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How an Australian Hatchery Uses Automation to Count Crayfish

The Australian Redclaw Crayfish is native to freshwater streams and lakes of Northern Queensland and the Northern Territory of Australia. Crayfish are freshwater crustaceans related to lobsters but generally smaller in size.

The Australian Crayfish Hatchery (ACH) is not only the world's first hatchery of its kind, specifically established to solve industry-wide hatching losses, it is also the most advanced.

Its highly trained staff, led by Dr. Lisa Elliott, regularly deploys the latest disease monitoring and management technologies, resulting in proven significant decrease in mortality rates, increased growth rates, and overall healthier, antibiotic and specific pathogen free redclaw craylings, for the benefit of all stakeholders down the supply chain, be they growers, restaurateurs or consumers.

In addition to technology developed by the ACH team, ACH have worked with software technicians to develop technologies specific to their needs. One such need was counting of redclaw eggs. This proved to be a challenging job as redclaw eggs differ in colour, shape and size, making development of an accurate counting method difficult.

The minimum orders for ACH's Premium Craylings are batches of 10,000 craylings, which is the standard number for stocking one 20 x 50 metres pond.

Australian Crayfish Hatchery produces up to 6 million redclaw crayfish eggs per year which need to be individually counted. Traditional egg counting methods for aquaculture species such as shrimp and fish are unsuitable for redclaw, posing a significant challenge.

Many generic counting platforms were trialled without success, until we found CountThings

The CountThings team worked closely with ACH to develop an effective and accurate method for counting redclaw crayfish eggs,taking into account the hatching process:

- eggs from individual female crayfish are collected;

- each clutch of eggs from an individual female is photographed and counted overnight using CountThings (thus reducing team member involvement). There may be more than 300 clutches to be counted once per week, as many as 200,000 eggs;

- egg mortalities from each spawning event are also counted using CountThings and recorded to provide valuable production data;

- counting is all performed using the CountThings software which provides an automated option whereby the counts can be done in the absence of a team member.

“The process of counting eggs was extremely time consuming as we were using a computer mouse and tally clicker to count each individual egg. Every week we would need to count up to 200,000 eggs using this method. It was often taking at least two of our team members up to 14 days on a single spawning event! With spawning events happening weekly we were quickly falling behind in our counts. CountThings has reduced this process to less than 12 hours with 8 hours counting undertaken overnight, freeing up a team member during working hours.”- Dr. Lisa Elliott

The CountThings app is a crucial part of the ACH technology platform and is recommended to those looking for a specific counting program.

“What we love about CountThings:
- photos can be taken and then run through the CountThings software at any time without the need of human intervention;
- this autonomy has decreased our labour cost of manual counting by at least 90%;
- accuracy is greater than 98% which can be proven;
- using CountThings, ACH has an historical record of egg counts that can be correlated with other data collected.”- Dr. Lisa Elliott

“Using CountThings has saved us significant time and money and also freed up our team to focus on the task of producing the best craylings we can. This has had a huge impact on our bottom line!”- Dr. Lisa Elliott

ACH would recommend CountThings to any business that wants a reliable and accurate counting program, we love it!