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October 17, 2023  China Daily  

The Cloud's the Limit, as Fish Farming Goes Digital

Technical Solution;Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Resilience;Smart Platform;Fish Farming

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The interactive screen of Xiaolan town's big data platform for smart fisheries displays real-time information such as an overview of the industrial park, weather updates, and the conditions of automated feeding machines and aerators. [LI XIAOYUN/CHINA DAILY]

Cuirouhuan fish, also known as crispy grass carp, is named for its characteristic meat that's resistant to overcooking, and its firm and crispy texture. The fish is not a new species and, from a biological perspective, it's part of the grass carp family.

When grass carps reach a weight of around 1.5 kilograms, fish farmers feed them with broad beans. One of the unique substances in the beans interacts with the fish's anti-oxidative enzymes, giving the flesh a crispy texture. Xiaolan town, located in northern Zhongshan, has gained widespread recognition for its prolific production of these fish.

Leveraging technologies, such as 5G and the Internet of Things, Xiaolan embraced digitalization in fish farming practices in 2021.

Huang Jiahua, a Xiaolan native in his 30s, returned to his hometown after graduating from university in 2016 to start his own Cuirouhuan aquaculture cooperative.

He tells China Daily that his father's generation used to follow conventional practices in breeding fish, including testing oxygen levels and pH values (acidic levels in substances) in the ponds, based on experience instead of data-driven analysis, with only a limited number of fish being able to withstand potential risks.

Recalling the days when all the work had to rely on manual labor, Huang vividly remembers the toil that came with moving fish feed from the warehouse to more than 40 ponds under the scorching sun.

In early 2021, Huang's fish farming cooperative introduced a smart fishery platform based on cloud, enabling workers to monitor real-time data on pond temperatures and water quality, and remotely control automated feeders and aerators through an interactive smart screen.

"Although an initial investment of more than 1.1 million yuan ($150,522) was required, we estimated it could save us about 300,000 yuan annually in costs, making it possible to recoup the investment within three to four years," says Huang.

At Huang's fish farming cooperative, there are several towering automatic feeders, each of which is more than five meters high. Each automatic feeder, integrating feeding and storage functions, features a 360-degree rotating feeding facility that can distribute feed over a diameter of 40 meters.

Huang says the smart platform has revolutionized the traditional fish farming model, helping his cooperative to cut labor costs by about 20 percent, and reduce expenses on leasing warehouses for feed storage.

As the birthplace of Cuirouhuan fish, Zhongshan is vigorously promoting the development of the fish farming industry. In Xiaolan town, efforts are underway to establish a Cuirouhuan industry park with an area of about 1,000 mu, or about 66.7 hectares. It's planned to be developed into a modern agricultural industry park that would integrate fish farming, distribution and processing, leisure tourism, culinary culture, as well as agricultural research and innovation. Huang is among the pioneering operators in the industry park who introduced the smart fishery platform.

The Cuirouhuan fish industry serves as a significant contributor and growth driver in Xiaolan's agricultural economy, with a total fish farming area of 15,090 mu and annual production exceeding 35,000 tons.

Fish are highly vulnerable to adverse weather conditions, and while it is crucial to utilize smart platforms to detect potential weather-related risks, it is equally important to improve insurance schemes to minimize farmers' losses as a result of meteorological disasters, says Zhang Weijun, president of the Cuirouhuan farming association in Xiaolan town.

An unusual heat wave in late May this year led to losses exceeding 500,000 yuan for Huang's fish farming project. But, the high-temperature insurance he took out offered compensation of only 20,000 yuan.

He says more diversified fish farming technologies and related insurance products are needed.


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The Cloud's the Limit, as Fish Farming Goes Digital

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