Successful salmon farming requires striking the right balance between numerous factors. Some things, such as ocean temperatures, can\u2019t be controlled. Others things can be controlled, such as the amount of feed and the density of fish in a pen.\nThe aim is to create as much biomass as possible at the lowest cost, while ensuring the fish stay healthy and the operation remains sustainable. To achieve this, accurate metrics matter \u2013 and one in particular: FCR.\n \nFeed Conversion Rate is mostly unheard of outside of farming. But within aquaculture it is incredibly important.\n \nIt refers to the relationship between the amount of feed a fish has been given and their weight gain. The lower the FCR, the better.\n \nTasmanian Atlantic salmon farming giant Tassal is on a mission to get its FCR down to 1.15. To get there it has rolled out a technology packed, company-wide, centralised \u2018Feed Centre\u2019.\n \n\u201cFeed is our largest single cost so improvements in the efficiency of this process translate to significant improvements in overall company profitability,\u201d explains Tassal Group CIO Matthew Leary.\n \n\u201cCentralising the feeding process was viewed as a crucial step in improving management and coordination of the process.\u201d\n \nThe project has involved putting sensors on each pen to monitor water temperature, tidal flow, salt and oxygen levels and more than 300 cameras above and below the surface to record fish activity and feeding patterns. The data generated flows into livestock management and analytics systems so the business can better react to changes, and identify trends.\n \n\u201cThese improvements along with increased collaboration and improvements to data analysis have translated to significant improvements in our FCR results since the feed centre become operational,\u201d Leary says. \u201cAdditional benefits that have flowed include reduction in the requirement for divers to dive our pens to check for net hygiene and fish mortality as these processes can now be done remotely using the new camera technology we have implemented.\u201d\n \nRolling out the Feed Centre, and being able to oversee and control it from Tassal\u2019s headquarters in Hobart was no small feat. The technical challenges included how to transmit the video feeds from the fish pens, which are located anywhere from 500m to 3km from shore, in some cases more than 100km from the office. Each farm network also required a 300-500Mb\/s link to transmit the simultaneous HD video signals.\n \n\u201cTo solve this problem, we installed a combination of in-water fibre optic networks and microwave radio links to extend the network from the farms back to Hobart. We have had to use various stabilisation technologies to transmit the network signals from the feeding barge, which floats and moves around subject to swell and tidal movements. These networks were aggregated into zones with aggregated backhaul between 1 and 2 Gb\/s, and were custom built for this project,\u201d Leary explains.\nMore sensors will soon follow, and the next phase of the project will deploy machine vision algorithms to further increase efficiency.\n \nOf course, automating much of the salmon feeding operation has inevitably led to fewer feed operators, which have reduced from 60 to 22. It has taken considerable diplomacy and tact to make it happen.\n \n\u201cFrom a cultural perspective we faced some opposition and scepticism from the staff that were previously performing the roles,\u201d Leary says. \u201cMyself and a key member of the project team personally visited every feed barge to talk through the impact of the change and listen to feedback from all the existing feed staff.\u201d\n \nWet hands\n \nHaving a small team means Leary regularly gets his hands wet.\n \n\u201cGetting out of the office to see what is happening across the organisation, listening to people and understanding their challenges is extremely important,\u201d he says.\n \nKey to the success of the project though is \u201chaving the right people in the right roles\u201d Leary explains.\n \n\u201cWhether this in relation to the IT team, or on specific projects the people you have with you ultimately determine the success or not of any initiative,\u201d he adds.