O.N.E. Aquaculture Systems Overview

Objectives and Overview

THE INITIAL OBJECTIVE of the Optimized Nutrient Export System Project (herein, "O.N.E. Project") was the development of a scalable, closed-containment, land-based aquaculture system which utilizes proprietary, innovative means to achieve complete reduction of waste that is the result of nutrient input (feeding, metabolic activity of cohort and resident microorganisms), with: sufficient yield to justify the initial and ongoing investment in temporal and monetary resources associated with system installation and operation, respectively; space requirements which are primarily dictated by the physical space that the cohort occupies (as opposed to dedicating the vastly greater amount of space associated with filtration, relative to that which is occupied by the cohort, in conventional closed-containment systems); operational requirements that require only modest training and can be carried out as necessary by persons without any formal education; utilizes 100% renewable energy; is capable of expansion to raise feed organisms for the cohort throughout the entire course of rearing; avoids the use of conventional biocides to control organisms perceived as harmful to the cohort; is within the monetary means of independent farmers and/or cooperatives, whether subsidized by government incentives or not.  100% ROI was initially forecast within an operating period of 2 - 5 years, depending upon market value of cohort being raised.

The secondary objective of the O.N.E. Project was: to fabricate complete systems, and all components utilized in construction and operation of O.N.E. Systems; to provide the service of installing O.N.E. Systems and remotely monitoring them; the training (onsite or remotely) of O.N.E. System caretakers available on a global scale.  Potential proprietors of O.N.E. Systems include, but are not limited to: 

  • Individuals and rural communities with food requirements which cannot be met without damaging their local environment through conventional fishing practices;

  • Retailers of ethically-sourced seafood;

  • Research organizations;

  • Hatcheries operated for raising game fish species for recreational angling;

  • State- and/or federally-funded hatcheries for species preservation;

  • Commercial aquaculturists who wish to raise organisms for sale to third parties.

 
The basic O.N.E. System design is suitable for raising all life stages of:

  • Finfish

  • Motile invertebrates, including but not limited to:

  • Crustaceans

  • Ctenophores

  • Echinoderms

  • Gastropods

  • Medusozoans

  • Sessile invertebrates, including but not limited to:

  • Bivalves

  • Cnidarians

  • Poriferans

  • Tunicates

  • Aquatic plants, macroalgae (including kelp), and microalgae

  • Plankton, for livestock feed, health industry, bio-fuel production, and research


O.N.E. System designs may be modified to accommodate unique requirements of certain organisms, such as Medusozoans.

The fundamental O.N.E. System design incorporates unique infrastructure which mitigates aggression associated with resource competition in finfishes, taking advantage of instinctive behavioral tendencies and simultaneously improving the yield and enhancing nutrient uptake rates.  This benefit is realized without the need for exposing the cohort to mood-altering chemicals.

Captiv8 Aquaculture is unique in that all fabrication of equipment and blending of ionic and biological compounds employed to maintain values of critical parameters within cohort-appropriate ranges is performed in-house, by our own staff, in our own facility.  Electrical components and certain construction materials are sourced from specific industry partners with the highest ratings for product performance, quality, and customer satisfaction.  The O.N.E. System may be considered a truly complete package, essentially "turnkey", engineered to bring success to caretakers of any experience level.

Concept Origins

The concept of the O.N.E. System was borne out of a desire to present Greenlanders with an acceptable (and even desirable) alternative to harvesting wild Atlantic Salmon, the impact of which is associated with a significant decline in the population strength of wild Atlantic Salmon which derive largely from North American stocks.  The design has commercial and conservational applications, ranging from the raising of various aquatic organisms for consumption and biofuel production to the long-term maintenance of aquatic species with IUCN conservation status of Threatened.  In the United States, alone, this would comprise a long list of recreationally-significant salmonids.
 
The O.N.E. System design is such that a small investment will yield bountiful harvest when properly managed, and avoids several issues that are associated with conventional closed-containment aquaculture system design:

  • Complex design, and use of special equipment, which can only be installed and managed by trained technicians, or by experienced aquaculturists or researchers;

  • Skewed ratio of system volume dedicated to filtration, as opposed to the vast majority of system volume being skewed towards cohort grow-out space;

  • Cost of facility design and installation*;

  • Massive energy requirements*;

  • Inflexibility of system design once a project has begun construction or operation.

 *With respect to operational and yield projections based on O.N.E. System design.

