In Norway, counting sea lice manually may be on its way out
By Liza Mayer
As the world’s largest producer of farmed salmon, Norway often leads when it comes to developing or adopting industry innovations. Now, here’s another: the Nordic country has the first salmon farms that will rely solely on automatic sea lice counters.
Like Canada, Norway requires that sea lice on farmed salmon are counted manually – a time-consuming, labor-intensive, and stressful event for the fish. But in a landmark decision last December, Norway exempted two farms from the requirement. This means these farms (Kvarøy Fiskeoppdrett and Seløy Sjøfarm) can now use automatic sea lice counters and not have to also count them manually. Given the benefits of automated counting and this precedent, the rest of the Norwegian industry could follow suit.
Silicon Valley-based Aquabyte developed the computer-vision driven technology. The tech startup has been testing it in Norway for the past two years. The company primarily makes the software that analyzes footage from cameras and processes that data to diagnose issues. For instance, it gives farmers data on sea lice counts. It also helps farmers understand the size distribution in the pens, which is useful for determining how much to feed the fish and how much the farmer has available to sell.
“It’s really important to be able to become more efficient and make fish farming more environmentally sustainable, and to be able to have proactive versus reactive management,” Bryton Shang, CEO and founder of Aquabyte, told this publication in an earlier interview. He says its technology works in different environments, including Canada and Chile.
For the two Norwegian farmers, automated counting means they could allocate manpower to other tasks, but equally important, they will contribute to better fish welfare.
Clients of AquaByte can now all apply for exemption from manual lice counting. The company said it has the full documentation package required by the Norwegian Food Safety Authority to help them through the application process.