like temperature, oxygen, rainfall and pH, along with completely unknown variables, affect when shrimp decide to feed, but those variable are not important when you use the AQ1 system because with it, AQ1 turns feeders on every half hour, just to see if they are hungry. The system will dispense 100 grams of feed to see if the shrimp are hungry, then another 100 grams to make sure they are feeding. If they are ready to eat, the system will start a regular feeding regime of 500 grams for fifteen seconds every two minutes, for example, until the sensors indicate the shrimp are no longer feeding. After one or two hours, the system will shut off to let the shrimp finish eating. Then it will start again with a 100-gram sample to determine if the shrimp still want to eat. If there is no more noise, it will shut down for a half an hour before running another test.
Shrimp News: Is the feed falling into feed trays?
Régis Bador: No, it’s distributed in a circular pattern about forty-eight feet in diameter, covering about 300 square meters. At the beginning of the first trial, the farmer in New Caledonia used SCUBA gear to check the bottom under the automatic feeders, and there was no accumulation of organics at all! After the harvest, he confirmed that the pond bottom was incredibly clean.
Shrimp News: Where do you place the automatic feeders?
Régis Bador: Placement of the automatic feeders is important. We don’t put them in the shallow half of the pond because temperature and other parameters affect and sometimes the shallow half of the pond is warmer or cooler than the deeper half, but to avoid possible dissolved oxygen depleted zones, we don’t place them in the deepest areas of the pond, either. Wind and wave action also affect the placement of feeders, and places where sludge accumulates and areas around the water control structures are avoided. We find that a clean, flat, relatively deep area works best because our target is to feed the shrimp in the most comfortable area for 24 hours to maximize growth and reduce the FCR. The hydrophones have to be at least fifteen meters away from aerators, but it depends on the type of aerators.
Shrimp News: How do you collect the data from the hydrophones?
Régis Bador: With problem-free wi-fi that’s built into the system. It has a range of over 1.7 kilometers, and if more range is required, a repeater can be easily be added to the system. All the data from the hydrophones is fed into a computer and can be checked every three to five minutes—feeder by feeder. If, for example, shrimp stop feeding at one feeder, that feeder can be turned off. The data can be exported as an Excel file and analyzed by the user. The farmer that tested the AQ1 system in a seven-hectare pond in New Caledonia cut one month off his seven month growout period with his AQ1 systems, so the next year, he added eight systems to an eight-hectare pond, all powered by solar energy!
Many shrimp farms in Latin America have no pond-side electrical power, which makes the solar generators very practical. To work with the automatic feeders so that they throw the feed over a 300-square-meter area in areliable manner, you need to select appropriate feeders. The good thing is that those tested and selected by AQ1 only need 50 W of 220 V which can be easily supplied through a converter from 12 or 24 volts of power, and that’s no problem from a solar panel system. The limiting factor for solar systems is their initial cost.
Shrimp News: Where are the hydrophones placed?
Régis Bador: Under—but not directly under—the automatic feeders and about five to seven meters away from the center of the feeding circle. Anchored to the bottom, they float up to a mid-point in the water column. The pond has to be at least a meter deep where the hydrophones are placed.
Shrimp News: How many shrimp farms are there in New Caledonia, and how many of them have purchased AQ1 systems?
Régis Bador: There are 17 shrimp farms in New Caledonia, each having from one pond to twenty-one ponds. An average size farm has eight or nine hectares. In 2012, one farm installed a system in one pond, and in 2013 it bought a system for another pond. The Centre Technique Aquacole (CTA), a research center in New Caledonia, installed a system in four ponds in 3013. In 2014, five more farms have ordered systems, including one farm that ordered systems for its five, eleven-hectare ponds. All together, New Caledonia will have 21 ponds with AQ1 systems before the end of 2014. In 2015, farmers at five more farms plan to order systems for ten more ponds, which means 65% of the farms in New Caledonia will be using AQ1 systems.
Shrimp News: Can the AQ1 system pick up the feeding sound of newly stocked postlarvae?
Régis Bador: No, the shrimp have to weigh at least two to three grams for the sound of their bite to be recorded.
Shrimp News: What if the pellets are water logged or oily? Will the AQ1 system still work?
Régis Bador: The physical quality of the pellet is not a problem. The system still works because it’s the sound of the shrimp’s mandibles coming together that activates the hydrophones, but if the pellets are heavily water logged or oily they may stick together and clog the automatic feeder, and then the system cannot keep operating. AQ1 recommends that additives be applied at the feed mill instead of being manually applied at the farm.
Shrimp News: Where else around the world have you installed AQ1 systems?
Régis Bador: In Belize, I’ve installed systems in two ponds at AQUA-MAR, and the farmer has placed an order for twenty more ponds. In Peru, a famous freshwater Penaeus vannamei farm in the desert has outfitted four ponds with the AQ1 system and harvested its first crop. Another farm in Peru is about to finish an installation, and there is a new installation in Guayaquil, Ecuador. AQ1 has confirmed orders from shrimp farms in Venezuela and Nicaragua and one from a research center in Colombia. We’ve learned that one feeder can feed up to 7,500 kilograms of final biomass, so if your harvest is going to be larger than that, you’re going to need additional feeders. The payback on these systems can be in one year because the systems reduce the length of the growout cycle and lower the feed conversion ratio. This can add 30% more money to the farmer’s bottom line. At CTA, stocking 25 postlarvae per square meter, the researchers produced 22-gram shrimp in 98 days with an FCR as low as 1.2!
Shrimp News: Why hasn’t Thailand, which usually adopts new technology very quickly, adopted the AQ1 system?
Régis Bador: The AQ1 system has been tested in Thailand and a paper has been published there that compared hand, automatic and AQ1 feeding. The results showed that hand feeding had a feed conversion ratio of 1.4; the automatic feeder (managed with a timer), 1.3; and AQ1, 1.2. Growth also increased more with AQ1 than with hand feeding or timed feeding. Right now, Thailand has its hands full with early mortality syndrome (EMS) and is investing less in new equipment. AQ1 thinks that when Thailand resolves its EMS problem, it will buy much more AQ1 equipment.
Shrimp News: Do you have an exclusive on the sale of AQ1 systems around the world?
Régis Bador: No. In Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, my company, Innov’Aquaculture, selected APRACOM (contact information below) to represent AQ1. In Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, I handle the sales. Mexico and Brazil are managed directly by AQ1 (contact information below).
Information: Régis Bador, Innov’Aquaculture, BP 15349, 98804 Noumea, New Caledonia (mobile +687-73-48-97, Skype regisbador, email email@example.com, webpage http://www.innovaquaculture.com). All 18 of Bador’s products are displayed and discussed on his webpage, which is in English and Spanish.
In Ecuador, Colombia and Peru, Alex Madonado, Attilio Castano and Mauricio Velez at APRACOM (firstname.lastname@example.org) distribute Bador’s products.
In Costa Rica, Aniprotein (email@example.com] is the distributor.
In Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, Napoleón Araujo (firstname.lastname@example.org] is the distributor.
In Australia and New Zealand, Fresh by Design (email@example.com) is the distributor.
Information: Ross Dodd, Managing Director, AQ1 Systems, 1/110 Murray Street, Hobart, Tasmania 7000, Australia (phone +61-0-3-6234-6677, mobile +61-0-419-386-526, fax +61-3-6234-6622, email firstname.lastname@example.org, webpage http://www.aq1systems.com).
Source: Régis Bador. Interview by Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International. Tegucigalpa, Honduras. August 26, 2014.