Norwegian seafood is being served with a side of technology, although most consumers may not realise just how high-tech the industry has become.
Innovation has been at the heart of the Norwegian seafood industry since dried cod was first exported in the 11th century. The past 60 years have seen several innovations emerge that ensure consumers across the globe can enjoy salmon, trout and countless other products.
Norwegian brothers Karstein and Olav Vik being granted a United States patent for ocean-based fish farming in the 1960s and Ove and Sivert Grøntvedt launching the world’s first successful salmon farm a few years later put the wheels in motion for Norwegian aquaculture to become a flag bearer in sustainability.
Today, modern tools such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and data continue to improve those early breakthroughs in sustainable fishing. For the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC), telling the story of how the country’s seafood is cultivated is as important as the taste people have come to know and love.
“Since the birth of the aquaculture industry in the late 1960s, innovation has been central to the fantastic development that we have seen ever since,” Dr. Asbjørn Warvik Rørtveit, NSC Director South-East Asia, explains. “The quest for an effective way to produce tasty, healthy and sustainable food from the oceans has been driven by highly skilled people wanting to constantly improve the industry.”
There has been some acknowledgment of these efforts over the years with Norwegian salmon farmers having topped the Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index for four consecutive years. That helps since the public cares about the origin of what they eat more now than ever before.
“In a time where people now have more awareness and an increased consciousness about where their food comes from, it’s important for the Norwegian seafood industry to embrace transparency and clarity surrounding the upbringing of seafood,” Dr. Rørtveit adds. “This gives the consumer a clear idea about sustainable methods, craftsmanship and experience that allows for a high-quality product. The consumer has the right to know what Norwegian origin means. We are proud to give an insight into why origin matters and why you can trust our origin.”
That is where the NSC comes in. The organisation’s goal is to promote the importance of knowing where food comes from. Not only does that instil consumer confidence but it potentially changes mindsets.
“We aim to inspire the respect for nature and how to conduct a sustainable fishery so that there will be available ocean resources for generations to come,” Dr. Rørtveit notes. “We want people to know how the country of origin can impact the food we eat. Transparency is something we are all about.”
According to Dr. Rørtveit, being able to provide Asian consumers with the entire story of Norwegian seafood is vital given their view of food as an experience.
“Asian consumers enjoy spending time over a meal together and Norwegian seafood gives them a sense of indulgence,” Dr. Rørtveit says. “Another factor is the growing use of online food platforms where consumers can enjoy the convenience of eating delicious seafood at home. These are some of the reasons behind the popularity of Norwegian seafood in Asian markets. Additionally, Asian consumers, particularly in China, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, value its high quality, which is a strong characteristic of our seafood.”
AI would not be the first, second or even 30th thing that springs to mind for most people when they think about Norwegian salmon. However, it is being used to assist farmers in innovative ways.
“We have adopted a laser precision system supported by AI technology to control sea lice without harming the fish. The technology uses a data analysis system that can identify and monitor the fish with traces of sea lice on their body. In addition, the successful development of fish vaccines has almost entirely eradicated the use of antibiotics in salmon farms in Norway,” Dr. Rørtveit reports. “As pioneers within the industry, we expect that AI will be another addition on our journey to drive the industry.”
That is a boost to traditional net-pen farming which Dr. Rørtveit claims will continue to constitute the majority of the salmon production for the foreseeable future. That hasn’t stopped work from continuing on new solutions for farming fish in the open seas. Another recent development that could improve processes is a massive sea vessel operating as an ocean farm and utilising IoT sensors.
“The sea vessel from a salmon producer is almost the length of four football fields, making it the world’s largest floating structure. The vessel is designed to have a lifetime of at least 25 years and is home to potentially two million salmon. It utilises IoT sensors to monitor, analyse and broadcast data in real time,” Dr. Rørtveit details.
He continues, “The data is then used to run a digital twin model of the vessel in a cloud-based solution enabling controllers to inspect and maintain activities in critical areas; measure the structure under adverse weather and sea conditions; and improve decision-making. Meanwhile, heat maps are leveraged to monitor feed output ensuring there is no lasting impact on the environment. All of this ensures operations meet the strict compliance regulations of the Norwegian seafood industry.”
One of the most notable benefits of this approach is that it moves salmon farming areas out to the open seas away from maritime traffic. Additionally, the vessel’s ability to be relocated allows the area’s marine ecosystem to regenerate.
Of course, none of that would be possible without the Vik brother’s first sea farm. Technology and innovation will keep building upon the aquaculture industry’s foundations with Norway set to play a significant role in advancements.
“We are inspired by the innovation forces in play and are excited to see how technology can leverage even more growth and help to increase production volumes. At the same time, we are excited to see how innovation can benefit the global seafood industry and how Norway can continue to raise the bar,” Dr. Rørtveit says.
Blue World Order
Seafood in all its forms can play a huge role in both food security and sustainability. This is something Norway cannot accomplish without assistance, though. The challenges are enormous and require industry-wide collaboration to be successful.
“With the rising food demand among global consumers and food security concerns in many countries, we see that protein from the sea can be an alternative source for the world population,” Dr. Rørtveit states. “We prioritise creating our industry in a sustainable way to ensure there will be enough seafood for generations to come while conserving the oceans. Together, we need to drive this agenda as an industry because one player cannot do it alone.”
Fish farmers invest approximately NOK 1.8 billion on research and development of aquaculture which is in addition to state investment. The goal is to keep food prices affordable while ensuring seafood production is as sustainable as possible.
“There is, as mentioned, a constant effort to lower what is already benchmark-low emissions while maintaining the high quality that our seafood is known for,” Dr. Rørtveit points out. “There is even more progress being made in reducing the overall footprint and making sure that the inevitable cost of producing food is being kept as low as possible. Additionally, the feed industry works to find new sources of ingredients for feed and has even eliminated the use of non-certified soy.”
Norwegian aquaculture innovation shows no signs of slowing down. Smarter seafood production and the use of modern technologies are the latest in a long line of advancements all designed to make the world more blue.
“Norway takes huge pride in being seafood pioneers. The country will continue to strive for greatness and lead the global effort toward food systems where sustainable food from the oceans will be of the highest quality. We will continue to champion more blue food to the world,” Dr. Rørtveit concludes.
- AI technology is being used at Norwegian salmon farms to control sea lice without harming the fish
- A massive sea vessel the size of four football fields is operating as an ocean farm and utilising IoT sensors
- Norwegian salmon farmers have topped the Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index for four consecutive years
- In addition to state investment, Norwegian fish farmers invest approximately NOK1.8 billion on aquaculture research and development
- The NSC works to inform consumers about what Norwegian origin means as it relates to seafood
- Norwegian seafood continues to become more popular in Asian markets due in part to its high quality
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