UUV Aquabotix Ltd (ASX:UUV) (“Aquabotix" or the “Company”) today introduced Live Remote Control, which allows users to pilot Aquabotix’s underwater vehicles and cameras from any web browser-enabled device, remotely, from anywhere in the world. This class-leading technology has applications for any business, research centre, security force of defence unit with a multi-site presence in the underwater world.
Live Remote Control enables users to operate Aquabotix’s Endura ROV (remotely operated vehicle), Hybrid AUV/ROV (autonomous/remotely operated vehicle) and AquaLens Connect (networked underwater camera system) during underwater activities from any location globally, using browser-based devices such as computers, phones and iPads, over the Internet, without the operator being physically present on-site.
Below is an artist’s rendering of Live Remote Control’s applicability to the aquaculture sector. For example, the operator could be sitting in the head-office in Norway, and controlling an Endura in a fish net at an aquaculture farm off the coast of Chile, thousands of miles away.
Importantly, Live Remote Control also enables multiple operators (in multiple global locations, if needed) to operate the same unmanned underwater vehicle.
Live Remote Control is designed to expand the virtual presence of Aquabotix’s product users, allowing them to better monitor what’s happening at all times, while sharing data across multiple sites. The web-driven innovation also reduces the need for increased or expensive on-site manpower for underwater operations.
This method of operation is conceptually somewhat similar to how the world’s technologically most advanced militaries have, for years, operated battlefield aerial drones from safe locations outside of the theatre of war.
“With Live Remote Control, any browser-based modern device can now interact with our system,” said Durval Tavares, CEO of Aquabotix. “Having our customers operate unmanned systems underwater in a live, immediate fashion, from anywhere in the world, is a game-changer for the underwater robotics industry. Advances in underwater unmanned systems typically lag those in the aerial domain by several years. Aquabotix is proud that the smart computing power of its vehicles enables the company to achieve innovations like these, which are at the forefront of advances in the industry.”
“Driving an underwater vehicle through a web browser previously seemed impossible,” said Ted Curley, Chief Development Officer of Aquabotix. “Live Remote Control now changes the timeline for how underwater processes can be accomplished both on land and under the sea.”
Aqua Nor 2017 took place last week in Trondheim, Norway, a country at the heart of finfish aquaculture technology. Aqua Nor has been an international meeting place for aquaculture professionals since 1979, and holds the title of the world’s largest aquaculture technology exhibition. Aqua Nor 2017 was the biggest show yet, with a record breaking 27,000 visitors in attendance from 71 countries as well as over 600 exhibitors spread across nine buildings filled with educational seminars, socials and exhibit halls. Aquabotix CEO, Durval Tavares was in attendance, and we’re pleased to announce that an Endura 100 AQ Remotely Operated Vehicle was on display this year at the event.
One of the major themes emerging from Aqua Nor 2017 was the desire for fish farms to access the IoT (Internet of Things), also known as “Remote Farming”. Equipment which was once analog, such as fish feeders and underwater camera systems and underwater probes are beginning to connect to the internet in a meaningful way. In Norway, aquaculture operations often have multiple sites stretching up and down the coastline; and managing multiple sites from a central location means an increased desire for internet connected systems. Norweigan company SBS Teknikk specializes in connecting fish farms with smart technology solutions such as Aquabotix’s Endura 100 AQ ROV, and AquaLens Connect Underwater Camera System, providing farms with a live underwater view from multiple locations simultaneously.
To learn more about Aqua Nor, visit them here. To learn more about SBS Teknikk, visit them here.
UUV Aquabotix Ltd (ASX:UUV) (“Aquabotix" or the “Company”) today introduced Live Remote Viewing, a new product feature that enables real-time underwater viewing and connectivity between Aquabotix’s products and remote customers via the cloud.
Live Remote Viewing, designed specifically for Aquabotix’s Endura ROV (remotely operated vehicle) and AquaLens Connect (networked underwater camera system), utilizes remote diagnostics to allow off-site customers to monitor multiple inspections, operations and explorations from a single platform in real time.
“The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the way our world communicates and interacts, and we believe that same concept should apply under the water,” said Durval Tavares, Aquabotix’s CEO. “We’re helping to address our customers’ pain points by transforming a previously singular, disconnected entity into one where multiple underwater technologies can work together on the one platform. Utilizing the IoT to produce the world’s only digital inspection-class ROV platform, we are confident Live Remote Viewing will be a game changer in the world of underwater robotics and the start of many future cloud-driven innovations for Aquabotix.”
The Live Remote Viewing product feature is designed for use across a wide range of industries, including aquaculture and infrastructure. For the aquaculture industry in particular, which continues to grow exponentially, the feature will enable higher quality, more cost-effective inspections of fish farms. Customers will now have access to continuous live feeds from the Endura ROV that can monitor the condition of the fish and nets, inspect moorings and assess feeding habits to prevent overfeeding.
