Using IoT Sensor Technologies to Reduce Waste and Improve Sustainability in Artisanal Fish Farming in Southern Brazil
2. Literature Review
2.1. Current State of Aquaculture in Brazil
2.2. Modern Digital Technologies in Aquaculture
2.3. Issues in Applying Technologies to Brazilian Artisanal Fisheries
- Legislation and enforcement: most literature on legal issues is focused on marine fishing .
- Due to the lack of infrastructure and the need for survival, most artisanal fisheries in Brazil use rudimentary technology [25,28,30], with no funds to make big investments in technological upgrades like automatization, oxygen machines, and sensor technology. Specifically for water quality monitoring, if farmers use anything, they use chemical reaction strips, which are very time-consuming.
- All the above issues are exacerbated by the general conservatism in aquaculture and the lack of trust in technology that results in farmers resisting innovation and new technology implementations .
3. Research Methodology
- What is the current perception of the use of IoT Sensor Technologies by artisanal fishermen in Brazil for improving their operations?
- What are the problems they have encountered in implementing IoT?
- What are the potentials of applying IoT Sensor Technologies to reduce waste in artisanal fish farming in Brazil?
- What are the benefits and challenges?
3.1. Research Method
3.3. Research Participants
4. Technology Implementation
Data Collection and Presentation of Results
5. Results and Discussion
5.1. Criteria for Successful Smart Aquaculture
- Ease of Use: during interviews and workshops, several stakeholders stressed the need for ease of use of these technologies. They highlighted that they tried to implement a technology some years earlier but could not continue due to the complex daily procedures. Ideally, products available locally from the market that can be directly used without additional changes are preferred.
- Affordability: given the small scale of the farmers’ production, the available investment budget is low as well. As such, any technology should be cheap to acquire.
- Continuous monitoring: the system should be able to detect problems as soon as they occur for immediate corrective action and should also be able to collect data for long-term analysis.
- Reliability: if farmers rely on technology for critical decisions that can impact their livestock significantly, the system needs to be reliable; breakdowns are unacceptable. If the system fails and a pond is left without proper aeration due to the failure, the whole fish population can die and seriously impact the farmer’s livelihood. Several participants mentioned that the proposed sensor technology in their ponds is a welcome initiative but also warned about the impact of disasters such as frequent power cuts, storms, and floods, which in the past killed huge quantities of fish. Even if sensors are fitted, local fish farmers should be supported to build resilience considering these disasters.
- Continuity: after the system is installed, it should be used for a long time. Support should be available so that farmers do not have to buy a different system within 5 years. Having used another technology from a company that went out of business had damaged the trust of farmers who invested in the equipment.
5.2. Potentials for Reducing Waste and Increasing Productivity
- Reduce fish death and food waste: the pilot implementations have shown that there is a strong potential for timely reduction of issues causing death of fish. Before the implementation of modern digital technologies, there were incidents that oxygen levels were reduced in the pond during the night when there is no monitoring, which meant the death of fish the next day. With the implementation of modern digital technologies and smartphone connectivity there is continuous monitoring, and any reduction in oxygen level affecting fish life can be spotted quickly and alarms sent on the smartphone. There are options to switch on the oxygen generator remotely, thereby reducing the possibility of the death of fish. For example, one of the fish farmers opined the following during an interview by our team: “The sensor will enhance productivity because the fish will feel comfortable with the right oxygen level. The fish will not waste energy to get oxygen so he gets heavier.” Similarly, technologies help reduce the waste of fish feed . By ensuring the right quantity of fish feed is released into ponds at the right intervals, the chance of releasing excess feed, which would then become waste, is reduced. Further, the excess feed causes sedimentation and algae problems in the pond, which will in turn affect the growth of fish. These issues are also avoided using technology . Further, by operating aquaculture machinery (e.g., oxygen generators and feeders) only when they are needed, there is also energy saving [32,33]. Before using modern digital technologies, fishermen usually switch on their oxygen generators overnight to ensure adequate oxygen supply. This causes unnecessary energy consumption, which can be avoided if these machines are operated only when needed. Our mobile phone apps have shown their utility, especially when there is a need to visit ponds during adverse weather (e.g., at night or during heavy rain). If there are issues with oxygen levels in the pond, for example, smartphone apps can feature alerts to this effect for immediate attention by the fishermen. More advanced smartphone apps developed by the team had options to remotely switch on the aerators instantly, thereby avoiding the need for a physical visit to switch the aerators manually. This is certainly handy in adverse weather conditions and helps not only avoid waste and increase productivity but also improve morale and social activities.These observations are consistent with the previous literature that highlighted the need for improving infrastructure [23,24] in Brazil. Improved infrastructure helps in large-scale adoption of even simple technologies and can go a long way in reducing waste in artisanal fishing. This reduced waste helps in improving the availability of food, thereby increasing revenues, and thus further helps improve social fabric as observed by the authors of [26,27,28,29].
- Increase in productivity: via continuous monitoring of various parameters and taking corrective actions, the smart aquaculture system can ensure the right quality and quantity of feed and oxygen for maximum fish growth. This increases productivity. Further, the use of modern digital technologies will help automate the system using smartphone applications. Using technologies can also help farmers to make quick and better decisions. Thus, the productivity issues highlighted by the previous literature (e.g., [26,27,28]) in the context of artisanal fisheries in Brazil can be avoided by the appropriate use of technologies.
