Competitive Round Call for Expressions of Interest now open. Closes 27 September 2019



Real time monitoring of water quality and mechanisation of pond management to boost productivity and increase profit

Project Number:



James Cook University (JCU)

Principal Investigator:

Dean Jerry

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:



Adoption, Environment, Industry


Aquaculture is conducted largely on experience often driven by “gut-feel” in response to biological demands and environmental constraints of production systems. Aquaculture is often described as a “black-box”, as data and analytics to make informed decisions are often absent, not routinely collected or in a form that is readily analysed. Due to a low appetite for risk and inaccurate or sparse environmental data, overcompensation of energy and nutritional resources often occur, raising the cost of production. The implementation of real-time monitoring and sensor network systems can drive increased efficiencies, boost yields, minimise waste and help aquaculture ecosystems fulfil their potential. Similarly, the novel application of existing energy saving technologies to the aquaculture sector may provide early opportunities for reduced production costs and improved animal growth and survival. The Australian Barramundi farming industry needs to increase efficiency to reduce costs to assist when competing against low cost imported fish coming into the market. Automation is one of the disruptive technologies the ABFA will be looking into. This project concept was identified as a priority area of R&D by the ABFA at its latest R&D Meeting (Darwin 2017).


1. To confirm whether automated aerataion control and real-time water quality measurements is suitable to the Australian Barramundi industries requirements

2. Provide metrics to assess the impacts that automated aeration has on power and labour costs and fish growth.

Real time monitoring of water quality and mechanisation of pond management to boost productivity and increase profit in Barramundi (Lates calcarifer) farming

Author(s):Clement Pissoat & Dean Jerry
Date Published:December 2018
Maintenance of adequate levels of dissolved oxygen (DO) are critical for the health and production of aquaculture species. In barramundi (Lates calcarifer) pond aquaculture the use of 24 hr/7 day mechanical aeration via paddlewheels represents a significant energy cost to companies, although it is not known if the paddlewheels need to be operated continuously to maintain DO at levels that don’t affect production outcomes. In recent times DO sensors linked to paddlewheel controllers have been developed and offer the opportunity for savings in energy by turning off paddlewheels when DO levels are above a pre-determined concentration.
The Australian Barramundi Farmers Association (ABFA) is interested in trialling automatic aeration controllers in order to lower their significant energy costs. Accordingly, a field trial over 12 weeks was commissioned on a commercial barramundi farm to evaluate DO sensors linked to paddlewheel controllers and to examine the impact such technology may have on production outcomes and financial savings, along with changes that may occur in the biological and chemical composition of ponds. This trial ran for 12 weeks over the monsoonal summer (February to May) in two sets of barramundi ponds (two treatment ponds with controllers, 2 control ponds) located at Kelso, Queensland. Growth rate, mortality and FCR was recorded at the beginning and end of the trial, along with measurements three times a week of pH, DO, temperature, chlorophyll, total dissolved solids, oxidation reduction potential, phytoplankton bloom and particulate organic matter). Biological oxygen demand and concentration of heavy metals (zinc, copper, mercury, lead and cadmium) were also measured at the end of the 12-week trial.
Results from the trial showed that automatic aeration controllers turned off paddlewheels on average 26 ± 6.4 hr per week compared to control ponds. This equated to an energy saving of 73 kW per week or 1705kW over the 12 weeks of the trial based on regulating power to four paddlewheels. No statistical differences between any of the ponds were found in water chemistry or biological parameters. This pilot trial demonstrates that using automatic aeration controllers of aeration has the potential to significantly save on energy consumption, thus lowering production costs. It is recommended, however, that the ABFA consider a larger trial over the entire 18 month production cycle to more fully evaluate the reliability of the automatic aeration controllers and longer terms impacts on FCR and the pond ecosystem.