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CDU professor brings his extensive knowledge in Aquaculture to the NT

Professor Sunil Kadri, global expert in fish behaviour and welfare has joined CDU’s Research Institute of Northern Agriculture as the new Professor in Tropical Aquaculture.

A global leader in aquaculture research and development, who is using sonar technology to understand fish welfare in Norway’s aquaculture farms, is hoping to continue his ground-breaking research in Australia.

Professor Sunil Kadri recently arrived from Southern Chile to take up the position of Professor of Tropical Aquaculture at Charles Darwin University’s (CDU) Research Institute of Northern Agriculture (RINA). 

The fish welfare project is looking at ways to monitor the welfare status of whole fish populations within farms and predict disease outbreaks to enable early interventions.

Professor Kadri said a hydroacoustic system can monitor the behavioural patterns of most of the fish population in large cages even when water quality and light levels are poor for observing fish behaviour using more conventional methods.

“This project is an important piece of work. The aquacultural industry continues to grow globally and the fast-paced nature of the industry means that it is becoming more automated, and the monitoring of fish health and welfare becomes increasingly challenging and crucial,” Professor Kadri said. 

The project, which is midway through, involves collecting and analysing data to determine behavioural signatures related to specific stressors and health events.

“We use a sonar system that detects individual fish positions based on the echo from their swim bladder and this allows us to monitor population behaviour 24/7,” Professor Kadri said.

“We have used this system to collect data over an extended period on a number of commercial salmon farms. A previous study using a basic version of the same system revealed its capability to detect disease indicators over a month prior to detection using standard procedures.”  

“The results so far have demonstrated the usefulness of the system to detect various stress events as well as monitor recovery times from such events.”

“In order to deliver robust disease prediction tools to farmers however, we need to collect more datasets enhanced with metadata regarding farming operations.”

Professor Kadri comes to CDU with over 30 years’ experience in the Aquaculture industry with his research primarily focused on fish behaviour and welfare.

Now at CDU, Professor Kadri would like to bring his knowledge and experience to help address the challenges of the aquaculture sector here in Northern Australia and Southeast Asia, including the Norwegian project, which he continues to oversee.

His interests also include playing a role in the development of the Indigenous aquaculture space in the NT, something that he is already involved in in his home country of New Zealand.

“I am excited to bring my experience to the Northern Territory’s aquaculture sector and I think we should look to bring the concept we are developing in Norway to the Northern Territory and the wider region to make a real difference to the aquaculture industry here,” Professor Kadri said. 

CDU Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation Professor Steve Rogers said he looks forward to working with Dr Kadri.

“We are very happy to have Sunil on board. His expertise will bring a different perspective to aquaculture research at CDU and indeed the Northern Territory,” Professor Rogers said. 

RINA was established by CDU in late 2022 with the aim of pushing agricultural innovation in Northern Australia.

RINA has recently welcomed the appointment of three other Professors in addition to Professor Kadri including Professor of Tropical Biosecurity Maxine Piggott, Associate Professor of Pastoral Production Systems and Sustainability Beth Penrose and Professor of Broadacre Cropping Systems, Chengyuan (Stephen) Xu.  

Funded by the Commonwealth Government, RINA is supported by project partners including; the Department of Tourism, Industry and Trade (DITT), NT Farmers, NT cattleman’s Association, NT Seafood Council, Murdoch University, James Cook University and Central Queensland University (CQU).

Professor Kadri presented his research at the World Aquaculture Conference 2023 which was held in Darwin this week.

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