UK-China Agritech Challenge: Aquaculture 4.0 -- Advancing Digital Precision Aquaculture in China (ADPAC)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Surrey
Department Name: Chemical Engineering


The project aims to advance digital precision aquaculture in China towards "Aquaculture 4.0", which is a highly connected and automated cyber-human-physical system using digital technologies. Aquaculture production in China reached 45.5 million tonnes in 2014 (60%+ of world's production, UN FAO). The grand challenge is the extremely low production efficiency, leading to high labour intensity, high energy/water consumption and environment pollution. Innovation is urgently needed for a transformation to digital industrialised aquaculture. The proposal is a timely response to the needs; it will apply and integrate the latest technologies of advanced sensors, 5G-based Internet of Things, Big Data analytics and automation to pilot highly digital precision aquaculture in China. The system is expected to deliver 10-fold increase in production efficiency. The project will open new business opportunities, gaining a competitive advantage by entering the Chinese market at this critical time and by partnering with the key innovators in Chinese aquaculture represented in this consortium. The solution will be also applicable to aquaculture worldwide opening up additional revenue stream.

Planned Impact

Outside academia, the immediate beneficiaries will be the industrial partners in the consortium, in terms of new business opportunities and economic benefits. Beyond the consortium, primary stakeholders of the technology in China will benefit from the innovation, including aquafarm operators and investors, government (central and provincial), research institutions, developers of digital technologies for aquaculture, aquaculture workforce and the general public. Aquafarms, as end-user of the technology, will benefit from substantially improvement in production efficiency through real time process monitoring, analytics and automation. The transition from traditional small-scale labour intensive to modern digital aquaculture has been a priority of the Ministry of Agriculture, China, as well as provincial government agencies; this project is perfectly aligned with such initiative. A wide range of research institutions and commercial providers will benefit from this project, including those focused on aquaculture technology, sensors, wireless communication, IoT, cloud-computing and big data analytics. Finally, the aquaculture workforce will benefit in terms of reduced work intensity and improved work conditions and thus welfare. The general public will benefit from a sustainable supply of aquatic animals as key source of protein (aquaculture currently provides 1/3 of animal protein intake in China), food security and safety, as well as alleviated environmental impact.

In addition to the above primary beneficiaries, UK-based research organisations and industries will also benefit from this work, especially those in manufacturing where IoT applications are particularly relevant (e.g. car manufacturing, pharmaceutical, speciality chemical, consumer goods, etc.). It should be noted that the UK applicants have long-standing collaboration with these key manufacturing sectors, providing the basis of technology transfer between different applications. The sensors and remote monitoring methods will also be of interest to environmental applications, providing benefits to the general public in terms of sustainable ecosystems.

Furthermore, this innovation project synergises with the priorities of the UK government to reach out and collaborate with emerging economies, in this case China. The economic benefits to the UK business partners are likely to translate to more employment. Finally, the generic public will benefit from the knowledge and awareness of the cutting-edge research. The increased awareness of how digital technologies can innovate an apparently traditional sector (aquaculture) could help motivate the younger generation to study STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), contributing to future economic development and sustained success of the knowledge economy in the UK.


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