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Australia's national science agency, CSIRO, has achieved a groundbreaking milestone with the successful testing of AquaWatch, a world-first water quality monitoring and forecasting system, the agency announced in a press release.
The technology, likened to a 'weather service' for water quality, was put to the test in the Spencer Gulf in South Australia, a bio-rich region renowned for providing a significant portion of Australia's seafood.
The AquaWatch Australia Mission combines data from water sensors and satellites, employing advanced computer models and artificial intelligence to deliver near-real-time water quality monitoring and forecasts. The recent testing in the Spencer Gulf marks the first successful demonstration of AquaWatch's efficacy, with plans to extend its application to local seafood farms.
Dr. Nagur Cherukuru, CSIRO Senior Scientist, highlighted the pivotal role of AquaWatch in supporting the aquaculture industry: "The Spencer Gulf is called 'Australia's seafood basket' for good reason. We're reaching out to the industry to be early adopters of AquaWatch, allowing them to monitor and forecast water quality as we build the system."
The successful testing was achieved in collaboration with SmartSat CRC (Cooperative Research Centre) and the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI). Dr. Mark Doubell, SARDI Oceanographer, emphasized how the AquaWatch partnership significantly enhances water quality monitoring, supporting the ecologically sustainable growth of aquaculture in the region.
"The delivery of real-time data and improved satellite observations on water quality provides new information that complements existing operational oceanographic models," Dr. Doubell stated.
Kirsten Rough, Research Scientist at the Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association, emphasized the importance of adequate water monitoring in aquaculture. While the Spencer Gulf typically enjoys good water quality, Ms. Rough highlighted the threat of algal blooms and the need for improved monitoring.
"Real-time monitoring means we can scale up surveillance and adjust feeding cycles. Early warning forecasts would allow for planning decisions like moving pens out of the way of harmful algae," explained Rough.
CSIRO is now inviting Traditional Custodians and industry partners to collaborate on the next phase, extending water quality monitoring in the Spencer Gulf. The goal is to provide valuable data to decision-makers and Elders for sustainable management of marine systems.
Professor Andy Koronios, CEO of SmartSat CRC, expressed the significance of AquaWatch in harnessing satellite data for resource management: "AquaWatch is establishing critical infrastructure through a state-of-the-art data system and national water sensor networks to help our country become more resilient to extreme weather and adverse marine events."
The AquaWatch Mission, initiated by CSIRO in March 2023, aims to develop a comprehensive ground-to-space water quality monitoring system for Australia and beyond. The successful testing in the Spencer Gulf marks a crucial step toward achieving this goal, with potential applications in aquaculture and fisheries and enhancing Australia's technological capabilities.
As AquaWatch progresses, it holds the promise of making Australia a high-tech nation with commercial opportunities in the burgeoning aquaculture industry.