First visit to Brazil: part 2: the workshop

Yesterday was the day of the workshop with local stakeholders. It was a pretty busy day with lots of presentations and interesting discussions.

Ram Ramanathan introduced the project, and Yanqing Duan followed with an introduction to Big Data and IoT for fishing by Yan. The former head of EPAGRI’s Aquaculture and Fisheries Development Center – CEDAP, in Santa Catarina and based in Florianopolis, Dr. Fabiano Müller Silva, then discussed various research activities of EPAGRI. He mentioned that EPAGRI is currently working with CEFAS on a remote sensing project. Dr Hilton and Dr Solano then briefly presented some details of fishing activities being carried out by EPAGRI. Dr Bruno Corrêa da Silva, EPAGRI researcher discussed a previously unsuccessful technology implementation project. Prof. Joaquim Valverde then talked about the architecture of an Information Technology Platform for Sustainable Aquaculture.

The afternoon session involved a group discussion and focus group exercise where two groups are asked to discuss the interview questions. We got the following findings: 

  • The current socio-economic and political situation in the country is a major threat to sustainability. A strong legal framework for aquaculture could make the industry to modernise.  Bureaucracy is slowing things down (for example, laws voted in 2012 were only implemented in 2018). Licensing should become faster as well. 
  • Automation, generators and automatic feeders were considered the most important technologies required. 
  • The group felt that current operations of AF may not be sustainable in the long run owing to water pollution in tanks and lack of proper water treatment in ponds. 
  • Communication at many remote farms is difficult as these sites often do not have any mobile phone coverage, let alone broadband access. Alternatives such as satellite and radio-based internet are expensive and as such farmers are reluctant to invest.
  • While water quality monitoring is interesting, its true potential will reveal itself when coupled with other data (such as feeding data). The group suggested linking local data with multiple data sources (temperature, oxygen, etc.) to help improve productivity. They are willing to engage with further discussion on the TAF project team. Quote for the group feedback “the experience with using technology so far is positive, so there is no reason for not using the technologies.” 
  • There are challenges for data collection, integration, use of secondary data and accuracy for future Big Data and IoT adoption. We will need to design a robust process to organize all data properly. This is a big interest to professor Valverde, who, with a software engineer background, is specialized in this area. 

During his presentation, Dr Bruno talked about an unsuccessful technology implementation. The subsequent discussion brought out the details: the manufacturer went out of business and as such support stopped, the price was high, thereby limiting appeal to farmers, and maintenance was difficult (due to the membrane becoming clogged with green algae/chlorophyll affecting its performance). Coming from the discussion point above, the participants came to the conclusion that a new technology implementation would have to follow the guidelines below: 

  • choose technology from a wider pool of technologies but with local conditions in mind;
  • avoid sensors that are not suited to local water conditions (e.g. a probe type sensors or optical sensors may be more preferable to membranes);
  • choose appropriate technology for the size of ponds (as a technology suited for large ponds may not work well with smaller ponds);
  • choose reliable suppliers or test/adapt the technology by investing in research & development; and,
  • make use of local expertise in Santa Catarina, which has abundant supply of electric motors and integrate with sensors.

As you can see, some of the findings had already come to the surface yesterday so today we got a confirmation of the concerns the local stakeholders have regarding artisanal fisheries.

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