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Aquaculture Leaps into the Digital Age

The notion of the fisherman sailing off to the open seas is scarcely more than nostalgia. In the meantime, according to information from the wildlife and environmental protection organization, WWF, almost half of all fish consumed by humans comes from aquaculture, and the trend is increasing. Fish farmers do not rely on bait, but instead on digital data analysis in order to catch the fattest fish – and to keep their breeding stocks healthy and economically viable. WAGO technology is there to support them.

According to the WWF and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), fish farming is one of the fastest growing branches in the global food supply. While animal rights activists complain about underwater factory farms, investors celebrate extremely lucrative profits. However, by using automation and digitization technologies with WAGO components, the Norwegian firm Embicon is reconciling these two positions. Afterall, the decisive economic factor in fish farming remains the health of the fish.

Digital data analysis for increased animal health and economic efficiency

Data-Driven Optimization

Fish farming presents numerous challenges to aquaculturists: Is the oxygen content correct? How is the temperature? The salinity? How are the sea currents? These and even more values are important parameters that convey something about the health of the fish, and ultimately, the economics of the fish farm. Therefore, they must always be current.

“Aquaculture is a young and expansive industry that is willing to use brand new and advanced solutions to optimize and secure operations,” explains Lars Magne Endresen, CEO at Embicon. Stepping into the age of digitization should not present a large hurdle for the sector. By using maritime control systems and underwater communication solutions, Embicon specialized early in aquaculture, and is established as a provider of automation solutions.

Founder and CEO of Embicon, Lars Magne Endresen stands next to an Embilink-A2 measurement station. Equipped with controllers from WAGO’s PFC family, sensor data from a variety of manufacturers is collected and transmitted wirelessly, via cable or optical fiber to a server, which then stores the measured values in a database. Both real-time data and historical measured values can be graphically displayed on computers, smartphones and tablets.

Embicon developed cloud-based systems for the aquaculture industry as early as 2009. “Today, it is natural to be online almost regardless of where you are; with our solution, it is possible to receive important information about the processes displayed directly on a smartphone, tablet or PC. The customer tells us which parameters should be monitored, and we will find the most suitable sensors for the task,” explains Endresen.

The aquaculture industry is interested in advanced technology in order to optimize and secure processes – Embicon and WAGO provide support through digital solutions.

Reactions Become More Streamlined

Reliable measurements of important parameters form the foundation for good decision-making. “We have seen that people are gradually beginning to grasp what digitalization and the Internet of Things can provide for streamlining operations,” says Endresen. “The solution we have developed combines important operating data and transfers it to a cloud solution. Operators can then receive processed real-time or historical data, which is presented in a user-friendly manner.”

However, in order to collect the data and store it so that the end user can obtain useful information, a number of technologies must be combined, based on experience from different operating conditions. All of these controllers and future solutions are developed by Embicon in close cooperation with end users.

We were looking for a supplier that could meet our need for management and communication. We quickly saw that Wago covered our needs.

Lars Magne Endresen, founder and CEO of Embicon AS

Technical Desires: Robust and Versatile

Almost every fish farm requires specialized solutions. The technology must often adapt to a harsh marine environment. This is where WAGO comes in. “The partnership with WAGO started a couple of years ago,” recalls Endresen. We were looking for a supplier that could meet our need for management and communication. Among other things, we scoured the Internet to find a good vendor, and we quickly saw that WAGO could fulfil our needs.” A good partnership developed very quickly from the first joint venture. The broad product portfolio is impressive, and the support provided was excellent.

Embicon uses a variety of WAGO products to collect data and transmit it to a cloud solution, such as I/O modules, rectifiers for current regulation, terminal blocks and a PLC with an MQTT software expansion. Thus, the IoT-capable PFC200 is installed on the floating net as a data logging unit, in order to record salinity and oxygen levels, for example. In case function controls become necessary, the PLC from WAGO can easily execute those tasks as well. Among other things, the controller organizes the collection of data and its transmission to the cloud – Embicon uses its own cloud solution and thereby employs another advantage of the PFC family: A high level of flexibility. The user determines whether the controller sends the data to the WAGO Cloud, or to Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, or IBM Bluemix. Connections to third-party solutions are also feasible due to the standardized MQTT protocol.

Electricity at the floating fish farm is generated exclusively by solar panels. To protect the controller from current or voltage interruptions, Embicon relies on WAGO electronic fuses with telecontrols and a UPS charging and control unit for establishing an uninterruptible power supply. This guarantees reliable functionality in the control cabinet, which is exposed to the open water in all seasons.

The Embilink platform transmits encrypted key data to the cloud so that real-time monitoring can be accessed anywhere in the world. The first Embilink system was installed at Tubilah’s innovative halibut farm. WAGO controllers are the primary components in the system.

Competitive Niche Player

“Our philosophy is that solutions should stand at the forefront of technology development,” says Endresen. This strategy can give a small company like ours a clear, competitive edge. But then it’s also crucial that our partners share the same philosophy. We believe that this is the case at WAGO,” emphasizes Endresen. It's possible that Embicon and WAGO will try out solutions that no one has tested before.

Currently, standards are being developed that simplify data communication between technical and administrative systems. Endresen is convinced that IT (Information Technology) and OT (Operational Technology) will merge, facilitating development work. “If we collaborate with a technology provider like WAGO, then our work is even easier,” he says.

Text: Marius Økland + Frederik Haugsgjerd

Photo: Embicon AS

Oxygen, temperature, salinity – Embilink, Embicon’s web-based tool, provides real-time measurements for this fish farm in the Stoksund fjord, for example. It collects and processes important information that forms a basis for decisions about fish farming and provides added value. The IoT-capable WAGO PFC200 is installed to ensure reliable data transmission to the cloud.

Our philosophy is that solutions should stand at the forefront of technology development. But then it’s also crucial that our partners share the same philosophy. We believe that this is the case at WAGO.

Lars Magne Endresen, founder and CEO of Embicon AS

About Embicon AS

Embicon AS provides automation solutions for aquaculture, shipping, and other marine environments. Among other its many advancements, the Norwegian company has developed the Embilink platform. This system records relevant data in fish farming, like oxygen levels, ocean currents, temperature and salinity, as well as technical parameters, like the tank fill level of a generator, or water throughput in a conduit.

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