Live Remote Viewing is now available to all Aquabotix customers. Current customers will not receive an upcharge to utilize Live Remote Viewing, but are required to register an account with Aquabotix to access live, secure feeds through the feature.
For more information about Live Remote Viewing and other Aquabotix’s products, please visit www.aquabotix.com.
Tel: +1 617-275-6522
Global demand for protein-rich foods on the rise, and aquaculture has proven to be a successful way to feed the world’s population growth. The output of the global cultivation of fish has, for the first time, reportedly overtaken that of wild caught fisheries, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 2016 Report. The largest advantage of aquaculture is how efficiently fish transform feed into body weight. In fact, farm-raised fish are nearly seven times as efficient as raising beef. For countries with higher rates of food insecurity, aquaculture also provides a new means to meet local demands. It is for these reasons that the aquaculture industry is growing faster than any other food sector. To sustain future growth, the aquaculture industry must continuously innovate better ways to raise, monitor and harvest livestock. Underwater video technology and remotely operated vehicles are leading the way to smarter aquaculture farms.
Photo Credit: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Remotely Monitoring Cages
Just as farmers tend their flock, fish farmers must monitor the conditions inside their fish pens at all times. Poor weather conditions, predators, parasites, disease and damaged nets all pose constant threats to profitability. Underwater cameras have come a long way in recent years. Fish farmers now have the ability to deploy networks of high definition, pan and tilt, underwater cameras across their facilities to continuously monitor every fish cage for signs of trouble. Underwater cameras can also be controlled remotely from a laptop or phone, giving fish farmers a 24/7 view of their facilities from anywhere.
With potentially hundreds of cages to inspect, fish farmers require a quick, low cost alternative to sending divers into the water. Using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), inspectors can check each net for holes which need repair, while also getting a closer look at the health of their livestock. The versatility and maneuverability of an inspection class ROV allows a single operator to efficiently inspect and upkeep each aquaculture pen. Below is a video demonstrating how an ROV can be deployed inside an aquaculture pen for inspection of nets and livestock.
Underwater Sensors to Monitor Water Conditions
Video isn’t always enough. The successful growth and operation of an aquaculture facility is driven by data. ROVs built for aquaculture have a variety of sensors designed to capture these data points and keep fish farmers informed. Using a laser scaler, an ROV can accurately measure the length of a fish and determine how close to harvest size they are. Monitoring water quality is critical when large volumes of fish are kept in close proximity. ROVs outfitted with probes to measure temperature, pH and dissolved oxygen can quickly determine if water quality is stable, or in decline.
The goal of aquaculture is to maximize the harvest of fish while minimizing the impact on the surrounding environment and wild populations. By using technology like underwater cameras and ROVs, fish farmers are able to monitor their operation and grow to meet the demands of our world.
One of the most exciting areas of development for underwater remote-operated vehicles (ROVs) is their use in marine research. For decades, purpose-built (and generally large) ROVs like POODLE (the first real ROV, deployed in 1953) were on the forefront of oceanographic research work. Marine scientists did not generally use commercially-developed mass-produced ROVs until relatively recently – mainly because the mass-produced ROVs didn’t exist yet! They exist now, and the unique combination of affordability and standardization ROVs offer is now helping researchers push back the frontiers of knowledge in a number of exciting research fields.
One key area of research is the field of robotics itself – coordinating fleets of tiny ROVs is a new and unprecedented challenge for scientists at sea. Even more challenging is processing the terabytes of data that even a relatively modest quantity of ROVs can collect in a short period of time. A 2015 expedition by the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s Falkor to the remote Scott Reef in the Timor Sea, led by a team of University of Sydney scientists, deployed an eclectic flotilla of robotic vehicles, including gliders, autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), autonomous surface vessels (ASVs) and Lagrangian floats, and autonomous surface vessels (ASVs). The AUVs were used to take water measurements at different depths, the ASVs and gliders collected data on surface conditions, and the floats measured currents, water salinity and temperature, and other data.
Just in visual imagery alone, the Falkor collected some 400,000 images over a two-week period, about a terabyte every day. To gain insight into the meaning of the data they had collected, the team developed a web-based tool named Squidle, which crowdsources data analysis and lets the general public help teach computers how to interpret visual imagery. (You can learn more about Squidle at https://squidle.acfr.usyd.edu.au/) Another development of note from the Falkor expedition was the creation of a web-based tool to allow researchers to visualize the known positions of an entire fleet of ROVs in real-time using any Internet-connected device, such as a PC or smartphone.
