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Thai Researchers Study RFID for Managing Prawns and Other Food Fish

In addition to investigating the physical effects of implanting RFID tags in aquatic animals, the project will develop an RFID-enabled system to monitor and improve broodstock on fish farms.
By Dave Friedlos
Aug 05, 2008Researchers in Thailand are investigating the benefits of radio frequency identification for tracking prawns and fish to monitor growth and improve breeding. According to project leader Rungtawan Panakulchaiwat, staff members with the department of fisheries science at King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang have successfully embedded passive RFID tags in giant prawns, Nile tilapia and walking catfish. The team released preliminary results of trials examining the use of RFID to monitor broodstock—cultured species that are kept separate for breeding.

The three chosen species, which are grown on farms as food for humans, have an annual export value of 2 million baht ($59,500), Rungtawan says, and improving the breeding process could add significantly to the nation's exports. Determining the exact breed and monitoring the growth of each animal in a broodstock, however, has proven difficult.

A giant prawn, with an RFID transponder embedded in its tail.

"The objectives of the project are to determine a suitable position for RFID tagging, and the effect of tagging on growth, survival rates, stress protein expression and histological change," Rungtawan says. "This will determine if RFID can be used for broodstock management on farms."

According to Rungtawan, the RFID tag needs to be embedded inside an animal's body, and the project is studying the chip's exact placement so the creature is not harmed in any way. Since last year, the team has embedded tags into more than 1,000 giant prawns, Nile tilapia and walking catfish. The tags measure 1 centimeter (0.4 inch) in length and are inserted into baby animals when they reach a length of 5.5 centimeters (2.2 inches).

Rungtawan Panakulchaiwat
After 12 months, Rungtawan says, preliminary findings appear to have determined the best position for inserting the tags, which is a sensitive process. "In Nile tilapia and walking catfish, we determined the suitable position [to embed an RFID tag] is the abdominal cavity," she states. "We found that the RFID tags do not affect growth or survival rate. Histological examinations showed complete recovery in 21 days. We are continuing to study the effect on stress-protein expression, and the effect on giant prawn, and expect to conclude the project in six months."

Thailand RFID providers Silicon Craft Technology and IE Technology have provided the RFID chips, readers and software for the deployment. Developing the technology was challenging, says Shan Sharma, Silicon Craft Technology's international business development manager, as there was little knowledge available regarding RFID implantation in aquatic species.

"We provided the 10-millimeter glass transponders and handheld readers to work with their own software to automate data matching between the fish identification and weight recorded from digital weight scales," Sharma says. The tags operate at a frequency of 134.2 kHz and comply with the ISO 11784 and ISO 11785 standards.

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