TRIALS of a digital platform to make salmon farming more efficient and sustainable, reducing exposure to sea lice, have started in Scotland.

An international consortium has set up the pioneering €1.3 million (£1.11m) pilot project at Badcall on the Highland coast in a bid to help push forward the aquaculture sector’s digital transformation.

Japan-based Uhuru United is leading the consortium, which also includes Amsterdam-listed Signify, Norway’s Optoscale AS, the Scotland-based Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC), salmon producer Loch Duart Ltd, and SB Telecom Europe Ltd.

The group said it is creating an "open data" software platform that will provide a single point for fish farmers to interact with and understand the data produced by a variety of technologies on their sites.

While there has been significant growth in the amount and diversity of technology used in aquaculture – ranging from fish health diagnostic tools to remotely operated underwater vehicles – over the last two decades, it is claimed many operate in isolation, limiting the value of data that can be taken and increasing the amount of time required to monitor operations.

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The pilot project, called Aquaculture Insights, is aimed at tackling the challenge by creating a single software package that combines multiple data sources, offering insights that cannot be provided by existing systems, it is also claimed.

Heather Jones, chief executive of SAIC, said the project has significant potential.

“Better access to insightful data could be transformative for aquaculture, helping the sector to be more efficient and sustainable, while also helping fish farmers to develop new ways of working," she said. "Aquaculture Insights could have significant potential for aquaculture, supporting its sustainable growth ambitions, which need to be underpinned by technological innovation and excellence.

"We were delighted to help secure Loch Duart as the farming partner for real-world trials of this innovativetechnology.”

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The project is receiving funding from the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, which is part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

Yosuke Kurihara, chief executive of Uhuru United, said the collaboration is an "important and ground-breaking project", adding: "We first established operations in the UK not just because it is a global centre for technological development but also because of its leading credentials in the field of sustainability.

"As such, this project is a perfect fit, using cutting-edge IoT technologies to best understand how we can maximise the efficiency of food production for a more sustainable future.

“We are also very proud to be working alongside companies from across Europe on a Scotland-based project funded by the EU. Scotland and Japan have built very strong links over the years.

"This is a true post-Brexit project demonstrating how the UK nations can work together to play an important role as a bridge between Europe and the wider world.”

The initiative will also seek to enhance the visualisation and transfer of data from connected devices and systems, beginning with Signify’s underwater LED lighting system and Optoscale’s AI-enabled biomass camera.

Remco Lansbergen, of Signify, said that “collaborating underwater is the future", adding: "With LED lighting we can increase growth, improve the feed conversion ratio of salmon and reduce exposure to sea lice.

"Making the lighting infrastructure part of an eco-system, along with sensors and data analytics, opens up new possibilities."

He added: "New data points and interoperability will enable new and advanced use cases and support a self-controlling infrastructure, advancing fish growth in a sustainable way.”