In short, the O.N.E. System design achieves two goals of the inventor: it provides a solution to the Greenlanders, and it does away with the outdated designs and operational requirements of conventional closed-containment aquaculture systems.  The former is necessary because Greenland’s native fishermen are apparently no longer interested in entertaining proposals from NGOs to limit their salmon harvest; rather, the fishermen have expressed deep frustration and, in some cases, resentment towards outsiders who attempt to dictate their salmon harvest, either through suggestion of moral obligation or monetary compensation.  The latter aspect of system design is necessary because conventional closed-containment aquaculture system designs rely upon monetary investments well in excess of what is within the means of most individuals or even communities (hence the implementation of such systems, nearly without exclusion, by commercial aquaculture companies and/or groups of investors) in developed nations, much less in developing nations, and additionally requires considerable space and energy to achieve a moderate yield (generally, conventional systems operate at a loss for several years prior to making a profit, whereas the O.N.E. System design can yield profits with the first harvest if the cohort is properly managed).  Both of these aspects of the O.N.E. System design enable Greenlanders to raise their own salmonids in perpetuity, and are discussed (in reverse order) in greater detail below with reference both to this angle of the project, as well as to further commercial considerations.
 
Traditional closed-containment aquaculture filtration systems: massive, expensive, inefficient.
A significant barrier to entry into the aquaculture-for-food-fish market is that most companies who operate commercial facilities insist that their approach is the only financially feasible one which can be made to work on a large scale.  It is more accurate to state that they are too invested in their existing infrastructure to make any modifications to their practices.  This is not an uncommon problem in industrial circles, however such practice often impedes progress to the detriment of the consumer and/or the environment (the discussion will return to the specific topic of environmental impact further along).
 
Limiting the discussion to closed-containment aquaculture of food fishes, the application of  “oversized public aquarium filtration” concepts has resulted in the failure of various commercial closed-containment aquaculture enterprises in the past decade, and there is significant probability that others who are currently using this approach will follow.  There are multiple reasons that this approach is not feasible for food production to answer the global demand; ironically, it is generally not feasible for public aquarium applications, either.  At the risk of sounding overly critical in the assessment of traditional closed-containment filtration approaches, the following paragraphs provide a pragmatic description of the shortcomings as they apply to a global closed-containment aquaculture solution.  In short, the traditional filtration approaches lack the efficiency to adequately manage the rate of the cohort’s nutrient production in densely-populated aquatic systems.  The design inefficiency is primarily due to two related factors: lack of an adequately-sized microbial population to reduce the nutrient content satisfactorily, and lack of a design which maximizes the rate of nutrient uptake by these same microbes.
 
Public aquaria rarely, if ever, operate on a closed-loop system indefinitely; this is a result of the gradual buildup of nutrients to concentrations harmful or fatal to the captive aquatic organisms.  Nutrient buildup is one of the primary reasons that such operations are nearly always situated on, or very near, natural bodies of water (enabling nutrient-rich aquarium water to be filtered to the standards set forth by the governing body, generally (within the United States) a state-run branch of the EPA, prior to discharge into the nearby body of water).  As such, filtration systems are designed to decrease the nutrient content (specifically, nitrate and phosphate) to a level slightly lower than the maximum tolerance of the captive organisms, however this tolerance threshold is generally well in excess of that which organisms raised for human consumption should be exposed to over a long term (such as during the latter stages of grow out (just prior to harvest), when feeding requirements and metabolic rates are highest in the system, resulting in very high rates of nutrient input).  The use of this technology as the primary means of nutrient control in a closed-containment aquaculture system is therefore not feasible when the nutrient load imparted upon the system exceeds the rate at which the existing filtration can remove nutrients, either through direct removal or through conversion into increasingly elementary forms (e.g. reduction and demineralization).
 
Public aquaria, including those operated through state endowments, are businesses, contrary to notions otherwise, and are operated as such.  Top-down pressure exists to employ only as much filtration as is required to suitably process the nutrient content of the water to the maximum allowable levels, as dictated by the EPA or by the observed tolerance of the organisms being housed.  Additionally, public aquaria are built upon principles of wastewater management that have been in place for many decades (depending on the specific principals), most of which are either directly or partially adapted from sewage treatment processes.  Even the newest public aquaria employ outdated filtration principles, because the directors of husbandry responsible for overseeing design of facilities have generally worked in the public aquaria sector for several decades by the time that they are deemed eligible for consideration for facility directorship.  Often, these individuals may recommend designs with which they are familiar.  Similarly, planners of such facilities are familiar with the costs associated with procurement of equipment and the implementation of the same in a traditional set up, causing traditional designs to become a budgetary fixture.  The manner in which closed-containment aquaculture becomes ensnared in this web is two-fold: staff brought in to assist with facility design generally come from the public aquarium or zoological park sector, and the vendors who supply equipment to aquaculture facilities also count public aquaria among their clientele.  The vendors therefore recommend products and procedures that are based on economies of scale (taking associated profit margins into account).  These same vendors also deal with fish and invertebrate importation/holding/distribution facilities serving the public aquarium sector; such facilities generally utilize the same filtration approaches and technology as public aquariums, and as such they must flush their systems with “clean”, nutrient-poor water (likely chlorinated, requiring neutralization with a chemical additive) on a nearly continual basis to ensure that nutrient levels within their systems do not become lethal to the animals being stocked.
 