- Reduce costs: the use of technologies will eventually help farmers to reduce costs. For example, using sensors to automatically monitor and control the aerator will reduce electricity costs. The combination of monitoring with automation offers great advantages. The farmer does not have to be on-site permanently, as they can use remote monitoring and machinery control. This can save considerable labour and improve labour productivity too. Artisanal farms work with a small staff, often only composed of family members. Hence, any reduction in labour will positively impact the farm .
- Improve sustainability: reducing fish death and food waste is an example of sustainability benefits from the use of modern digital technologies in smart aquaculture. In addition, there are several other benefits related to economic, environmental, and social sustainability.The economic pillar of sustainability is achieved in multiple contexts. For example, reduced waste, increased productivity, and reduced labour costs directly translate to economic benefits in terms of cost saving and increased revenues. Aquaculture with modern technologies will reduce the “manual” effort of recording and controlling management conditions and will intensify the dedication to planning, management, logistics, commercialization, professional qualification, and communication with peers. Better organized, the sector can take advantage of the benefits of collective purchases and sales and cooperate to increase the quality, productivity, and profitability of Santa Catarina and national aquaculture. The financial results of an increase in productivity will strengthen the sector, generate more jobs, and contribute to the improvement of the state’s balance of payments.The environmental pillar of sustainability is also achieved in different ways. Modern digital technologies help optimise the consumption of energy and other resources (e.g., feed). With the help of sensor data (e.g., oxygen levels and alerts when the levels are low), the aerators can be switched on exactly when needed. Otherwise, it is a common practice to switch on aerators for the entire night. Thus, sensors help save energy. This results in significant environmental benefits with reduced carbon emissions and footprint. In addition, aquaculture with these new technologies can expand the knowledge of producers and improve the management of the means of production and protect the ecosystem from inappropriate actions and practices, misuse of water resources, and polluting actions. With more knowledge, producers will be able to invest better in technologies for waste treatment and water use. These precautions will make it easier to obtain governmental environmental licenses and increase productivity and product quality.There are significant achievements for the social pillar of sustainability too. Since artisanal fisheries constitute a majority of aquaculture business in Brazil (as in other countries), any improvement in the quality of life (e.g., improved revenue) of artisanal fishermen helps promote social cohesion, reduce social unrest, and improve economic growth. Improved social cohesion and reduced crime helps in improving social sustainability of the region. More social benefits arise due to the increased availability of fish as food and provide better nutrition and food security for populations at more affordable prices. Scientific publications from the Harvard University Institute of Medicine show that fish consumption improves the prevention of chronic cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, and obesity, among others.
6. Conclusions and Future Work
- Technology applications should be driven by farms’ imperative needs. The top priorities for technology implementation using IoT sensors and remote control digital technologies should include: first, improving the monitoring and control of water quality for better productivity and waste reduction, such as oxygen and temperature; second, optimising and managing the fish feed to improve resource efficiency; third, enabling fish farmers to have better access to information (e.g., suppliers information, weather, market demand and prices, etc.), knowledge and technical support and expert advice via mobile Apps. Mobile apps can also help in remotely switching on machinery (e.g., aerators or feeders) when required, which will come in handy, especially during adverse weather conditions.
- New technologies should be developed with local culture in mind. It can be automatic, resulting in fewer labour requirements, but should be supplemented with proper user support. Working with local knowledge centres and government support agencies is crucial for the continued diffusion of these technologies to all beneficiaries.
- Artisanal fisheries tend to work with traditional models of fishing. More training on new business models (e.g., (i) linking directly to the market as there is a lack of awareness of the fish supply chains, as most farmers do not directly deal with supermarkets or final consumers, (ii) using cooperative structures to ensure large supplying power and consequently winning bargaining power, and (iii) developing future contracts for the supply of fish to the market to ensure all fish produced are sold on time) will help the entire AF industry.
- Significant effort should be made to raise sustainability issues among fish farmers, as there is a serious lack of understanding of environmental sustainability. For example, in Brazil, since the water supply is abundant, they tend to think pollution is not an issue. It is true that, at current levels of production, the waste from ponds reaching local rivers does not appear to be a significant problem, but without adequate efforts in treating the wastewater before it leaves aquafarms, pollution issues will be the most significant limiting factor for future expansion of smart fish farms.
- Government should improve the supporting infrastructure for aquaculture development, e.g., regulations, local government support networks, legal frameworks, financial incentives, better access to banks and financial support, etc.
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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Ramanathan, R.; Duan, Y.; Valverde, J.; Van Ransbeeck, S.; Ajmal, T.; Valverde, S. Using IoT Sensor Technologies to Reduce Waste and Improve Sustainability in Artisanal Fish Farming in Southern Brazil. Sustainability 2023, 15, 2078. https://doi.org/10.3390/su15032078
Ramanathan R, Duan Y, Valverde J, Van Ransbeeck S, Ajmal T, Valverde S. Using IoT Sensor Technologies to Reduce Waste and Improve Sustainability in Artisanal Fish Farming in Southern Brazil. Sustainability. 2023; 15(3):2078. https://doi.org/10.3390/su15032078Chicago/Turabian Style
Ramanathan, Ramakrishnan, Yanqing Duan, Joaquim Valverde, Samuel Van Ransbeeck, Tahmina Ajmal, and Silma Valverde. 2023. "Using IoT Sensor Technologies to Reduce Waste and Improve Sustainability in Artisanal Fish Farming in Southern Brazil" Sustainability 15, no. 3: 2078. https://doi.org/10.3390/su15032078