RAS – A TECHNOLOGY OF THE FUTURE
Vasco Mota – is one of Norway's leading RAS scientists. After completing his PhD certificate and spending 4 years researching this field, he is absolutely certain that RAS technology will play an important role in the growth of the aquaculture industry in the future.
344 million baby Atlantic salmon are produced annually in Norway. According to Mota, this production is currently facing a major technological change. He believes that in the near future, the majority of salmon production, from caviar to commercial-sized fish, will be raised entirely in a recirculating aquaculture system - RAS.
RAS is a aquaculture system with high-density, in tanks (or lakes) with a controlled environment. The circulating system filters and cleans the water to return to the culture tanks. RAS has many advantages such as productivity, high quality, no environmental pollution, saving water and energy resources, high biological safety.
“The potential of RAS is huge. Fish raised in RAS is one of the smallest environmental practices in the food production industry. Currently, the complexity and high initial cost of construction are barriers to the expansion of the recirculating aquaculture system (RAS). It may take 5, 10 or 15 years, but RAS technology will be the future.”, said Vasco Mota.
Bringing RAS technology to go further
With funding in place and from 9 RAS units, at the Aquaculture Research Station in Tromsø, Vasco Mota is ready to take RAS technology one step further.
“RAS is a biosecurity farming system. Vasco Mota said everything that comes in and out is disinfected and checked, so there is very little chance of infection in the system.”
However, developing RAS also poses new challenges, such as how to disinfect water without negatively impacting to salmon health and biofilter performance. More knowledge is required for a more active and effective disinfection strategy.
Reseachers of Nofima, Vasco Mota believes that the aquaculture industry of the future will be moved to land farming, which is inevitable. He now leads the RAS Health research project, with a goal of improving water treatment methods in recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS). Photo: Lars Ake Andersen/ Nofima
His research project is expected to contribute to the water disinfection process and have an impact on how RAS establishment are designed and operated in the future. By developing an efficient production system while improving the health standards of fish production, the RASHealth project will also contribute directly to the sustainability of Norwegian aquaculture.
Scientist of Nofima is currently designing and overseeing the construction of a new RAS establishment including more than 20 RAS units at the Aquaculture Research Station, which Nofima co-owns with the University of Tromsø.
“Fish farming in RAS is very different from traditional farming systems such as marine cages or land-flow systems. Because the water is recirculated, bacteria, viruses and fish metabolites can be accumulated. Therefore, water treatment is an important part of these systems. The newly built RAS units will allow us to study pathogens in RAS,” he said.
To develop new sterilization strategies, some of the test had to be infected with bacteria and viruses. This allows scientists to find the most effective methods for treating pathogens and water sources.
Savings cost for the RAS system
Vasco Mota believes that moving salmon farming to mainland in the future is inevitable.
“And we will go further in developing RAS establishments where costs are coming down,” he said. Vasco Mota explains that there will be many companies that can afford to use this technology and it can be done anywhere, you just need access to high quality water.”
He believes the next ten years will be very important for Norwegian salmon in relation to the market. “Consumer perceptions of Atlantic salmon production will also need to change. Perhaps some people would think that fish produced in RAS establishments have lower quality, but that is not correct. Vasco says the fish is a premium product even though it's been raised in the RAS all its life.”
He said a large RAS farm is currently being built in the middle of the Netherlands. In addition, about 10 countries around the world have started producing Atlantic salmon using RAS recirculating aquaculture technology. The EU countries such as Denmark, Poland and France; USA; China and Canada are among them.
The RASHealth project he currently leads will continue until 2023. Vasco Mota is also involved in several major RAS technology projects at Nofima.