It is not our intention to insinuate that it is impossible to control nutrient levels in a completely closed system with the principles described above; however, the relative inefficiency of those principles requires that the filtration portion of a facility be scaled up dramatically in all cases, to be considerably larger than it was originally designed to be, adding to the overall cost of such a project, if bioload is to be maintained (rather than being reduced to a level that the filtration can actually cope with).  Consider the example of the Georgia Aquarium, which was built in the 2000’s, and was at the time the largest public aquarium in the world, purported to utilize state-of-the-art filtration principles.  The aquarium reportedly spared no expense in facility installation or design, and initially hired the former (longtime) director of the Waikiki Aquarium, who had previously worked for the University of Hawaii, as the facility director.  The Georgia Aquarium made global news by being the first public aquarium in the United States to house Whale Sharks (Rhincodon typus) in captivity.  Unfortunately for the fish, the filtration systems could not keep up with the nutrient load, and two of the Whale Sharks died as a result.  Had the filtration technology in place been scaled up considerably, it’s possible that this problem might have been avoided, or at least delayed sufficiently to remove the fish to appropriate accommodations.  As previously mentioned, however, the inefficiency of this traditional filtration technology requires tremendous space and energy to operate, both of which are costly and continue to make closed-system aquaculture operated on these filtration principles an exceedingly unlikely success.
 
Setting aside the example of public aquaria and focusing on aquaculture for food production, more is at stake than the physical appearance of the organisms comprising the cohort.  Though health of the cohort is of utmost importance, there is also the consideration of financial stability of the aquaculturist.  In short, if the growth rate of the cohort is limited by inability to feed on a set schedule as a result of system nutrient content which exceeds the uptake capacity of the filtration system per unit time, then the cost of system operation increases, resulting in decreased margin.  Put simply, inefficient filtration results in slower growth rates of the cohort and/or increased incidence of illness and mortality due to suppressed immune resistance and/or nutrient toxicity, all of which are added costs to operation of the aquaculture system.
 
Returning to the topic of progress stagnation as a result of economy of scale, top-down pressure to economize and accept substandard results is easily avoided when innovative companies remain under complete operative control of credentialed, experienced technicians and engineers, who have addressed all likely operating scenarios with a contingency plan and who are operating within an appropriate budget.  Preferably, these individuals comprise >50% of company ownership, as a means of ensuring long-term project and product viability; this is not to say that some owners will not choose to denigrate their product by cheapening it or employing cost-cutting measures which negatively impact the product, however the owners who maintain their passion about the initial vision of the company and/or operation, and who remain apprised of the positive impact that technological advancements have on their product, are apt to maintain their initial standards, if not improve them with time as available resources improve.  Progress and innovation tend to be driven by consumer demand, particularly when consumers are technologically savvy and exhibit willingness to invest their private capital in a product of personal interest.  The monetary resource within the private sector is vastly greater than the resources of venture capitalists, NGOs, and government-funded organizations, furthermore the decision to undertake a project on an individual scale is not dictated by a board of financial directors and/or team of accountants.  Additionally, the intellectual resources within the private sector drive progress independent of consortiums, corporations, and organizations.  These aspects place the potential reach of the O.N.E. System project, in terms of individual- and cooperative-run systems, far beyond that of all of the global commercial aquaculture operations, combined.

System Design Benefits

Physical aspects
The focus is now shifted towards the discussion of how the O.N.E. System design addresses the previously mentioned shortcomings of traditional closed-circulation aquaculture filtration.  (Reminder: the inefficiency is due to two related factors: lack of an adequately-sized microbial population to reduce the nutrient content satisfactorily, and lack of a design which maximizes the rate of nutrient uptake by these same microbes).  The O.N.E. System design overcomes both of the primary limitations in a unique fashion. 

First, it utilizes a filtration and infrastructural substrate with surface area for microbial colonization which is >30x higher than the next best substrate option.  This aspect of the O.N.E. substrate enables the entirety of the microbial biomass to be maintained within a space that is dramatically smaller than the next best substrate (to say nothing of the more conventional substrates in use, which are ~1,700x lower in their surface area to volume ratios).

Second, the O.N.E. System design intermittently exposes the filtration substrate to atmospheric oxygen within a protective vessel utilizing no moving parts, but being continuously fed by a pump extracting water from the grow-out tank.  This alternating exposure of the microbial consortium to nutrient-rich water and atmospheric oxygen maximizes the rate at which nutrients are converted into additional microbial biomass or are reduced into progressively elementary forms of organic waste, ultimately exiting the system in the form of inert gas. This method of nutrient reduction is patent pending.  The intermittent discharge of the filtered, nutrient-poor water from the filtration vessel(s) and back into the grow-out tank results in physical displacement of water, which encourages particulate organic material (the result of uneaten food and solid metabolic waste) to become suspended in the water column where it is more readily extracted by mechanical filtration means.

