Pacific oyster

New biosensors will help farmers to better understand and manage important aquaculture species like Pacific oysters

Biosensors for oysters

CSIRO researchers are working with oyster farmers to develop biosensors that will help to monitor the health of farmed oysters by measuring heart rate and other physiological indicators. These measures will inform farm management decisions to yield the highest quality oysters.

  • 26 June 2013 | Updated 5 September 2013

Overview

Researchers working on the Sense-T aquaculture biosensor project, a joint project between the University of Tasmania and CSIRO, have developed a sensor that can be used on farmed oysters to monitor important physiological factors that impact the health of the oyster.

Working closely with farmers, they are forming an understanding of how oysters respond to a variety of environmental factors, to help ensure a productive and sustainable industry.  

The sensors, which are smaller than the size of a pea, will be attached to 'sentinel' oysters in the field, to monitor their health in real-time.

Sensors for oysters

Postdoctoral research fellow Dr Sarah Andrewartha says that the sensors, which are smaller than the size of a pea, will be attached to 'sentinel' oysters in the field, to monitor their health in real-time.

"We’re also bringing animals back into the lab where we can simulate a whole lot of different environmental situations," said Dr Andrewartha.

"We can put animals into higher or lower temperatures, or change the salinity of the water they are in, so that when we put these animals out into the field alongside the farmer’s animals, we can understand what that information means."

The sensors will enable long-term monitoring of a range of variables that impact animal health and productivity including heart rate, temperature, shell gape, water depth and light level.

Sense-T and aquaculture

The sensors on the sentinel oysters in Tasmania will also be incorporated into the state-wide Sense-T network which will simultaneously monitor microclimate data such as temperature, light levels, salinity and dissolved oxygen.

This important animal health and environmental data from the field will keep farmers informed of the current conditions and the health of the oysters which will help them make real-time decisions on the best farming practices.

Over time, researchers will be developing specific biosensors for other species including abalone and Atlantic salmon, which will provide further support to Australia’s aquaculture industry.

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Sense.T is a world first economy wide sensor network.

Transcript

Ros Harvey: Sense.T is a world first economy wide sensor network. What we’re doing is bringing together historical data with real-time data, and making it available to end users in user friendly applications.

John McCulloch: The farmers will benefit from this technology because we will be able to make predictions about what might be happening in the next few days, which is critical for their business processes.

Justin Goc: G’day, my name’s Justin Goc, I’m the General Manager of Barilla Bay Oysters here in Tasmania. Biggest challenge is just getting a handle on the environment in terms of the temperature, the salinity, freshwater impacts, all those environmental cues that can have major impacts on the growth of the oyster.

My customers have quality assurance programs. The Sense.T project will enable and guarantee that everything is as it should be in the water column, and that will ensure that when they go and sell to their respective customers everything is as it should be.

John McCulloch: This is an example of the technology we’re using to get sensor data from the fuel into the sensor cloud. This particular example in this sensor here is a salinity sensor, so this will be deployed on this farm to measure salinity and provide that data back to our decision support systems.

Justin Goc: We will be able to forecast, predict, and in real-time be able to assess our stocks in the water column, looking at both the temperature, salinity, anything that can have an impact on the oyster itself.

John McCulloch: In the future we will be adding sensors that are measuring individual animal parameters, such as oyster heart beats.

Sarah Andrewartha: We’re also bringing animals back into the lab where we can simulate a whole lot of different environmental situations. We can put animals into higher or lower temperatures, change salinity, so that when we put these animals out into the field alongside the farmer’s animals, with these sensors inside them, the information that gets sent up into the cloud, we can understand what that information means.

John McCulloch: And we will tie all this information together and present it in one place that will allow people to maximise their operations.

Justin Goc: We can incorporate that into our computer based management strategy, and that will then enable us to be able to look at how the oysters are growing in any point in time, combined with the environmental data, and that will then enable us to be able to grade on time, to harvest on time.

Ros Harvey: What it means is people are able to use real-time data to make better decisions, to do more with less.

Justin Goc: It’s allowing us to make decisions based on what the evidence is in the water, as opposed to what we may feel the oysters need.

Read more about our work in Protecting the future of Aussie aquaculture farming through new sensor technology.