Tuesday, March 30, 2010

aqua pod: floating fish farm

Ocean Farm Tech
The Aquapod® farmed fish cage is an unmoored, maneuverable container with its own built-in thrusters. Designed by a team led by Cliff Goudey, the director of the MIT Sea Grant's Offshore Aquaculture Engineering Center, a prototype was constructed for a technical feasibility test this summer in the waters off of Puerto Rico. This method is both healthier and less polluting.

The project is funded by NOAA’s Marine Aquaculture Program, aimed at demonstrating the technology needed to raise fish in the vast portions of the U.S. that are too deep for conventional anchored fish cages. There are many locations both in U.S. waters and around the world where oceanic currents and gyres offer useful frameworks for such mobile operations. Though futuristic compared to today’s near-shore fish farming practices, the concept avoids the user conflicts and compromised water quality of coastal waters.

The concentrated nature of aquaculture often leads to higher than normal levels of fish waste in the water. Fish waste is organic and composed of nutrients necessary in all components of aquatic food webs. In some instances such as nearshore, high-intensity operations, increased waste can adversely affect the environment by decreasing dissolved oxygen levels in the water column. Not only is the quality of the water affected but that of the food as well. Many hatcheries can be found near urban areas and sometimes get exposed to stormwater and industrial runoffs.

Off-shore aquaculture, as envisioned by Goudey and others, would resolve these problems, as this approach would 1) take the operation away from the foul waters of the coasts and 2) utilize strong ocean currents to flush away fish wastes. Should the cages enter a less than pristine area, it would simply move again. And if the currents aren't moving fast enough, the propellers would create the necessary turbulence.

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