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The challenges of modern aquaculture

Aquaculture is a young industry, barely 35 years old. However, despite its youth, half of the fish consumed in the world comes from aquaculture, a practice that could solve the food problems of the estimated 9.7 billion people expected to inhabit the planet by 2050. But aquaculture also faces major challenges.

The biggest challenges facing aquaculture are feed and disease. To produce the necessary feed, aquaculture relies on fishmeal, a product made from wild-caught fish. This poses a sustainability challenge, as there are not enough wild fish to sustain aquaculture at its current level. In addition, aquaculture is susceptible to disease outbreaks, which can destroy entire farms.

Other challenges facing aquaculture include water pollution and climate change. Aquaculture facilities can release large amounts of pollutants into the environment, which can damage ecosystems and cause fish stocks to decline. Global warming also poses a threat to aquaculture, as it could lead to changes.

Monitoring will be key for the global aquaculture sector. Constant monitoring of potential environmental impact and reporting on responsible treatments of fish diseases as part of a sustainable aquaculture system is now more of an imperative than a trend.

The five keys to modern aquaculture

  •  Proper management of the biology of farmed species
  • Introduction of technological innovations (health, facilities, feeding, analysis…)
  • Development of specific feeds
  • Business organisation
  • Sustainability

The aquaculture sector is growing rapidly, with production doubling between 2000 and 2010 to 66 million tonnes. The FAO has predicted that aquaculture will grow by a further 50% by 2030, becoming the main source of seafood. This rapid expansion brings with it challenges for the aquaculture industry in terms of ensuring sustainable practices. These challenges include:

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    Ensuring proper management of farmed species

    To minimise the impact of aquaculture on wild fish stocks and ecosystems, it is important that aquaculture businesses have a good understanding of the biology of the species they farm. Inadequate management can have negative effects, such as escaped farmed fish competing with or preying on wild fish, or aquaculture effluents polluting the environment.

    Introducing technological innovations

    Technology can play an important role in aquaculture, helping to improve efficiency and sustainability. For example, health technologies can help reduce the use of antibiotics and other chemicals in aquaculture, while feed technologies can help reduce waste and improve feed utilisation.

    Keeping track of all management through specialised software is essential to be able to trace all the information that needs to be taken into account to optimise all processes within a facility.

    Development of specific feed

    Feed is a key factor in aquaculture and it is important that it is adapted to the needs of the different species. In many cases, this involves the development of new aquaculture-specific feeds, rather than using traditional feed ingredients. This can be challenging, but is essential for sustainable aquaculture.

    Keeping an adequate record of the different feeds used on a farm, their characteristics, benefits, costs, and all the information required in this type of environment will allow decisions to be made based on contrasted data that optimise the development, health and good performance of each species with which the company works.

    Business organisation

    The aquaculture sector is increasingly global, with companies operating in multiple countries in disparate geographical areas, such as Norway, China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, or even Chile or Peru. This presents a challenge in ensuring consistency of standards and managing the environmental impact of aquaculture operations in different countries.

    Being able to centralise all the legal and administrative information through a single technological platform will make it possible to know the situation of each farm wherever it operates.


    Aquaculture must be conducted in a sustainable manner if it is to continue to grow.
    This means minimising the negative environmental and social impacts of aquaculture and maximising its positive impacts. It also means using resources efficiently and adapting to changing conditions. 

    The aquaculture sector faces many challenges, but with careful planning and innovative approaches, they can be overcome. By adopting sustainable practices, aquaculture can make a significant contribution to global food security while minimising its impact on the environment.

    Global aquaculture will continue to grow

    Production will reach 201 million tonnes by 2030. Aquaculture is an important source of animal protein and can play an important role in global food security. However, aquaculture also has a number of negative environmental impacts, which must be minimised if the sector is to continue to grow sustainably.

    Territorial specialisation of cultivation and production of species

    Each territory tends to specialise in certain types of fish in order to exploit the full potential that their knowledge can bring to the farm. For example, in Vietnam, the main species farmed are penaeid shrimps, including the giant tiger shrimp “monodon”, pangasius fish and tilapia. Recently they have introduced grass carp, common and bighead carp, Indian carp, clarias and in smaller volumes carnivorous fish such as snappers or cobia as well as common lobster.

    Norway, on the other hand, is really strong in salmon farming. But it is not the only one, as Chile has managed to implement a farming technology in the country that has allowed it to position itself in a privileged position in the production of salmon worldwide. Chile has been farming salmon for more than 30 years and currently the commercialisation of this species represents 70% of national sales in the sector.

    In conclusion, aquaculture is a rapidly growing industry that faces many challenges. However, with careful planning and innovative approaches, these challenges can be overcome. By adopting sustainable practices, aquaculture can make a significant contribution to global food security and minimise its impact on the environment.

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