AI to revolutionise barramundi farming

AI will be used to enhance barramundi breeding programs. Image, MainStream Aquac
AI will be used to enhance barramundi breeding programs. Image, MainStream Aquaculture Group
Computer simulations are key to bringing aquaculture into line with genetic advances being made in land-based agriculture, according to a University of Queensland researcher.

PhD candidate Jessica Hintzsche from UQ’s Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) is using software to virtually model the genetic tools available to barramundi farming, in collaboration with the ARC Research Hub for Supercharging Tropical Aquaculture at James Cook University and MainStream Aquaculture Group.

"We are creating the farm’s virtual twin - a 3D digital replica of the real thing to allow us to run simulations," Ms Hintzsche said.

"The benefit of a digital twin is that we can test the impact of different genomic, breeding and production technologies such as parental selection and harvesting options before they are rolled out on the farm.

"It would allow producers to make decisions about how to take their business to the next level with healthy fish populations."

Aquaculture in Australia’s north is currently valued at $223 million and has a projected value of $1.34 billion by 2030.

Ms Hintzsche said aquaculture was growing exponentially but the integration of genetic technologies into breeding programs was slow, with just 10 per cent of the fish farmed globally descended from genetically improved strains.

"We are at a tipping point globally where the production of farmed fish is about to overtake wild-caught fish in fisheries," Ms Hintzsche said.

"To meet demand and keep up with other agricultural industries, genetic tools need to be integrated into breeding programs."

Ms Hintzsche said there were many benefits of using AI including sustainability and there was no limit on what could be modelled with the right quantitative data.

"No one yet has the capacity to apply these techniques in aquaculture and it is amazing to be on the forefront, using this technology to push the boundaries of aquaculture.

"Really, the sky is the limit."

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