Oxygen and Ozone in Aquaculture

March 4, 2021 | By Chris Miller | In Insights

The fourth installment in the series “Happy Fish – How Aquaculture Operators are Growing Better Fish.” Here, we go into a detailed conversation about Oxygen and Ozone applications in the aquaculture industry.

           While the oxygen solutions required for both RAS systems and NetPen systems might be different, Industry experts Matt Clarke of Poseidon Ocean Systems and Tim Sjostrom of Kuterra agree that oxygen as a whole is necessary for the survival and wellbeing of their fish yields. Tim Sjostrom, having experience in the RAS system operations, explained, “It’s crucial! I mean that’s not even a question. Without it, everything dies. Period. Also, the consistency of the oxygen into the RAS systems, more specifically the culture tanks, is important to fish out here. When you have a nice constant level of oxygen jumping all over the map, they get stressed. And we found that as they get stressed, they consume more oxygen at an exponential rate.”

Clarke, with NetPens as his area of expertise, continued, “For the NetPen operators, it’s a little bit of a different story. All of the NetPen operations companies have hatcheries and land-based operations to start with. So, in that case, it’s crucial – efficient oxygen diffusion and reliable oxygen generation are critical to their operations. But when it comes to NetPens, it’s a little bit more early stage. Only about half of our customers, maybe a little less, are actively supplementing their NetPen operations with oxygen through pure oxygen generation and delivery. I guess you could argue that most of them are supplementing oxygen indirectly by using aeration systems that are not designed for oxygen transfer, but overall, it’s an emerging tool for NetPen operators. Some are leading the way as far as operators go and I think there are some pretty innovative companies out there. They’ve been at it for a few years now and we’ve been working with them to supply equipment and engineering support, and the results were staggering: 10% faster to harvest and 20% bigger fish at harvest. Results like this in sometimes in as little as 6 months for a major capital expense are just unheard of in many cases. So, it’s still an earlier stage for NetPens.”

Clarke continued, “Some of the customers that have oxygen supplementation are convinced now that it’s crucial and they can’t live without it. The most important thing here is that there are two aspects: Either they’ve seen that advanced infusion systems like ultrafine bubbles or nanobubbles produce results and that there’s a benefit to using those systems, or there are systems like diffusion.  Once you moved past the means of generation, reliable generation is critical. When working with systems such as Floating-Closed Containing situations, which are essentially the same or are very similar to what RAS systems are dealing with, the customers will always come with two questions. The first is “what’s the best system? What should we speck it out to be?” But then the very next question is “how do we make sure this system never goes down?”  Therefore, that manufactured solution that has a proven track record of 99% of class-stop time becomes a critical part of the conversation of the operation and the customer. You start to realize that those NetPen operations are rarely easily accessed and that it’s routine for us to have to travel 5 hours and use multiple modes of transportation just to get to the farm. It’s not as simple as getting a service call one second and then being there in an hour. All that stuff speaks to needing reliable, bulletproof systems switches, which brings us back to the work you guys do at OSI.”

Sjostrom added, “On that note, the land-based systems have always had a liquid oxygen set-up as a backup. They’ve been relying on it for years. I started in the industry, oxygen equipment was expensive and difficult to maintain, and we’re dealing with farmers who don’t like to spend the money. It seems like they’d rather react to a situation rather than prevent it. Now that the oxygen generators, specifically those at OSI, are more reliable, I’m seeing them on most land-based farms as the main supply of oxygen and other solutions are just a backup.”

 As mentioned, oxygen equipment is essential to any RAS system and growing in popularity within NetPen systems. To talk more about the future of our oxygen generation equipment, we chatted with top Oxygen Solutions engineer Libardo Estupinan, P. Eng. When talking about oxygen generation, oxygen concentration equipment, or some of the advancements in oxygen generation, he outlined some of the things that he was excited about, “I think the development of new materials to improve the oxygen production and efficiency of the oxygen generators when we have new materials is exciting. We can find methods and materials that are more efficient in capturing the nitrogen in unpurified oxygen, which will be able to improve or reduce even more energy consumption of our machines. At OSI, we’ve been working on that over the last 1 1/2 years, and we’ve been able to reduce the power construction of our machines by 20-25%. Matt mentioned reliability as one of our main concerns because we have customers that rely completely on our systems. That’s what we try to do – always have a reliable system that can give the customer the peace of mind that they need. We are now experimenting and have a panel of operations with NetPen systems, and I think so far, we’ve been successful. They’ve been working well, and we’ve been working on the troubleshooting and the integration of the machine. At OSI, a big part of our machines and our culture is for a customer to be able to integrate the oxygen generation machine into their control system so they can monitor, perform data analytics, and can do a much better assessment of the whole operation.”

An emerging trend in the aquaculture industry is the use of ozone and ozone generators. As a compliment to oxygen generators in RAS Systems, ozone is used to purify the water before it goes back to the ponds or the source water. The current issue in the industry, as Estupinan outlines, “customers usually have to buy the oxygen generator from one supplier and an ozone generator from another. What we’re trying at OSI is to make and offer a combined solution that has an oxygen generator and ozone generator understand generation. Part of the idea is the oxygen will be sent to the ozone generator and the part of it will be sent to the ponds to oxygenate the water.” Sjostrom added that a current major issue within RAS Systems is the offputs that come out of the water circulated within the system, and ozone is and will be an assisting element to help clean that water and keep the quality of the water high.

Check out the video linked below to see the whole conversation.

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