Chile: First Submersible Cage Raft for Offshore Aquaculture Begins Operations

First submersible cage raft for oceanic aquaculture in Chile. Photo: EcoSea Farming SpA.

Chile: The submersible cage raft with a diameter of 40 meters and a depth of 12 meters stocked the first 50,000 salmon at an Invermar center to develop offshore aquaculture.

By Jonathan Garces

EcoSea Farming SpA leads one of Corfo’s two Technological Programs to implement ocean aquaculture in Chile, in an initiative that began in June 2018. The company’s R&D manager, who is also Project Leader of Fraunhofer Chile Research, Alex Brown tells Salmonexpert about the latest advances in this project for the high seas.

“The Program led by EcoSea Farming SpA is aimed at testing the concept of a farming system in oceanic conditions with submersible cage rafts, which is highly competitive commercially. To do this, it contemplates two stages of development, a first in which the prototypes, sensors and remote control system will be tested, and then move on to a second phase, on a larger scale, which we have called piloting, in which they will also be tested a pontoon for oceanic conditions, sludge capture systems, fish management systems, automatic mortality extraction and an underwater feeding system”, details the executive.

To develop the prototyping stage, together with Invermar, its associated company, the Traiguén II cultivation center in Quinchao was selected, which has medium exposure, providing appropriate energy conditions for the tests. “All the logistics of installation, accessories, fish and operation were also contributed by Invermar, a company that has had invaluable collaboration at all times in the development of this program, demonstrating a clear commitment to innovation,” says Brown.

This is how the largest submersible cage raft that has entered into operations in Chile was planned, designed and built, which is 40 meters in diameter and more than 12 meters deep, with a capacity of 18,400 m3. It was towed and installed in its final position during the last days of August this year, and at the beginning of September it was stocked with 50 thousand smolts of Atlantic salmon.

Alex Brown, R&D Manager at EcoSea Farming SpA. Photo: Salmonexpert Archive.

According to the R&D manager of EcoSea Farming SpA, “currently, we are permanently monitoring all the productive and structural parameters that we have set ourselves. We estimate to harvest approximately 230 tons at the end of the first cycle. And once it is finished, we are going to carry out, together with Invermar, Corfo and the different State agencies that have supported us in this, an in-depth evaluation of the technology used.”

Technological equipment

The technological team of this program is made up of: 1) AEX Group in anchoring systems, 2) Innovex in sensors and remote control, 3) Sitecna in pontoons, 4) Fraunhofer Chile in the regulatory and environmental part, 5) Novatech in the capture of solids and extraction of mortality, 6) the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso in relation to the generation of human capital, and 7) EcoSea Farming SpA providing the technology of submersible cage rafts for highly exposed conditions and high energy.

“All the participants have extensive experience in their field, which we are sure will generate a highly reliable and at the same time commercially competitive result for the development of crops in oceanic areas. Additionally, the technological team is actively working in coordination with the State to ensure that ocean aquaculture is technically, productively and normatively a reality in Chile”, says Brown.

The pilot stage is expected to begin during 2021, and “it will be the State that will have the last word regarding the place where the second phase will take place. For this, progress is already being made with the necessary coordination, where the ideal is to specify it in a site located outside the 5 nautical miles. However, if this is not feasible, concessions currently in force have already been identified, those that meet the “high energy” requirements, reveals the R&D manager of EcoSea Farming SpA.

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