The university social responsibility (USR) coastal project team of National Cheng Kung University’s (NCKU) has established a water-quality-monitoring system in cooperation with aquafarmers in Qigu to resolve the problem of sudden clam and oyster death caused by climate-change-induced water quality changes. Of all the teams working on the Implementation Plan Adapted to Environmental Change in Tainan Coastal Area (IMPACT), Professor Chang Chih-Hua of the Department of Environmental Engineering, NCKU, and his team in the laboratory of smart monitoring for water quality have developed a simple water-quality-monitoring system. This system employs the Internet of Things (IoT) to upload water-quality-monitoring data to the cloud, enabling the team to monitor water quality in the Qigu aquaculture area in real time and propose adjustment suggestions for areas in which water quality is easily affected.
Since May 2019, Dr. Lee Nian-Shyun of the Department of Environmental Engineering, NCKU—who is the IMPACT team member in charge of cooperation—has organized numerous forums on Taijian aquaculture water quality monitoring in Qigu area in order to understand the local aquaculture problems related to water quality. In addition, the IMPACT team has explained the impact of rainfall and water salinity on aquaculture and established plans for water-quality-monitoring system, explaining these systems to local fishers in the forums. Furthermore, the team has been able to understand the problems faced by local fishers, the scope of relevant impacts, and other needs of the local fishers.
Climate change has had a strong influence on aquaculture; for example, high rainfall intensity has caused drastic changes in water quality, and global warming has caused extreme changes in water temperature. Although fishers and companies have attempted to use water-quality-monitoring equipment to conduct monitor water quality in fish farms and various types of water-quality-monitoring equipment are commercially available, the application of such equipment to aquaculture remains relatively unpopular. The main reasons are as follows: 1) Monitoring equipment is too expensive. Basic water-quality-monitoring equipment costs at least NT$100,000, and each fish farm requires at least one set of equipment, which is unaffordable for ordinary aquafarmers.
2) The coastal environment is harsh for water-quality-monitoring equipment. Fine electronic components are extremely vulnerable to humidity and salinity. The maintenance and correction of instruments are required to ensure the reliability and robustness of monitoring data; however, maintenance requires yet more money.
3) Aquafarmers are generally older and tend to rely on their aquaculture experience rather than innovative technologies. In addition, these farmers have limited knowledge of the relationship between water quality factors and aquaculture. Thus, increasing the popularity of water-quality-monitoring systems and the coverage of the IoT for water quality monitoring are the main challenges for the team.
In response to the aforementioned problems, the IMPACT team designed a simple innovative water-quality-monitoring system for use in aquaculture. According to Dr. Lee, in addition to being inexpensive, being easy to install, and enabling monitoring of multiple water quality parameters, this low-cost system can be widely installed in the aquaculture area in Qigu to form a water-quality-monitoring network. IoT technology can be used to upload water-quality-monitoring data obtained by this network. In addition to enabling real-time monitoring of water quality in the Qigu area, the uploaded data can be used to make suggestions of areas that are likely to be affected by water quality changes. Water quality models and big data analysis can be employed to predict water quality changes in the area to raise a warning before a change occurs. Additionally, the water-quality-monitoring equipment developed by the team is considerably cheaper than that currently available. Therefore, fishers who wish to participate in the water-quality-monitoring network or simply install the system in their fish farm will have an affordable option. The low cost may also increase their willingness to install the system.
Regarding the goal of the project, Professor Lin Tzu-Ping from the Department of Architecture, NCKU, indicated that the team hoped each USR project would be based on the premise of easy construction and affordability, so that fishers can comfortably improve their working environment to increase revenue. In the process of cooperation, the IMPACT team has conducted multiple discussions with the fishers about the practicality of the facility and the monitoring factors that will meet the fishers’ needs. The success of this project would enable fishers to promote and develop the technology in multiple respects and enable application of this technology in other regions. The long-term goal of the project is to establish a big data database to propose adaptation and improvement suggestions regarding storm-induced disasters. These suggestions would reduce the risks posed by the climate to local aquaculture and achieve the goal of economic, social, and environmental sustainability.
The IMPACT project is a 2018 USR project subsidized by the Ministry of Education and involves the collaboration of Professor Lin Tzu-Ping (Department of Architecture), Associate Professor Chang Yi (Department of Hydraulic and Ocean Engineering), Assistant Professor Huang Tai-Lin (Department of Urban Planning), Associate Director Chiang Wen-Shan (Tainan Hydraulics Laboratory), and Associate Professor Hsueh Cheng-Luen (Department of Architecture). Professor Rau Jiann-Yeou from the Department of Geomatics helped with the aerial photography of coastal and community areas and the construction of three-dimensional models. The aim of the IMPACT project is to explore the problems that arise in the coastal area of Tainan, to nurture the local environment and students’ awareness of social issues—leading students to help local communities in the coastal area to adapt to climate change—and to proactively implement the sustainable development goals proposed by the United Nations to meet the international standards and thus fulfill the social responsibilities of NCKU.