Hundreds of millions spent on laser war against salmon lice – E24

Hundreds of millions spent on laser war against salmon lice – E24

Salmon giant Salmar is taking multibillion-dollar measures to improve animal welfare. The hope is that new technology and artificial intelligence can facilitate further growth.

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Challenges loom for salmon on Norwegian farms. Diseases, jellyfish, lice and extreme weather have led to record numbers of sick and dead fish.

Norway's second largest breeder, Salmar, admits that animal welfare is going in the wrong direction in the industry. In the next few years, Salmar will spend about $1 billion on various measures to improve fish welfare.

One measure is a significant investment in the use of lice lasers.

– It is a more gentle treatment for lice, because you do not need to pick up the fish and pass it through the vessels using other methods, says Salmar CEO Frode Arntsen.

Gentler: Salmar CEO Frode Arntsen is betting that lice lasers are gentler on salmon than traditional methods.  The photo is from a previous event.

A pulse of radiation kills a single louse

Arntsen expects investment in laser weapons to reach several hundred million this year.

The eye laser uses a camera equipped with advanced software. Using artificial intelligence, it can detect lice on salmon while swimming in the sea. The laser beam “pulses” and kills each salmon louse individually, without harming the fish.

Lice have long been one of the major problems in the agricultural industry. Ways to combat lice include using chemicals, heat treatment, brushing, or using cleaning fish (which often kill themselves).

These methods can be stressful and painful for the salmon. Additionally, it can make salmon weaker and more susceptible to diseases and other injuries. It is also expensive.

High levels of lice pose a threat to wild, red-listed salmon. Therefore, growth restrictions have also been imposed in areas where lice are common, regulated by a traffic light system.

Having too many lice may result in breeders having to reduce their production or lose the opportunity to increase, thus losing a lot of money.

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– Hopefully good effect

Arntsen also highlights the new universal vaccination against Bacterial disease winter soresBacterial disease winter soresA bacterial disease that occurs in salmon farmed in cold water and is characterized by ulcers on the side of the fish. The degree of severity can vary from superficial wounds to deeper, more serious, life-threatening wounds.. Previous vaccines were not effective enough.

Selmar is also testing cages that can be lowered below the lice belt, as well as completely enclosed cages.

-Hopefully it will have a good effect regarding the welfare of the fish when they don't have to remove the lice.

Will we see any improvement by winter or will it take longer?

We hope that some of these measures will actually appear next winter. This applies at least to lasers and submersible cages.

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The new vaccine will likely not have a significant impact until next winter.

Growth versus animal welfare

Salmar slaughtered a record amount of salmon last year, and plans to grow more in the coming years.

– Do you see any contradiction between animal welfare measures and growth plans?

– No, we see almost the opposite, I think. We see that there are more opportunities emerging through new technology, says Arntsen.

– There may also be an environmental resilience scheme, which allows you to use new technology and new fields. We believe this could be a win-win situation.

Overall, Salmar's director estimates that they will spend about $1 billion on measures to improve animal welfare in the next two years. It also includes the company's salmon initiative Salmon Living Lab (SLL) worth around NOK 500 million.

Details of the SLL remain unclear, but the appointment of a director is now nearing its final stage.

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Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

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