17 November 2023

Queensland’s prawn farming sector has grown significantly over the last five years. The sector is exploring innovative technologies and approaches to minimise environmental impacts while growing this important industry.

Tassal is Australia’s largest black tiger prawn producer, with more than 350 people employed at Tassal’s aquaculture facilities in Tropical North Queensland during the peak season.

Blue AgriTech is Tassal’s integrated Smart Farming Platform, comprising expertise, innovation and infrastructure that provides access to a multitude of different technologies for decision support and farm management.

‘The availability of data 24/7 means that decisions on environmental management and prawn health are made in real time, and are proactive instead of reactive,’ notes Michaela Krutz, Water Quality Manager at the Proserpine Prawn Farm.

Blue AgriTech provides real-time data, analysis and delivery of key management practices across Tassal’s farming operations, including:

  • acoustic auto-feeding
  • 24/7 real-time water quality monitoring
  • e-tech learning/algorithms
  • smart water management systems
  • environmental management and monitoring
  • state-of-the-art water laboratories for nutrient analysis
  • fibre optic networks to all ponds
  • PLC/SCADA control system networks.

Blue AgriTech is founded on data-driven decision-making. Consistent and accurate data is monitored 24/7 via the central control centre, enabling management actions and procedures to be based on real-time information. The farm employs people with a variety of skills not normally found in aquaculture, such as data analysts, PLC programmers and IT technicians, as well as the more traditional roles of water quality technicians, feed technicians and aeration crews.

‘The conventional method of blowing feed into a pond was labour-intensive, unsafe and inaccurate. The new acoustic automatic feeding system delivers food to the prawns to satisfy their appetite while maintaining the highest levels of safety,’ says Martyn Goodey, Farm Manager at the Proserpine farm.

Tassal’s demand-based feeding is based on the acoustic response detected by underwater microphones, reducing waste, increasing productivity and improving water quality.

The ability to monitor water quality and water usage in real time has previously been challenging due to cost. Leveraging technology created in its salmon operations, Tassal designed and implemented a bespoke network using the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) platform powered by Microsoft business analytics, and other sensors and programming.

The SCADA system—the brains behind the infrastructure—monitors all water quality parameters, feeding, water use and aeration systems across all farming operations, and includes the ability to run the aeration system only when needed, reducing carbon emissions and allowing Tassal to lead the way in sustainable farming practices.

‘Deploying Smart Farm technology has seen profitability improvements in feed costs, energy costs and environmental performance—the system has more than paid for itself, with the environmental benefits on top of that,’ says Grant Purdon, Senior Manager, Farming Operations.