Third, as mentioned elsewhere on this page, the O.N.E. System design incorporates unique infrastructure which mitigates aggression associated with resource competition, taking advantage of instinctive behavioral tendencies to actually improve the yield.  This benefit is realized with the need for exposing the cohort to chemicals or other stimuli which alters behavior.
 
Modifying a O.N.E. System to satisfy husbandry requirements of organisms with “special needs” (whether due to behavioral or physical requirements) is possible due to the relatively simple basic system design, and any such modifications may be impermanent or permanent as the operator desires (furthermore, with the exception of the operator’s investment in any necessary equipment to achieve their specific aims, the cost associated with modifying a O.N.E. System would be miniscule relative to the cost of modifying a conventional closed-containment system).  It is also possible to incorporate features into a O.N.E. System which specifically addresses the behavior and aggression of certain families of fish and crustaceans, reducing associated mortality and improving the consistency of growth rate across the cohort.  For example, this feature is incorporated into O.N.E. Systems used to raise salmonids, which exhibit intraspecific aggression and resource competition post-alevin stage.
 
The scalability and flexibility of the O.N.E. System design also lends itself to both mobile and temporary units.  Mobile units comprise those employed to transport aquatic organisms, such as when moving fish from a hatchery to a stocking site, or during an emergency (e.g. long-term power outage, tank rupture, or natural disaster that threatens the O.N.E. System location and/or the cohort (such as a flood or forest fire)).  A design for such a system, which can be scaled from a unit that sits in the bed of a pickup truck to one employed in a tanker or seagoing vessel, has been completed and is patent pending.  Temporary units may be set up for a short period of time before being deconstructed as necessary.  Fisheries biologists collecting specimens from natural water bodies for the purpose of brood stock procurement, and those performing seasonal studies within a specific geographic region, would also have use for such a system.
 
Finally, the O.N.E. System design affords modularity, permitting expansion or contraction of a system as desired.  This feature enables an operator to adapt an existing O.N.E. System without buying a new one should their production requirements change with time.
 
Transportation of the O.N.E. System is made simple by the fact that most components are assembled on site, and otherwise take up little physical space during the transportation phase of an installation.  This feature enables delivery of O.N.E. Systems to destinations where rigid containment tanks utilized in conventional closed-containment aquaculture systems could not be transported. 
 
From a conservation perspective, it is entirely possible to incorporate post-consumer materials into O.N.E. Systems, specifically in components traditionally made of petroleum-based compounds (e.g. rubber, plastics).
 
Operational aspects
Critical to the primary objective of the O.N.E. Project is that, other than with basic training, no pre-existing experience is required to successfully raise a cohort from fertilized eggs to market stage in a O.N.E. System.  Indeed, the system operation must be understandable to a person with basic reading and comprehension, or who can successfully complete a training course conducted by a O.N.E. System Certified Technician. 
 
Operators require basic training pertaining to:

Principles of husbandry associated with caring for captive aquatic organisms, primarily consisting of the relationships between water flow, the microbial consortium, and the cohort;

  • Basic water analysis methods, and adjustment of parameters as necessary;

  • The purpose of each type or piece of equipment utilized in the O.N.E. System, and the manner in which it is intended to function;

  • The life cycle and physical requirements of the species being raised in the cohort;

  • Feeding requirements and the evolution thereof as the cohort progresses through the life cycle.

 

Captiv8 Aquaculture offers a remote monitoring and advisory service to clients operating O.N.E. Systems, made possible through the incorporation of equipment which communicates through the internet, through any connection (physical, cellular, satellite).  In such a service, systems are monitored by technicians at our headquarters.  Pertinent data (primarily related to water parameters) is logged for each individual system, and operators are advised of how to address imbalances as necessary.
 
Items utilized in the operation of O.N.E. Systems include, but may not be limited to, the following:

  • Filtration media, specific to O.N.E. System operation

  • Substances employed to maintain specific water parameters (organic and inorganic), as required by the cohort, the most commonly-used being:

    • Microbial blend

    • Buffering blend

    • Ionic water chemistry blend

    • Feeds

    • Water analysis equipment

    • Operational equipment for replacement of expired items, such as:

    • Pumps

    • Heaters

    • Filtration vessels

    • Support structures

    • Liners

All of the aforementioned items are stocked by Captiv8 Aquaculture.  Filtration vessels are fabricated within our facility using polyethylene, which is far more durable and cost-effective than using polycarbonate- and/or acrylate-based polymers.