Caviar is renowned as one of the world’s top luxuries. The delicacy is made from the salted eggs, or roe, of sturgeon. The most prized caviar comes from sturgeons native to the Caspian Sea, but they have become greatly endangered due to overfishing and pollution.
This explains why some municipalities in Japan are looking into sturgeon aquaculture. Sturgeon farming is a process not to be taken lightly, however. Sturgeon need to be reared for more than six years before their caviar can be shipped, and water contamination–even if occurs for a brief moment after immature roe starts to grow–can have a tremendous impact on caviar quality.
Furthermore, an agreed upon definition for "good sturgeon" has not been established in the aquaculture industry, which makes it difficult to guarantee the quality of the fish.
Utilizing SoftBank's latest technologies to breed sturgeon
To research sturgeon aquaculture technologies as a way of addressing these issues, SoftBank Corp. (TOKYO: 9434), Hokkaido University, and the Town of Bifuka in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture, signed a three-way industry, academia and government partnership agreement on March 28, 2023.
Hokkaido University and Bifuka Town have been collaborating on sturgeon farming since 2014, and Bifuka Town began selling “Bifuka Caviar” in 2020. In February of the same year, Hokkaido University and SoftBank jointly launched a smart aquaculture research project with the aim of raising the quality and production of caviar, which led to the March 2023 partnership agreement.
SoftBank's image analysis and machine learning technologies are now being used to individually identify sturgeon reared at the aquaculture facility in Bifuka Town and analyze their behavior. These AI and IoT technologies are being used to optimize feeding methods and to determine which sturgeon are suitable for aquaculture.
Hokkaido University is analyzing the skeletal structures of sturgeon and collecting basic data on how sturgeon are feeding, and conducting other types of research.
Through this collaborative agreement, Bifuka Town will work to implement aquaculture practices that utilize Hokkaido University's aquaculture biology expertise along with SoftBank’s IoT and AI technologies. The ultimate aim is to create a superior strain of farmed sturgeon so high-quality caviar can be produced at affordable prices.
If a stable supply of farmed caviar can be achieved through this initiative, it may lead to new technological breakthroughs in aquaculture.
(Posted on April 11, 2023)
by SoftBank News Editors