May 08, 2017

It Takes a Village

Probes monitor water parameters for aquaculture industry in Indian village

It Takes a Village

Mori Village is a pioneering “Smart Village” in India, where shrimp farming makes up a significant portion of the economy. As part of the connected Smart Village development, shrimp farmers identified aquaculture monitoring as one of the factors impeding their success. Vendors were challenged to provide a technology-based solution to this problem and increase the yield and efficiency of shrimp farming. App-connected dissolved oxygen (DO) and pH sensors were deployed to measure water quality and key aquaculture parameters.

The Smart Village project is a collaboration of the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation; Haas School of Business; University of California, Berkeley; and the Andrah Pradesh Government of India. The project seeks to extend the concept of connected smart cities to rural villages, where more than half of the world’s population resides.

Mori Village is the first prototype of the concept. Its objective is to empower the residents in the village by providing access to the tools and technology to carry on their entrepreneurial activities. Participating corporate partners include Google, IBM and NASA.

Aquaculture Pain Points

Shrimp farming is one of the five top industries that make up the economic base in the village of 8,000 residents, which is located in the East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh. The industry has the potential for high-margin returns, but also can be high risk due to preventable disease caused by water quality issues. Traditionally, manual samples of the water were taken and sent to a lab, a labor-intensive and time-consuming process. The delay between taking a reading and waiting for the results meant critical time was lost in addressing any imbalances.

Once villagers identified shrimp farming variability as a pain point, interested tech firms were brought in to co-innovate with them to develop solutions. Sensorex partnered with Appscape Inc., which developed a cloud-based monitoring and control system to be used with the Sensorex probes.

The project was spearheaded by T.A. Kumar, Sensorex’s India and southeast Asia sales manager, who worked closely with Appscape CEO Krishna Parimi, Appscape India CEO Suresh Vempati, and the company’s prototyping team. The Appscape team chose Sensorex as a partner based on its product quality, reputation of trust and reliability, and experience in aquaculture applications.

Maintaining Crop Health

One set of DO and pH sensors has been deployed in three separate shrimp ponds, taking water quality readings critical to maintaining the health of the livestock. The probes are equipped with 4-20 mA output modules, which feed into a PLC running the app. The app is accessed from a mobile device and displays real-time readings of pH and DO. The app also controls the pond’s aeration equipment, operating it remotely to address DO deficiencies. Additional app features include data logging, trend analysis, and export for reporting and records backup.

Beyond the oxygen needed by the shrimp population to survive, grow and reproduce, DO is essential to the aerobic decomposition of organic solids that ensures a healthy habitat. This is especially important in aquafarming applications, where the high population density can adversely impact this natural process. Aquaculture often involves raising a large number of fish in a small volume of water. This artificially created overpopulation leads to rapid depletion of resources, including DO. For this reason, fish farming operations utilize mechanical aeration and other methods to supplement the natural oxygen supply.

Microorganism populations also increase DO levels. Photosynthetic microorganisms, like phytoplankton, convert sunlight and carbon dioxide to oxygen and organic matter, increasing the amount of DO in water. Conversely, phytoplankton and other microorganisms also perform respiration, which consumes oxygen and depletes the supply. Fluctuating microorganism populations will alter availability of oxygen based on the biochemical processes they perform.

With real-time monitoring, farmers know immediately if an unhealthy environment is developing. When values fall below the optimal range of 2.5 to 3.5 ppm, the ponds’ aerators can be turned on to bring more oxygen into the water. Once the correct DO level is reached, the aerators and blowers can be turned off, reducing energy consumption and overall operating costs.

Like DO levels, pH levels can significantly impact the health of aquaculture livestock. Extremes in pH can lead to fish kills. Microorganism populations that influence water quality may also be affected by pH. This includes the aforementioned photosynthesis-preforming phytoplankton, which need optimal pH to carry out their important biochemical functions.

Photosynthesis also reduces the amount of ammonia in water, which protects fish from ammonia poisoning at high concentrations. Maintaining proper pH within the farming habitat will ensure that beneficial microorganisms can outcompete other microorganisms. This optimizes ecosystem conditions for fish to thrive.

With continuous monitoring, pH altering variables like acid rain and agricultural runoff can be quickly remediated with buffers and chemicals to restore pH balance.

These DO and pH sensors provide accurate measurement over a range of 0 to 20 ppm DO and 0 to 14 pH. Constructed with durable, fully submersible bodies, the probes’ flat measurement surfaces stay clean, ensuring accurate readings with low maintenance and long service life. A range of options are available to customize sensors to application needs.

Blueprint for the Future

The Smart Village prototyping phase wrapped up in December 2016, with an inaugural event to present the new technology to Andhra Pradesh’s chief minister. The sensors are deployed and monitoring their first crop of shrimp, with harvest expected in four to six months. The prototype Smart Village concept could potentially be applied to 650,000 Indian villages and eventually around the world. Sensorex monitoring solutions can be applied to a range of aquaculture and industrial processes to improve the quality of life in rural communities. 

About the author

Tim Schilz is business development manager for Sensorex. Schilz can be reached at [email protected] or 714.895.4344.

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