Water Related

FPGA-based Aquaponics Monitoring System

AP090

Ming Hong Tan (Universiti Sains Malaysia)

Oct 14, 2021 538 views

FPGA-based Aquaponics Monitoring System

This project is aimed at developing a monitoring system for aquaponics farms. This monitoring system assists users in managing their aquaponics systems through the use of various sensors.

Project Proposal


1. High-level project introduction and performance expectation

As reported by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, global aquaculture production has risen by 527% over the past two decades while global capture fisheries have risen by 14% over the same time span. Such trends, if maintained through sustainable aquaculture development and effective fisheries management, could help mitigate or reverse the global trend of overfishing.

However, aquaculture comes with its own set of problems and some of them are related to the waste generated by the cultivated fish. For instance, current waste disposal methods, be they mechanical or chemical, revolve around extracting the waste from the fish tanks and disposing it as a harmful by-product. Aside from that, the amount of waste generated from aquaculture is tremendously large. This could be seen from the data collected from the aquaculture industry in Japan which shows that the waste generated by one ton of fish is equivalent to the waste generated by 73 people per day.

As such, new cultivation techniques such as aquaponics are being looked into by researchers and farmers. Aquaponics could be viewed as a combination of hydroponics and aquaculture and it utilizes the best attributes of the two aforementioned cultivation techniques without the need to manage the waste products. The basic principles of aquaponics could be viewed as follow:

1) The cultivated fish in the fish tanks produce ammonia as one of their waste products.

2) The nitrifying bacteria present in the fish tanks convert the ammonia into nitrite, which are then further converted into nitrate.

3) The water which contains the nitrate is given to the crops and the crops act as biofilters which filter out the nitrate from the water.

4) The filtered water is returned to the fish tanks.

Based on the principles above, it could be deduced that the amount of waste generated from aquaponics is much less than that of aquaculture since most of the waste are handled by the symbiotic relationship between the cultivated fish and the crops.

However, an ecological balance must be present in the aquaponics system if this were to occur. If this balance were to be broken, the cultivated fish may die due to the accumulation of ammonia in the water while the crops may suffer from nitrate deficiency due to the lack of nitrate. In order to maintain this balance, several key parameters of the system would have to be monitored closely but monitoring these parameters manually is a tedious task.

Therefore, this project is dedicated to designing a monitoring system that assists users in maintaining an aquaponics system. The features of this monitoring system are as follows:

1) Users could remotely monitor their aquaponics systems through the data in the cloud space.

2) The monitoring system would control the feeders to feed the cultivated fish and the pump to circulate the water in the aquaponics system either automatically or at the discretion of the users.

3) The monitoring system would attempt to detect whether there are pests affecting the crops in the aquaponics system and will notify the users if such issues were detected.

If there is sufficient time left for development, additional features would be added to the monitoring system and these features are as follow:

1) The monitoring system would respond to the changes in the key parameters of the aquaponics system and deploy the necessary measures to counteract the changes automatically.

2) The monitoring system would check whether there are issues with the plumbing network in the aquaponics system and will notify the users if such issues were detected.

The monitoring system would be implemented using the FPGA Cloud Connectivity Kit which includes the DE10-Nano Cyclone V SoC FPGA board. One of the reasons as to why this Intel FPGA device is used is because the monitoring system utilizes image processing techniques to detect whether there are pests affecting the crops in the aquaponics system and FPGA devices excel in image processing tasks. In addition to that, low power utilization is desired for the monitoring system as it would be operating for long periods of time and the amount of power required by this Intel FPGA device make it a suitable candidate to implement the monitoring system. Other than that, the reconfigurability of FPGA devices makes them suitable for prototyping new designs.

2. Block Diagram

Two sets of sensors are used by the monitoring system with one set of sensors monitoring the fish tank while another set of sensors monitoring the grow bed.

For the sensors that are monitoring the fish tank, the sensors would gather data on whether there are changes in the temperature, the water level, the pH level, the ammonia level and the nitrate level. The data obtained from these sensors would then be processed by the FPGA board before being logged onto the cloud space for analysis and remote monitoring.

For the sensors that are monitoring the grow bed, the sensors would capture images of the crops. Image processing techniques would then be applied to these images by the FPGA board before being logged onto the cloud space for analysis and remote monitoring.

In addition to that, the FPGA board would control the feeders to feed the cultivated fish and the pump to circulate the water in the aquaponics system either automatically or at the discretion of the users.

3. Expected sustainability results, projected resource savings

Expected sustainability results and projected resource savings of this project are as follows:

1) Reducing the amount of labour and cost required to operate an aquaponics farm. Users could remotely monitor their aquaponics systems through the data in the cloud space since the monitoring system is capable of monitoring the key parameters of the aquaponics system and detecting whether there are pests affecting the crops in the aquaponics system.

2) Promoting aquaponics. Aquaponics is a sustainable method of food production which combines the best attribute of aquaculture and hydroponics. Some of the features of aquaponics are as follow:

a) Low operating costs. The cost of operating an aquaponics system is significantly lower than that of a hydroponics system. This is due to the fact that it is possible to produce most of the nutrients needed to grow the crops in aquaponic systems through the cultivated fish.

b) Reduction in water usage and environmental discharge. Aquaponic systems retain their water by recirculating it throughout the system instead of letting the water drain off. This translates to a low water usage and a low environmental discharge which are beneficial.

c) Organic food production. Chemicals such as pesticide, antibiotics and growth hormones cannot be introduced into aquaponics systems. If such chemicals were to be introduced into the system, disruption to the ecological balance that is crucial to the normal operation of an aquaponics system would occur. As such, food produced from aquaponics systems are completely organic.

4. Design Introduction

5. Functional description and implementation

6. Performance metrics, performance to expectation

7. Sustainability results, resource savings achieved

8. Conclusion

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