The use of Virtual Reality (VR) for the training of different aspects in aquaculture can be a valuable tool to simulate different working environments and situations e.g. with regard to animal welfare. Animal welfare in aquaculture does not attract enough international attention and there are no adequate international animal welfare standards for the breeding of fish, shrimp or mollusca. Therefore, the Aquaculture Welfare Standards Initiative (AWSI) formulated minimum requirements that are both comprehensible and implementable for producers of a wide variety of aquaculture animal species in a wide variety of countries. And in this specific context VR is used to offer comprehensive and realistic VR-training modules to address five core issues in aquaculture production (Fig. 1)
Material & methods
VR-training modules are developed based on scientific recommendations, basic guidelines for the different core issues as well as on feedback from practitioners. The first training modules for the species-specific stunning and slaughter of carp and trout as well as on general aspects of water quality are available in English and German.
The first practical tests were very promising and clearly demonstrated the advantages of VR as an additional tool for training purposes in aquaculture. With this technology we were able to bring different aquaculture production systems such as recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), flow through systems as well as ponds to the classroom and the users had the unique opportunity to get to know these systems without the need of travelling for several days. Additionally, critical scenarios, as the failure of different filtrations units or the stop of the main waterflow, can be simulated without putting the real systems and the produced fish at any risk.
There is a great potential for VR as a useful tool to improve the teaching and lifelong learning as well as to improve the awareness within the aquaculture sector. The topic animal welfare has been presented here with regard to the application of VR for training purposes but is of course not restricted to that. Many different use cases are possible, each one having their own challenges and beneficial effects. Next to the general development of further useful VR-training modules we would also like to scientifically study the effects of using VR as a training tool more in detail to further emphasize the potential benefits of this technology.
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