Sustainability and security of seafood systems are extremely relevant issues for policy-makers, especially in coastal areas which heavily depend on fishing in terms of sustenance and economy. While the demonstrator “Fish, a matter of scales” focuses on fisheries, the demonstrator “Aquaculture Monitor” shows how similar Blue Cloud services can support data-related aspects of the monitoring of marine cage aquaculture.

This demonstrator is jointly developed by the Statistics and Information Branch of the Fisheries Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the French provider of environmental monitoring solutions Collecte Localisation Satellites (CLS). The ambition is to further develop and provide a robust and replicable environment to monitor aquaculture in marine cages and in coastal areas.

This will result in a tool that combines Copernicus and other Remote Sensing products with sectoral knowledge to produce aquaculture overviews that include detected cages and estimates cage activity based on AI. Countries or local actors can use ISO/OGC-compliant data services to monitor aquaculture in a VRE, not in isolation, but through interoperable services in which different teams can compute and publish reproducible experiments.

The current landscape

Blue Cloud already hosts a Virtual Lab for cage aquaculture data presentation and editing, including an interactive map-viewer: the Aquaculture Atlas Production System (AAPS). This will provide the basis for further functionalities. CLS will provide the remote sensing analytic capabilities to feed the Virtual Lab with robust and replicable remote sensing analytics for detection and monitoring of aquaculture in different environments.

The AAPS currently serves monitoring capability for two major aquaculture types: mariculture in floating cages in the Mediterranean, and coastal pond-based aquaculture in tropical areas, specifically Indonesia. For each, a specialised detection algorithm is available, and the output is accessible through an interactive web-based mapping tool. Both algorithms will be improved.

The Blue-Cloud added-value

The first year will prioritise the detection of cages and aquaculture areas driven by a requirements analysis with end-users, while the second phase will see the development of fully integrated services.

In the second stage, data and products from other demonstrators will contribute to more challenging and complex scenarios, to study the feasibility of exploring the dynamic relationship between aquaculture and the environment for a variety of goals, for example:

  • Find correlations between biodiversity (using EMODNet data) and aquaculture sites;
  • Identify risks from HAB or other climate change induced water quality changes to aquaculture;
  • Aligning aquafarm activity time-series with ocean color imagery to discover nutrient pollution;
  • Study the dynamics of coastal land conversion to aquaculture ponds over time.

This will require integration of existing data services across domains: environmental parameters, biological parameters, and marine ecosystems.  

The Blue Cloud drive towards harmonized and standardized data also opens potential other uses of aquaculture data that are seemingly quite far from the monitoring context, yet are important for the innovative new cross-sector analytical capabilities. These include spatial interactions with tourism or agriculture, and social structure of local food-webs.

Like all the other Blue-Cloud demonstrators, “Aquaculture Monitor” will also provide a significant contribution to the vision of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC), as it requires the FAIRification of the entire value add data chain (already started in the BlueBRIDGE AAPS).

It builds on the data and services made accessible through key European blue data infrastructures, such as EMODnet Bathymetry and Chemistry, SeaDataNet, and WEkEO - DIAS, demonstrating that EU infrastructures are capable to deliver flexible, on-demand, and user parametrised models and algorithms, and thus to achieve significant impact in an open science context.

The Aquaculture Monitor can become an important information source for local and national governments that lack the capacity to implement a national monitoring tool. In addition, it will provide a relevant capacity to monitor several UN Sustainable Development Goals, such as 14 - Life Below Water, and 2 - Zero Hunger. The tool will be developed with flexibility and scalability in mind, in order to be easily repurposed for other scenarios.

Don't miss the Blue-Cloud Webinar focused on the Aquaculture Demonstrator taking place on 25 September 2020. Register now!

Hear directly from Anton Ellenbroek (FAO) in this interview.