Shoal of Fish: Glassfish (Golden Sweepers) Shoal of Fish: Glassfish (Golden Sweepers) To produce healthier fish for breeding, one startup is moving a little backwards. (Photo: Rich Carey/Shutterstock)

Why did someone take clean drinking water and turn it into ocean water?

It seems counterintuitive, but this new artificial seawater technique could actually raise healthier fish.

The world spends a whole lot of money, time and energy making ocean water safe to drink, through a process called desalination. It's gone a long way toward alleviating drought conditions in California, for one, as well as bolstering the economies of countries like the United Kingdom, Israel and Greece.

So why on earth would someone go to the trouble of taking drinking water that's already been desalinated, putting salt right back in, building a separate tank for it, and filling it with fish?

It sounds, frankly, a bit counterproductive. But at one marine breeding center in Israel, it all makes perfect sense. It's a technique dreamed up by Latimeria, a startup from Israel that wants to be pioneers of clean fish breeding and environmentally efficient seafood production.

The company's artificial seawater system is now being used to breed grey mullet.

Latimeria company water tank filled with Grey MulletLatimeria fills its artificial seawater tanks with baby grey mullet after a reverse desalination process. (Photo: Latimeria)

“We use 20 times less energy than a normal breeding center,” said Gilad Heinisch, Latimeria’s chief biologist. “Our working procedures are very much like the other breeding centers, yet we maintain a very high biosecurity level. To break even, breeders using our system would need to produce just around 3 million fingerlings a year compared to somewhere around 6 million at a regular marine breeding center.”

The goal, said Latimeria officials, is to expand their current space into a large-scale manufacturing plant. Then, they hope to encourage farmers around the world to use their technology. The company currently operates out of a small farm in northern Israel with 11 tanks, which they call "water rings."

Furthermore, the technology weeds out several pathogens that can induce diseases in fish – such as bacteria, viruses and parasites. So in addition to using less energy, Latimeria's technology also produces healthier fish.

Latimeria's chief technology officer, Itai Ivry, works in one of the company's 11 water rings.Latimeria's chief technology officer, Itai Ivry, works in one of the company's 11 water rings. (Photo: Latimeria)

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