Zero-carbon aquaculture — is it possible?

Tuesday, 17 December, 2019

Zero-carbon aquaculture — is it possible?

A collaboration led by Victoria University of Wellington received $13 million of funding in October to help New Zealand transition to a zero-carbon society by applying data science to the aquaculture industry.

“New Zealand’s greatest opportunity to transition to a zero-carbon economy while improving livelihoods and wellbeing is to develop our aquaculture industry using data science,” said Professor Mengjie Zhang from the University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, who will lead the collaboration.

The university is working with Plant & Food Research, Cawthron Institute and University of Otago researchers on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment-funded project.

Professor Zhang said, “Through this project we aim to develop innovative data science, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning techniques that will enable the aquaculture industry to keep growing efficiently and at large scale, producing high-quality, low-carbon protein for New Zealand and the world without compromising the environment.”

The collaboration will develop data science tools to optimise the farming of Greenshell mussels and finfish in open ocean farms.

“Collecting and incorporating various types of data through this project will unlock significant advantages for the aquaculture industry,” Professor Zhang said. “Farm managers can use these data to drive decision-making when responding to climate challenges, managing disease, improving production yields and farming sustainably at scale.”

The research team is aiming to develop statistical learning techniques for use in the aquaculture industry, Professor Zhang said.

“These learning techniques will help create better AI, which can be used to expand the capacity of the mussel and finfish farms,” he said.

A significant focus for the program is building Māori capacity in data science.

“Māori own significant aquaculture assets but are under-represented in the field of data science,” Professor Zhang said. “This project aims to bring together data science and Māori communities with aquaculture interests.

“Our intention is to help produce the next generation of Māori graduates capable of leading the technology development needed to scale up the industry.

“We also hope that this project will increase New Zealand’s overall capability in data science,” said Associate Professor Ivy Liu, head of the university’s School of Mathematics and Statistics. A total of 12 PhDs, 16 Master’s and 35 honours students will be involved in the project along with 5 postdoctoral fellows and 35 summer research projects.

The project also aims to foster national and international collaboration, bringing together a large group of educational, industry and research organisations from New Zealand and around the world.

Image credit: © Vladislav Gajic

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