Oceanic research on climate is one of the most critically important areas of science operating today. The challenge of global warming is tightly bound to our understanding of the Earth’s global ocean, and more visually spectacular catastrophic events like tsunamis and hurricanes emphasize the pressing need for deeper understanding of the oceanic climate. As one example, a Wave Glider ROV was collecting routine environmental data in the South China Sea in July of 2014 when it encountered Typhoon Rammasun, a lethal ocean storm with 10-meter high waves and winds approaching 200 miles per hour. The Wave Glider, tiny yet extremely rugged, rode out the storm without trouble and collected amazing data about the behavior of the ocean in response to the event. Fleets of ROVs could collect many times that amount of information, allowing unprecedented progress in areas like storm prediction and tracking. It’s not just data that can be collected – ROVs can retrieve water samples from anywhere in the ocean. (Aquabotix offers a water sample collector on the Endura line.)
The use of ROVs to monitor the health and size of fish populations has been under development for quite some time in the aquaculture field. Now researchers are drawing lessons from that work and applying it to help save the Great Barrier Reef. The GBR, a collection of almost 2000 reefs scattered across more than 130,000 square miles of ocean, faces a number of threats, including climate change and water quality problems, but scientists agree that the incursion of the Crown of Thorns starfish (COTS), a nightmare coral predator, is the Reef’s greatest immediate challenge. Scientists estimate that in the last twenty years, COTS population explosions have led to the destruction of about 40 percent of the Reef’s coral.
Monitoring the COTS populations was an important step, but monitoring alone can’t get anything done. Australians have operated hunting vessels to try to slow the advance of COTS populations, but even killing 400,000 COTS per year, as one anti-COTS diving team has done, is barely holding the COTS threat at a status quo level. Robotics researchers at the Queensland University of Technology, supported by a $750,000 AUS grant from the Google Impact Challenge Australia, have developed an ROV capable of hunting down and annihilating COTS. The prototype, dubbed “COTSBot,” is capable of operating autonomously, cruising a few feet above the coral reef using five integrated thrusters, scanning the surface of the coral and looking for COTS going about their nefarious business. When the robot spots a COTS – with a 99% accuracy rate – it swoops down and uses a robotic arm to inject the creature with a 20 ml vinegar solution, which kills it instantly. By mass deploying COTSBots in threatened areas of the reef, scientists hope not to just stem the incursion of the COTS, but to keep their population down to a manageable level.
The scientific work, both theoretical and applied, that oceangoing ROVs can support is critically important to both the health of the global environment, and to our growing ability to explore and understand the 95+ percent of the oceans that have not yet been genuinely explored. As always, human researchers and explorers will be irreplaceable in those efforts, but the addition of robotic assistance and tools in the form of ROVs will make their work vastly more effective, affordable, and effective.
AquaSur regularly makes a splash in the aquaculture world at its semiannual conferences. It's the most distinguished gathering of its kind in the Southern hemisphere, with major players in the field attending. In October 2016, Aquabotix CEO Durval Tavares traveled to Chile to take part in the AquaSur 2016 conference, which explored the present and future of ROVs in aquaculture and more. Over its four days, the conference accommodated 22,400 visitors representing 42 countries. Attendees included representatives from other ROV companies, food producers, medical companies, and chemical companies. By the end of the conference, there was widespread recognition that robotics was the wave of the future for keeping fish healthy and ensuring the livelihood of those in the aquaculture business.
Puerto Montt, Chile, hosted the event. Chile employs 80,000 people in its aquaculture industry, and is currently looking to expand the industry along the country’s northern coast. To encourage growth and safety in the aquaculture sector, pending legislation will likely encourage the use of ROVs to protect the environment. Using ROVs is a safer way to look underwater, especially inside nets, for problems that could affect the fish and nets. With the potential grown of ROV use in Chile and other countries with aquaculture industries, Aquabotix and its Chilean distributor TekChile, had an interested audience for showcasing various products from the Aquabotix line.
Outside the conference, separate events featured demonstrations of the ROVs from Aquabotix. These demonstrations greatly impressed those who saw substantial benefits over currently offered technology. The main advantages for farm operations of these products included the stability of the Endura and maneuverability. Thruster power was especially intriguing for the operators because it was unlike anything they'd seen. The Endura can be configured specifically for aquaculture with five standard thrusters, side thrusters, and a high output option. These attributes of Aquabotix's ROVs mean that these devices, and other ROVs like them, are predicted to not only be a perfect fit for the future of aquaculture but also a necessity as demand increases for fish and other water-grown products. Operators can use the extra thrusting power so the vehicle can be used in high currents compared to their current products.
