When we think about agriculture, we tend to think about land, not about the ocean. But actually there is an area of agriculture of foremost importance, and that is oceanic agriculture, or aquaculture. Fish are considered a particularly healthy source of nutrition, but unfortunately the population of fish in the open seas is rapidly dwindling.
The global fishing industry is based largely on growing fish in bays and pools, but this type of fish farming creates different sorts of problems, beginning with the real estate challenge and up to the pollution created by the fish farms, in places where the water replacement isn’t high enough (as opposed to in the open seas). This is why in many countries in the world, fish agriculture has begun moving outside of the bays.
SUBflex is gearing its solution to this challenge, and has developed systems for farming fish out at sea, or “offshore aquaculture.” The Company, which was established in 2004, decided to take fish farming back to its natural environment, since sea water has 100% oxygen and plankton, which provides the supplemental nutrition for the fish. Offshore aquaculture presents a new set of challenges that must be dealt with, and on these SUBflex‘s technology focuses.
SUBflex‘s system is based on a submersible single point mooring (SPM) net cage system, which includes a series of cages lined up in a row, one after another. Each cage is individual and its possible to disengage and separate it as needed, and change the fish population in the specific cage. It is also possible to create cages in a variety of sizes.
“Our system is able to rotate 360 degrees around the anchor unit in the direction of the water stream,” explains Josef Melchner, VP at SUBflex. “This ability enables optimal distribution of the waste that is generated anywhere there is fish farming. When the waste distribution is wide and in the sea depths, the ocean absorbs it more easily and then in essence it goes from being waste to material which enriches the ecology of the ocean, and if there is any polluting it is negligible,” explains Melchner.
Melchner also claims that the technology has a significant lifespan, as the materials used are of high quality and long-lasting, and the system has the ability to dive. It’s possible to bring it down to almost sea floor level during storms, within only minutes, and so to protect the cages from the high energy of the seas, which decreases the further down in the ocean you go (see clip). Another important point is the nutritional quality of the fish – because the fish are actually in a natural ocean environment, there is almost no need to give them antibiotics.
SUBflex was founded by Hilik Schwimmer, the owner, an electrical engineer by training, and the system was developed by Dr. Nitai Drimer, a marine engineer and lecturer in the Technion (Israel’s leading technology institute). The Company successfully completed a two year long pilot in the Marine Science School of Rupin College in Michmoret, Israel, after which the Company built four fish farms for a customer, which are considered the largest in the world in the open sea, with a potential of housing 400-800 tons of fish per year. The farms are active in Israel 12 kilometers from the shores of Ashdod.
Following the ongoing activity of the farms, which effectively proves the system’s capabilities, outputs and quality, SUBflex’s vision is to work in a turnkey project mode; to establish farms with strategic customers, manage them and be a partner in the sales.
SUBflex will present at the Innovation Pavilion at the upcoming Agritech Israel 2012 event, May 15-17 in Tel Aviv, and will hold a tour of its the farms off the shores of Ashdod on May 17th (for those who would like to attend please contact the Company to sign up).
Check out the clip demonstrating SUBflex‘s solution:
Pictures of SUBflex‘s installations: