Dr Fearghal O’Donncha is a Research Scientist at IBM Research Europe focused on applying technologies such as AI, hybrid cloud, accelerated discovery, and Quantum to develop innovative solutions in practical settings.

Fearghal O'Donncha, Research Scientist, IBM Research Europe
Fearghal O’Donncha, Research Scientist, IBM Research Europe

Where is the data gap in Blue Food? 

There is a huge mismatch between the volumes of data that exist for certain sectors and geographies of the aquaculture industry. Many regions are still restricted by the cost and complexity involved. It is challenging to address that data gap without significant innovation from a sensor technology perspective. Instead the opportunity is to extract what we can learn from one geography or species to other geographies or species.

What are the challenges of utilising digital monitoring within ocean production?

A key challenge is that often, stakeholders don’t know where to begin with their digital monitoring programs. Typically, sensors are deployed in an ad-hoc manner based on heuristics and the level of expertise of the farmer. Subsequently, the data is analysed and KPIs extracted about the status of the farm.

What is required instead is an AI-guided monitoring framework where data is collected to address specific gaps in the knowledge. Collecting data that provides maximum uplift is critical to the scalability and reproducibility of science-backed decision making on farms.

What solutions can data offer Blue Food producers?

We are more than a decade into the Big Data era. This has resulted in gargantuan volumes of data being generated, on all aspects of the aquaculture industry, including: hatchery operations and feed design; farm conditions and ocean health; processing facilities and supply chain; and retail and consumer engagement. This has coincided with accelerated innovations within technology, such as cloud and GPUS, AI-backed insights, and mobile and edge-computing. The current opportunity is found in the convergence of these strides in data and technology, which will drastically enhance the insights available to farmers across the entire aquaculture industry.

While some sectors of the industry (prominently Norwegian salmon farming) have made enormous progress around digitalisation and data-informed decision making, this is not true across all sectors. The costs and complexity of a robust farm monitoring network excludes many farmers from exploiting its potential.

The next wave of innovation must focus on how we can build on the PetaBytes* of information that already exist, to reduce the appetite for new farm data. We can use scientific knowledge, digital twin frameworks, and the myriad of ocean sensing networks in operation, together with a targeted low-cost data acquisition framework and foundation AI capabilities, to hugely democratise the data revolution for the entire industry.

You’ll be joining us for the summit in London in May. What topics on the agenda are you most looking forward to hearing, and are there any connections you want to make from a networking perspective? 

The role of aquaculture and blue food in the fight against climate change is extremely important. I am looking forward to learning more and making connections in those directions.

Of course, more broadly, I’m interested in the varied talks focusing on how technology achieves impact.

* A measure of memory or data storage capacity that is equal to 2 to the 50th power of bytes

Fearghal will join the panel ‘The Power of Data: Accelerating Digitalisation to Harness Blue Food’s Growth’ with leaders from THE YIELD LAB ASIA PACIFIC, SCOOT SCIENCE, AQUABYTE, DSM and WITTAYA AQUA at the summit in London on May 23-24. Check out the agenda here.