Precision Crustacean Aquaculture

Precision farming technologies for optimising feed delivery, feeding ration and maximising survival in crustacean aquaculture

Degree type

PhD

Closing date

6 March 2023

Campus

Hobart

Citizenship requirement

Domestic/International

About the research project

This project will investigate methods, technologies, and engineering solutions to improve the efficiency and productivity of onshore aquaculture systems – particularly relating to the unique set of challenges and requirements associated with growing high-value crustacean species such as the spiny lobster, Panulirus ornatus. The biology of crustacea – the requirement of individuals to undergo moult cycles to grow – presents additional challenges in terms of management, feed requirements, and the occurrence of cannibalism when grown in communal culture. The prevalence of early juvenile cannibalism remains one of the key bottlenecks in realising a successful lobster aquaculture industry.

Rearing in isolation is one effective way to prevent cannibalism and has been implemented at commercial scale for many crustacean species. However, rearing crustacea individually is a labour-intensive process due to three main factors:

  1. the need for multiple individual feeding events per day,
  2. frequent adjustments of feeding ration,
  3. maintenance of hygiene within compartments, and
  4. monitoring of growth and survival.

Thus, automating the grow-out process to reduce operating costs and improve animal welfare by principally targeting these four major factors is a research and industry priority.

Due to the demand for low-dose, high-precision pellet feed delivery, transportation mechanisms will be designed and optimised for the specific material properties of the feed. Additionally, the project will develop image processing and machine learning methods to monitor and assess population dynamics, growth, feeding behaviour, and survival, while also performing in situ visual feed intake measurements.

Biological studies will be undertaken throughout to establish baseline levels of husbandry requirements, feed wastage, feed intake and resultant growth; and to quantify improvements made. With the ability to tailor feed regimes to individual (or group) needs, optimisation of feeding schedules will be investigated. Ultimately, a detailed economic assessment comparing current methods of grow-out with semi-automated husbandry will be undertaken.

Primary Supervisor

Meet AProf Alan Henderson

Funding

Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,854 per annum (2022 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.

Eligibility

Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Applicants must be able to undertake the project on-campus

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Proficiency in one or more programming languages (e.g. Python, C/C++, MATLAB)
  • Demonstrated experience in systems design, prototype development, and automation systems

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Experience in computer vision and/or machine learning
  • Research experience or commercial training in aquaculture
  • A keen interest in the engineering design process, from conception to prototype
  • Familiar with feeds and feeding

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select your project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, A/Prof Alan Henderson to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. Submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application, you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including 2 x referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email by the advertised outcome date.

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