The proposed mesh cages with submersible copper alloy had the financial support of Conicyt. (Photo: EcoSea/FIS)
Copper cages open a new step for salmon industry
Tuesday, April 12, 2011, 23:50 (GMT + 9)
On Monday, EcoSea Farming was officially launched, a technology company that developed the first copper cages for fish farming, which can be installed deep under water. These cages are more durable than traditional ones and also have bactericidal and virucidal properties.
Earlier this month on the premises of the company Pacific Star, off the coast of Auchemó in the region of Los Lagos, EcoSea Farming S.A. installed a cage with copper alloy meshes which was 20 meters in diameter, 10 feet long and 4 tonnes in weight, at a depth of more than 30 meters.
This project had financial support from Conicyt, through the Bicentennial Science and Technology Programme, as well as InnovaChile, through the Corporation for the Promotion of Production (Corfo).
The main objectives of the initiative are to improve productivity and sustainability in the sector, and to solve health problems and optimize operating costs on farms.
EcoSea was formed by Codelco, Fundación Chile, the International Copper Association-Procobre, Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Universidad de Concepción, Asociación Internacional del Cobre and the company Sitecna.
"EcoSea aims to expand in Chile by introducing 400 new aquaculture systems in the next four years. This will create a private equity investment of USD 100 million, which will leverage the growth of its business model," said Diego Hernandez, chief executive of Codelco.
Meanwhile, Victor Perez, advisor of Market Development at Codelco and Chairman of EcoSea, said, "This revolutionary system opens a huge potential for new areas of aquaculture, since the problem was more complex to deal with bad weather and these cages permit the cultivation of fish from the coast (offshore). It can survive up to 9 meter waves and currents up to 4 knots."
It is also predicted that next May, they will install a second mesh with similar characteristics, with salmon inside, at a depth between 30 and 40 meters for the company Australis Mar S.A., in Region XI of Aysen.
For his part, the Minister of Economy, Juan Andrés Fontaine, commended the company for surpasing technological challenges, which encourages two key sectors of the Chilean economy: mining and aquaculture.
"We are the world's largest producer of copper and the second of salmon, so it is important that these two industries come together to create value, produce better, lower costs, more productivity and more environmentally friendly," he said.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Mining and Energy, Laurence Golborne said: "Fortunately we have had copper in Chile for over 150 years and have operated at current production rates. That gives us a tremendous responsibility because we have to worry about their future development as we use this element in our daily lives."
He added: "This project is a seed for our mining country, so that this wealth is an inspiration to young people to explore and discover new applications and develop new materials based on copper."
According to the technology group, copper alloy cages offer the following benefits:
- Reduce production costs by more than 20 per cent;
- The bactericidal properties of copper and alloys create a healthier environment within cage networks, reducing dependency on antibiotics to control diseases;
- Research has shown that fish in copper alloy enclosures grow healthier and lower mortality is generated;
- The copper alloy cages do not adhere microorganisms during the 18 months which salmon are cultivated in them, eliminating the need to switch cages;
- The mechanical strength and endurance make it impenetrable to predators such as seals, preventing leakage of fish;
- They are 100 per cent recyclable at the end of its useful life;
- The copper alloy meshes are made from copper and zinc, two metals essential for life.
"With these developments, new regions can grow new species, so we are now at the stage of internationalization of submersible cages," said Rodrigo Sanchez, general manager of EcoSea.
He also stated that "EcoSea is involved in projects around the world with companies interested in acquiring these systems."
- Leading salmon farm to use of copper cages
By Analia Murias