Water Quality Monitoring in Fishponds: Effectively Removing Aquatic Toxins to Make Aquaculture More Sustainable

21 Jan

Aquaculture has been an important industry; however, most aquaculturists have limited control over the environment. Without the necessary preventive measures, sudden environmental changes leading to a significantly elevated level of aquatic toxic substances often result in massive fish die-offs.

Gintel Technology has designed a water quality monitoring system specifically for aquaculture. Combining an advanced sensor and big data analytics, the amount of information collected would be one of the most comprehensive dealing with aquafarming. Additionally, the use of a 24-hour surveillance system, the data connection and cloud analytics can help aquaculturists better cope with potential adverse conditions to minimize economic losses, as well as reduce the need to unnecessarily administer chemical agents.

At a previous meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) held in Vietnam, Gintel Technology was invited to present its water monitoring system to the conference. Afterwards, a Vietnamese shrimp wholesaler decided to order over a thousand units following a six month trial of six such devices.

▲CEO Hsieh has a PhD in aerospace and marine engineering. While dealing with the rising toxin concentration in aquaponics, he came up with the idea of applying his past experience with big data to water quality management.

Small Aquaponics—Big Fishpond Problems

Gintel Technology founder and CEO Chin-Yuan Hsieh has a Ph.D. in aerospace and marine engineering. Dr. Hsieh has not only served as an information science faculty at a local university but has also won multiple awards as an inventor. Dr. Hsieh’s foray into building a water monitoring system began a few years ago when Taiwan’s Ministry of Education asked him to help solve the problem of high toxin concentration in aquaponics.

Aquaponics may seem to be a simple, stable system; but actually, its aquaculture and hydroponics components are constantly changing. When its hydroponic system cannot adequately absorb its aquacultural by-products, these excess organic matters (animal excretions and fish feeds) will produce chemical reactions to form aquatic toxins resulting in the eventual demise of fish and vegetation.

Dr. Hsieh aims to produce a fine water monitoring system to accurately determine the condition of aquaponics. Previously available tools could only measure water’s pH values, temperature, salinity, total dissolved solids, dissolved oxygen and other basic parameters, but they could neither determine the levels of toxins in water nor where the likely problems originate.

▲The more useful parameters for measuring water quality are the concentration of the ammonium ions/ nitrites which are correlated with the level of excretion and the number of Vibrio pathogens.

Hence, Dr. Hsieh has developed a more practical water quality monitor that can measure over fifty variables useful to aquaculture. Besides the aforementioned parameters, the device can also measure the bacteria concentration (including E. coli), phosphates, cyanobacteria, phytoplankton, humic acids and the total ammoniacal nitrogen.

Rapidly identifying an elevated level of these harmful substances, and properly deducing their causes will enable aquaculturists to improve water quality accordingly; i.e., one must reduce the concentration of toxic substances, increase the level of oxygen, adjust the water temperature, and change the water as necessary. Previously, when facing sudden mass fish deaths, people would blindly administer chemicals and antibiotics without realizing the actual cause.

This water quality monitor comes with portable and fixed types. If one installs the fixed type in a fishpond, a real-time, constant monitoring together with the data connection and the cloud analytics would quickly warn against any abnormal rise in the concentration of toxins. Consequently, aquaculturists can finally sleep well without constantly worrying about a sudden, massive fish die-off. If aquafarming can become an attractive career choice, more people may be willing to return to work in the countryside. Dr. Hsieh has often envisioned lively rural areas preserving the ecological balance with the assistance of his water quality monitoring system

▲ Different substances react with different wavelengths of radiation. Furthermore, the concentration of the substance will be reflected in its radiation signal strength. Dr. Hsieh has developed a real-time water quality monitor.

The Truth Behind Big Data

How does Gintel Technology dominate the world of water quality monitoring? How does its instrument measure more than fifty different water quality parameters? The basic principle takes advantage of the fact that different kinds of substances react with different wavelengths of radiation. Moreover, the concentration of the substance will be reflected in its radiation signal strength.

Therefore, through a probe dipped into water emitting electromagnetic radiation of various wavelengths (microwaves, radio waves, etc.), one can detect a variety of substances and their concentrations based on the reflected signals.

As for the usually encountered substances and their corresponding electromagnetic frequency, the exact association between the substance’s concentration and its signal strength represent the cornerstone of water quality monitoring. To obtain the needed big data, one must conduct painstaking experiments. Fortunately, Dr. Hsieh formerly served on the editorial board of two international journals. As such, he has always had first-hand knowledge of the latest research results from institutions worldwide besides Gintel Technology’s own findings, enabling Gintel Technology to produce such a superior water quality monitor capable of measuring numerous parameters.

Dr. Hsieh has thus expressed his gratitude for the contributions made by the various laboratories worldwide; without which this product would not have come to fruition. Gintel Technology has so far only applied its water quality monitor to aquaculture. The same principle can likewise be applied to monitoring the quality of drinking water, river water, irrigation water, industrial wastewater, etc. Overall, the possibilities for this system seem endless.

▲Initially, Gintel’s water monitors were geared toward aquaculture. In the future, the company hopes to apply the device to the monitoring of drinking water, river water, irrigation water and industrial

Exhibiting at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Introducing Water Quality Monitors to the Global Aquaculture Industry

Gintel Technology has obtained grants totaling approximately NT$ 3 million from Taiwan’s Ministry of Education, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Industrial Technology Research Institute for developing its water quality monitor system. Dr. Hsieh also intends to seek the assistance of Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture to promote his product to Taiwan’s aquaculture industry based on his familiarity with the needs of aquafarming.

Recent climate change, the increased frequency of severe weather and the excessive use of chemicals in daily life may also adversely affect environmental water quality, affecting business as usual for Taiwan’s aquaculture industry. Natural disasters can devastate the industry rapidly. A new approach with governmental assistance to ensure the survival of the industry has become even more crucial. Furthermore, the government should help start-ups complete the “Proof of Concept” stage, which helps materialize the product. Testing various scenarios often requires considerable expenses that usually only the government can or is willing to provide.

Through CES participation, Gintel Technology intends to explore potential new markets in the United States, the European Union and Central/South America. Gintel Technolgy hopes to implement its water quality monitoring system in different aquaculture situations, thereby gathering more needed information to optimize the use of the system.

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