Based in Ecuador, bioFeeder is an innovative startup firm focused on designing and delivering solutions that streamline the management of shrimp farms. Its flagship solution is transforming how shrimp farmers feed their stock. By integrating the Digi XBee-PRO 900HP long-range connectivity module into their circuit board, the bioFeeder team’s solution manages automated food delivery, optimizes feeding schedules, and improves the health and growth rate of the shrimp.
For decades, shrimp farming has been a laborious proposition – which is one reason most farms struggle to scale up in size. The key obstacle: simply feeding hundreds of thousands of shellfish dispersed across hundreds or even thousands of hectares of ponds. The feed accounts for more than 40 percent of the cost of production on shrimp farms, so optimal use is important. With one mechanical feeder for every hectare, many shrimp farms must rely on a labor-intensive, manual process in which workers move from feeder to feeder to replenish the hoppers with the correct feed, reset timers and schedules, and make other adjustments to manage the flow of food to the shrimp. Optimizing feeding schedules around the most active feeding times for the shrimp requires complex mathematic calculations.
According to Diego Crespo, President of bioFeeder, that represents a significant barrier to farm growth. “You’re trusting the highest-value part of your business to people who must become knowledgeable in numerous intricacies,” he said. “But they get tired or behind schedule – or simply don’t know how to make new calculations on the fly – and there’s no central way to monitor their work and ensure the right feed is delivered on the right schedule. Ideally, you want to feed the shrimp about every half-hour around the clock, which speeds their growth. But that’s not possible with mechanical feeders and manual labor.”
Diego Crespo and co-founder Fernando Pino, bioFeeder's CEO, recognized that a centralized, automated feeding infrastructure could transform how shrimp farmers produce their crops. They collaborated to create a network of intelligent, solar-powered, and cloud-connected feeders that leverage algorithms designed to optimize the feeding cycle of shrimp.
To stay connected to a central gateway, each feeder leverages the Digi® XBee-PRO® 900HP embedded modules for best-in-class wireless connectivity. The Digi XBee PRO 900HP takes full advantage of the DigiMesh® networking protocol, featuring dense network operation and support for sleeping routers. Supporting RF line-of-sight ranges of up to 28 miles and data rates of up to 200 Kbps, these modules are ideal for extended-range applications requiring increased data throughput. The XBee-PRO 900HP requires no programming and can be configured easily using Digi’s free XCTU software or via a simplified AT command set. XBee modules are pre-certified for use in multiple countries, further reducing development costs and time to market.
“We started our design with the intent of leveraging mesh networking technology,” Crespo said. “We had prior experience with XBee, so Digi was a logical choice for this application. Since we work at a very low level with the Digi Mesh network and we have our own PCB and software, we need very little infrastructure on the farm, which is an unusual and significant advantage of our solution.”
The bioFeeder team provides everything needed for shrimp farm managers to take complete control of their shrimp-feeding operations. Instead of requiring farms to install, operate, and maintain servers – a dubious proposition since most farms don’t have stable power connections or proper environments for computer equipment – bioFeeder uses a gateway and cloud server to aggregate data. SCADA software monitors and manages the feeding equipment and implements the feeding regimen based on algorithms to automatically optimize feeding schedules and rates – all with just a few clicks in an online interface. Powered by solar cells, Digi XBee PRO 900HP modules communicate wirelessly to the local gateway, which transmits data to the cloud server.
“Our customers are achieving a 100-percent payback in six to 12 months,” said Pino. “With optimal feeding schedules that are constantly tuned, they can produce more kilograms of shrimp per hectare than ever before.” Thanks to the Digi-connected solution from bioFeeder, customers can:
- Increase the growth rate of the shrimp by more than 1.5 grams/week/shrimp.
- Decrease mortality rates by keeping the pond cleaner; workers no longer deliver all the feed at once, where it decomposes.
- Decrease the feed required to increase the shrimp’s weight through better timing and steadier rates of feeding.
“Our experience with Digi has been great,” Pino said. “The solution is easy to implement compared to competing alternatives. It’s more advanced and offers pre-programmed options so it’s much easier to implement – even if you’re not in the shrimp business.”