Other field microscopes just became obsolete

Fish expert, Bill Manci, Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc.

Fish expert Bill Manci tests ioLight microscope

Fish expert Bill Manci reviews the ioLight portable microscope

A new product has entered the aquaculture marketplace that, potentially, could revolutionize fish disease diagnostics and live feed identification in the field or tank-side.

As a longtime aquaculture consultant, I am very familiar with conventional approaches to collection and visual analysis of potentially diseased tissues, and viewing of microscopic live food organisms. In the past, samples were collected for later preparation and viewing in a laboratory. Opportunities to view samples at a microscopic level in the field simply did not exist. Clumsy and heavy microscopes are simply too large to be practical in the field, they require power to light the viewing stage, and are easily damaged.

A British company called ioLight has developed a new set of devices that make microscopic viewing in the field possible, and indeed very easy.

ioLight offers two field-capable microscopes that are compact and easy to carry into the field. Here’s the best part. These battery-powered units generate their own Wi-Fi signals that easily connect to your iOS (i.e., iPhone or iPad) or Android device for easy viewing of the magnified image.

There are two versions of the ioLight microscope—the so-called 1-mm and 2-mm units, which refer to the width of the field of view. The 1-mm unit offers resolution down to 1 µm, and the 2-mm version is used for larger target samples. In my case, I used the 2-mm unit, which provided excellent views of microscopic zooplankton such as daphnids and rotifers, as well as individual gill filaments and parasites that potentially inhabit those tissues.

The first thing that struck me when I held the unit was its look and feel. This is a substantial, high-quality instrument made with durable materials that will stand the test of time.

Folded for storage and in its cushiony waterproof neoprene case, the unit fit nicely in my hand (6.25” X 4” X 1.25”), and weighed less than 1 pound. The optics pivot and unfold from the base, and slide up or down by hand to produce a rough focus of the target image.

I then used the ioLight app that I downloaded to my iPhone to view the subject and achieve perfect fine focus. From the app, you can choose to light the subject from above, or below, or both. You also can activate a grid from the app to accurately measure the size of objects in your sample. I then easily snapped photos and videos and stored the images on my phone.

After the photos were captured on my phone, I was able to zoom in and out as with any other photo, and see additional details without pixelation. I was quite impressed with the photo quality, despite the small size of the optics—undoubtedly, a real breakthrough.

While I can envision a multitude of uses for these devices in a number of professions, anyone serious about aquaculture will want these new tools in their diagnostic and management inventory.

Without a doubt, the portability and ruggedness of these units and the high quality of the images are the innovations that truly wowed me. For me, this was one of those moments when you say to yourself, “How did I ever get along without this device?”

Interested in trying or buying one? As compared to much larger and “clunkier” conventional technologies, ioLight microscopes are a real bargain. The 2-mm general-purpose unit has a price tag of just $1,100, and the 1-mm cell-resolution unit costs $1,200, which includes the microscope and all shipping and taxes. Customers in the US must contact the distributor, AquaSolver, in southern California (760-518-8170). If you are not satisfied, you can return the unit for a refund within 30 days.

This is an every-day device for your every-day needs.

About Bill Manci

Bill Manci is the President of Fisheries Technology Associates where he specializes, since 1982, in fisheries management, characterization and evaluation of wild fisheries, and technical and economic feasibility analysis of fish farming and aquaculture facilities. Mr. Manci also specializes in fisheries industry and commercial fishing intelligence and statistics; wild fisheries and aquaculture investment due diligence; finfish and shellfish production technology, equipment, fish feeds, fish vaccines, and systems; development of integrated aquaponics systems; and aquaculture facility and production system design, management, and assessment. He manages a team of 28 technical professionals within the fisheries and aquaculture field. Mr. Manci has more than 42 years of experience, has published more than 300 articles, and writes an editorial column for Fish Farming News and contributes to other international publications. He also participated for six years in aquaculture and fisheries research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Since 1991, Mr Manci has been recognized as a Certified Fisheries Professional by the American Fisheries Society.

Fisheries Technology Associates, Inc., is a Fort Collins, Colorado (USA)-based aquaculture, aquaponics, and fisheries consulting firm. They may be reached at +1 970-225-0150 or manci@ftai.com.

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