A Brazilian firm is carrying out the final testing of its innovative management system for tilapia farms developed to reduce both expenditures on fish feed and mortality rates.
The site where the innovation system to farm Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) is being tested is on the Grande River near the border between São Paulo State and Minas Gerais.
The project, developed by Fisher Piscicultura with the support of FAPESP’s Innovative Research in Small Business Program (PIPE), consists of the use of round aluminum tanks floating on rafts made up of PET bottles of the type used as containers for soft drinks.
Screens inside the tanks separate larger from smaller fish, facilitating their classification. An automatic feed dispenser is controlled by a timer that runs on solar power.
According to the firm developing the system, an advantage is the ease of maintenance and cleaning, including the removal of mussels. Fisher’s tank is raised above the water by the injection of air into a drum at the bottom of the aluminum structure. Traditional fish farms use a crane mounted on a barge to lift the tank or hire divers to do this work.
Nile tilapia production grew 13.48 per cent year over year in 2017, to 357,639 metric tons, according to the Brazilian Fish Farming Industry Association (PeixeBr).
Brazil is the world’s fourth-largest producer, behind China, Indonesia and Egypt. The industry is still expanding and requires cost-saving technology to compete in the global marketplace.
“Our floating circular tank design optimizes the production system. Most fish farmers have traditionally used square tanks. Also, feed is manually dispensed by personnel using a handheld can three or four times a day. In our system, the tanks are round and have a silo in the centre holding 1,200 kg of feed. An automatic dispenser releases the right dose 48 times a day,” pointed out Hélio de Souza Barbosa, who designed the new system and is a partner in the firm.
Barbosa explained that the timer modulates the feeding process and improves shoal homogeneity and that a fish that eats regularly is always satiated and eats only what it needs.
For his part, David Pulino, the firm’s other partner, stated that feed accounts for 70 per cent of production cost in conventional tilapia farms.
“Tilapia mortality exceeds 20 per cent on most conventional fish farms. Our own rate is currently 8 per cent, but our goal is to lower it to 3 per cent-5 per cent maximum,” Pulino stressed.
A patent application for the entire system has been filed with the National Industrial Property Institute (INPI).