LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Philippines – An underwater robot crafted by young Filipino inventors will be used in predicting fish kills in lakes. Named “Roboteknik,” the award-winning gadget was the result of years of extensive testing and engineering done by young inventors of Cavite-based Pobletech Inc. headed by Michael Poblete.
The robot will be harnessed in a government project that is expected to predict the occurrence of fish kills initially in Taal Lake in Batangas. “The success of the project will benefit Taal Lake and Laguna de Bay as well as other inland bodies of water in the Philippines,” said the Los Baños-based Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD). PCAARRD, headed by executive director Patricio Faylon, is one of the sectoral R&D councils of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
Titled “Development of An Early Warning System (EWS) for Freshwater Fishkill,” the project is an offshoot of President Aquino’s directive to the DOST to organize an intensive and multi-disciplinary research to address natural and man-made disasters, including fish kills. Aside from DOST-PCAARD and Pobletech Inc., also involved in the P18-million project are the University of the Philippines Los Baños, UP Visayas, Central Luzon State University, and Batangas State University (BSU).
The presidential directive was prompted by massive fish kills that took place in Taal Lake and Laguna de Bay in recent years. Last May, for instance, an immense fish kill hit Laguna de Bay, affecting the livelihood of fish pen operators in the country’s largest freshwater lake. “The fish kill,” Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) R&D manager Leny Borja said, “may be attributed to annual river flushing every after summer and at the start of the rainy season.”
Last year, a fish kill devastated Taal Lake’s grow-out production and affected other industries that are part of the milkfish and tilapia aquaculture value chain. As government response, President Aquino directed the DOST headed by Secretary Mario Montejo to address the problems generated by the phenomenon.
The PCAARRD has endorsed the “Development of An Early Warning System for Freshwater Fishkill” project for DOST grants-in-aid funding. The project generally aims to use the underwater robot to foresee incidence of fish kill and help fisherfolk in saving their harvest. “It will be used to detect lethal conditions to forecast fish kills, at best in two weeks before they happen to allow the fisherfolk to harvest their fish in the cages or transfer their fish cages before the fish kill sets in,” the PCAARRD said.
It added that while this information will help reduce potential losses in capital, it will also lead to the development of measures on how to implement fish cage aquaculture in a non-ecologically disrupted way.
The project is expected to come up with the Taal Lake Fishkill Early Warning System (EWS) and a data warehouse for the benefit of the aquaculture industry of Taal Lake and areas with cage operations.
The EWS and data warehouse will benefit the Batangas provincial government headed by Gov. Vilma Santos-Recto; the Batangas towns of Talisay, Agoncillo, Laurel, and San Nicolas, and the Taal Lake Aquaculture Alliance Inc. Other freshwater lakes (such as Laguna de Bay) are also expected to benefit from the success of the project.
“Roboteknik” won the top award in the 2008 Aquatic Technology Competition and Marketplace sponsored by the DOST-Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development. Since it was invented, it has also undergone innovations to suit natural and man-made exigencies.