- Difficult to Install. The existing units are pretty technical and feature-rich. Once you get them fully setup, they are powerful machines, but they are pretty cumbersome to get up and running. A good analogy is Windows. It's not intuitive and has a learning curve to it. Once you learn how the system works and how to install it and make changes, you can do a lot with it, but until then you need to hire a professional to help you.
- Shifting Labor. This problem is made worse by the fact that many operators of this technology are low-skilled and even seasonal. The amount of training it takes to get someone competent with such equipment is not insignificant. If that person leaves, the next person has to be trained, as well.
- Difficult to maintain. Again, there is a learning curve toward maintaining electrode probes. Recalibration is fairly straight forward, but know when to replace the sensors or just to clean them takes practice. How oxidized is the silver anode? Salvageable with some sand paper? Or better to replace the whole thing.
- Built for Western Markets. 88% of the aquaculture industry is in Asia and yet these systems are designed for a technically-savvy, english-speaking customer.
- Expensive. Given all of this, it's tough for many farms to justify the price of such systems because they are so much higher than the sticker cost. In the words of a farmer we spoke with recently, such systems are "simply not scalable."
As an online monitor for fish farms, we set out to try and answer this question ourselves. Even though the existing online monitors are pretty pricey ($3,500 - $20,000), the benefits and potential for increases in yield seemed worth the risk. This is especially true, as the aquaculture industry is seeing a movement towards more intensive farming with higher stocking densities and thus more room for loss. For these reasons we found that yes, some farms are using existing online monitors, but many, even very large, well-funded ones are still monitoring by hand. Here's why: