A Farmer Driven Product
In August 2015 we officially began product development for a new line of products geared to bring real-time access to data for fish farmers locally and around the world. This being our inaugural product offering in the aquaculture industry, our goal with the development was to ensure we had the most reliable, relevant, easy to use and affordable product for fish farmers.
To achieve this we knew we had to truly understand the pain points of fish farmers as it related to open water conditions and the subsequent impact on their fish. We toured and met with as many fish farmers as possible, taking their input and feedback back to our product developers.
Tapping into our expert team at Vemco, we created an initial prototype for a rugged sensor and a hub that eliminated the need for multiple reading sites. We launched the inaugural testing of our technology at a local fish farm here in Nova Scotia and in minutes started collecting critical real-time data points on water temperature and oxygen levels.
Fast forward 12 months. Despite some bumps along the way, we are pleased that underwater communications, in our case using acoustics, at modern ocean aquaculture sites has proven to be affordable, easy to install, scalable solution to environmental monitoring on aquaculture farms.
Here are some of the learnings we’ve had along the way:
• The cost of feeding fish is a significant expense for farmers. If Farmers were more easily able to access water conditions (especially of the water) they could plan and maximize feeding times, saving them money and making feeding conditions better for their fish
• Dissolved oxygen (DO) is heavily dependent on a combination of factors, including the saliency of the water, barometric pressure, temperature, time of day, and fish behavior. DO can vary across the farm both horizontally and vertically.
• Raising fish in the ocean is not for the faint of heart. It requires great husbandry skills and expertise and that leads us to a key insight:
• Fish Farmers are superheroes because fish farming is a tough job. It requires an individual that is a “Jack of all Trades;” someone capable of working outdoors in varied elements, and often times, challenging physical conditions. A fish farmer also needs to be versatile in the office; Managing staff, resources and using IT planning programs. Fish farm managers are constantly balancing the demands of managing fish habitats, long-term sustainability, their stock health, and welfare, while also figuring out optimal feeding levels and timing, maintenance of equipment and cages and selling on to the public or trade customers.
We worked tirelessly with fish farmers to quickly move from a duct-tape bubble gum solution to a purpose-built reliable system.
With the critical input from fish farmers, we made significant changes to the early technology prototypes.
With the sensor, we repackaged it into a farmer affordable solution that is easy to deploy (ropes and knots instead of cables and connectors), features a field replaceable battery and has onboard memory.
Our hub also underwent upgrades based on farmer feedback, including a reduction in size of the hub by significantly reducing the power requirements, new communication techniques that support operations in remote areas (cell versus satellite) and improved underwater communications that support many sensors in a given area with the goal of providing coverage to an entire farm from a single hub.
Early in our work with fish farmers, we realized that our system provided a substantial increase in data collected and easily accessed by the farmers. This created a demand for a data management and visualization system that would empower fish farmers to understand the data being collected and take actions from the insights. We also learned that the other fish farm stakeholders (Certification and Compliance Managers, Site Managers, Fish Health experts etc) had a vested interest in the data collected and each required a unique way to analyze it. This resulted in the creation of our aquaCurrent dashboard.
We will continue to make improvements to our products however we are very confident that our system has already proven itself more than capable of collecting and providing reliable and accurate real-time data to the end user. Stay tuned for more news to come as we ramp up sales of our products.
Interested in being part of our test team of Farms, getting access to our equipment for free? Send us a message and we can review the eligibility with you.