Nicolás Castillo, general manager of EcoSea Farming. Photo: EcoSea Farming.
*Opinion column for Salmonexpert by Nicolás Castillo, general manager of EcoSea Farming.
Since its inception, salmon farming in Chile has been characterized by using the protected areas offered by the channels and fjords in the south of the country for fattening fish, where the confinement technology that has prevailed is square metal rafts with fish tanks and anti-corrosion nets. -Synthetic fiber predators.
Currently, the industry is working hard to produce fish protein in an increasingly clean and sustainable way, maximizing animal welfare. To this end, efforts are being made to migrate to fish confinement systems that provide greater economies of scale by increasing their size, which, added to the scarcity of available protected sites, motivates the development of aquaculture production in areas exposed to high water levels. energy, which provide a higher rate of water exchange.
Operation in higher energy areas presents important challenges in terms of structural integrity, safety and reliability of the fish confinement technology used for farming, which must minimize the chances of escape and impact on the environment, in addition to allowing a Efficient operation with minimal staff.
In this sense, the company EcoSea Farming has patented technology of submersible circular cage rafts with copper alloy mesh, designed, sized and tested to operate especially in high energy sites or adverse ocean conditions, with the particularity of being able to operate both in surface, if the oceanographic conditions allow it, or failing that, totally submerged.
By submerging the Ecosea Farming cage raft, the efforts and tensions that affect the system are reduced, which translates into an increase in the safety factors of at least 1.5 times in its anchor lines, and more than 2 times in its structure in relation to the tensions that would exist if the cage raft were to operate on the surface with a 5 meter wave. These characteristics allow confinement to be ensured under conditions of high exposure to waves, wind and currents.
On the other hand, the design and construction of EcoSea provides stability and structural integrity with minimal volume reduction, a factor that directly impacts animal welfare, considering that traditional net technologies can suffer volume reductions of at least 30% under the same operating conditions.
Additionally, the design and materials used by EcoSea, in particular the copper alloy mesh, eliminate the need for an anti-predator net, minimizing costs, hydrodynamic resistance and associated operational risks (diving, entrapment of marine species); while all the benefits of its biocidal and antifouling characteristics and properties are obtained, minimizing the impact on the environment. In addition, each cage raft delivers a minimum of 10 years of continuous operation, being recycled at the end of said period, which reduces the carbon footprint.
EcoSea has developed its technology and designs through finite element dynamic modeling tools, whose results have been verified in situ for more than 10 years with experiences around the world, among which the southern zone of the country can be highlighted in the cultivation salmon (Salmo salar) from 2009; northern Chile in the cultivation of Seriola lalandi since 2013; Japan in the cultivation of Seriola quinqueradiata starting in 2016, and from August 2019 onwards, in the cultivation of salmon (Salmo salar) with the largest submersible cage raft in the world, 40 meters in diameter and 12 meters deep, installed in the Traiguén 2 center belonging to Invermar.
Looking to the future, an important part of the challenge is to achieve a Chilean standard and legislation specifically focused on aquaculture production in areas with oceanic conditions and high energy. In this context, the authority is already analyzing possible ways to complement the current regulation, and to this end, there are different initiatives under way to which EcoSea has been able to contribute with its technology and experience.