SeaSmart has developed a wireless sensor drone for deployment inside fish farming cages. The drone moves around, measuring water conditions and other parameters and collecting valuable data.
Today, most solutions for environmental monitoring of fish farms are based on underwater sensors placed at fixed depths using buoys, wires or ropes. At some facilities, measurements are taken at the surface manually, using handheld meters. Because conditions can vary vastly depending on depth, these methods may provide a poor, or even erroneous, picture of the conditions in the net-cage.
Moreover, fixed systems require frequent cleaning and maintenance, and may get in the way of other equipment, resulting in sensors being placed in less favourable positions, e.g. along the cage wall.
In addition, data collection may be cumbersome, involving manual registration and maintaining updated lists of sensor positions. The resulting dataset may be unreliable or not used at all.
SeaSmart has developed a patented wireless drone for monitoring of aquaculture cages.
The sensor drone measures all the important parameters including oxygen, salinity, temperature and light. It also has built-in echosounders that enable tracking of the fish. Pressure sensors measure the depth and GPS ensures that the measurement is always traceable to where it was collected.
The sensor drone creates a complete profile of the cage, from top to bottom, every hour, thereby providing a more detailed and reliable understanding of what fish are experiencing in the cage. It operates 24/7 and can run for six months on a single battery.
Drones are practically maintenance free and have no ropes or wire attachments. Calibration of the drones is performed when the battery is changed, and installation is also very simple.
The data collected by the drone provides insights into fish movements and environmental conditions, which can fish farmers help to increase feed accuracy, thereby reducing waste and increasing growth. Moreover, the data can be used to analyse fish stress levels, thereby reducing disease outbreaks and mortality. Analysing light conditions, meanwhile, can help to control maturity and improve the quality of harvest.
The global salmon market achieved a volume of 3.7 million metric tons in 2018, and is projected to reach 4.7 million metric tons by 2024. Norway alone accounts for more than 50 per cent of the global supply, and there are currently some 3 500 net-cages where SeaSmart’s sensor drone can be deployed.
International market potential is also promising, and the technology can be adapted for production of other species, such as tuna.