The conference was a good time to illustrate the innovations represented by products such as the AquaLens Connect. Attendees at the conference discussed ways to reduce waste and cost, and underwater monitoring with the AquaLens Connect is a clear solution to these issues. The future of aquaculture will rely more on remote monitoring of nets and facilities as the industry expands. With remote monitoring, several sites can be watched at once, from a single screen, reducing the necessity for needing multiple people to watch several locations at once. The AquaLens Connect allows up to 32 cameras to be connected in a network for simultaneous viewing, and because the cameras are not static, a wider field of view is available to each camera. With pan and tilt of 120 degrees in each direction, a single camera can show a wide range of underwater space. When coupled with the unique abilities of an ROV, such as Endura's fish plow that removes dead fish, these devices make operations more profitable and safer for the employees and the fish.
The future of aquaculture is now, and ROVs and underwater cameras are on the forefront of the technology farm operators need to progress. By keeping up with the changing industry, and participating in exciting events like AquaSur 2016, Aquabotix will help our customers stay on the forefront of the evolving technical landscape.
Aquaculture and fisheries are a major source of the world’s protein production, and while fisheries are stagnating somewhat due to overconsumption, aquaculture production is growing at tremendous rates. As aquaculture facilities fill in the most desirable coastal locations, it is a certainty that future growth will take place in deeper water, where use of human labor will be more expensive and much more dangerous. One major job that will require significant automation in order to be economically practical is monitoring the aquaculture facility.
Aquaculture facilities require careful monitoring of a number of important parameters. The environment itself needs to be monitored for water quality, temperature, current, and so forth. Operators also need to be able to inspect hardware such as nets and cages, to count fish in particular enclosures, to locate dead fish, to check nutrient levels, to measure fish stress levels, and more. All of this information gathering is often done by human labor at onshore or shallow-water facilities, but that is impractical when the aquaculture facility is far offshore. Operators can’t hire from the local community when the local community is underwater – they have to use automated remote monitoring technology. Even in facilities where human labor is available, the cost and liability requirements of human workers will make automated remote monitoring a useful adjunct.
A number of different types of remote sensor can be used to monitor aquaculture operations, but one of the most generally useful instruments is also one of the simplest: a video camera. High-definition video cameras can capture a wide range of data both above the water and beneath the surface. Advances in robot vision, that is, the ability of computers to understand and utilize video feeds, mean that a huge number of video camera feeds can be interpreted by computerized systems. The aquaculture base can monitor types and numbers of fish in an area, examine nets and gates for damage, scan the bottom underneath fixed pens to check contamination levels, and even assess the weather pattern. AquaLens Connect, the underwater camera system from Aquabotix, has been built to withstand and excel in these challenging conditions. It features a full 1080p HD video with live view, push button recording, pan and tilt.
Aquaculture requires a great deal of management and assessment to be effective and profitable. Feed levels have to be continually adjusted to prevent excessive buildup of nutrients in the wastewater, fish populations have to be counted and their health checked, incursions from predators have to be seen to be mitigated, and physical infrastructure, always susceptible to storm damage, has to be kept in trim through regular inspection and maintenance. All of these tasks require that the aquaculture operator be aware of the condition of the facility. Stationary video cameras, as well as ROV-based roving cameras, provide a cost-effective means of achieving this goal.
Global warming has the potential to have major impacts on aquaculture. Over the past century, global warming (both human-caused and deriving from natural cycles) has increased the average global air temperature by around 1 degree Fahrenheit, 0.6 degrees Celsius. The world’s oceans, which have a vastly greater thermal mass than the atmosphere, have changed by only 0.18 degrees Fahrenheit (0.1 degree Celsius), with nearly all of that warming occurring in the surface layers. Even this relatively small change is enough to have major impacts on human food production in the ocean.
One significant impact from global warming is likely to be the reduction in the growth rate of krill. Krill are a family of tiny crustacean species that live in all of the world’s oceans and are the foundation of the aquatic food chain. Krill feed on phytoplankton and zooplankton, and are in turn consumed by fish and other aquatic animals in enormous quantities. Krill are fished commercially and used as a feedstock for aquaculture operations. As ocean temperatures rise, the reproductive rate of krill has been shown to decline significantly. This will make food stocks for aquaculture more expensive.
A major fraction of aquaculture is conducted in areas immediately offshore and in riparian (river) environments. Rising ocean temperatures may disrupt these operations by altering the sea level, changing coastlines and impacting river systems. Rising ocean temperatures alter the sea level in two ways – first, by causing increased melt rates at the polar ice caps, and also because of the fact that warmer water expands and takes up a larger volume. Even very small increases in temperature can have measurable impact on sea level. In riparian aquaculture, increased incursions of salt water can reduce yield or make operations untenable. Changes in water salinity also has enormous impacts on the presence and prevalence of species, which can throw aquaculture operations into chaos.
Further offshore, higher ocean temperatures are likely to cause stronger and more frequent storms. This is problematic for deep-water aquaculture operations, requiring a more robust infrastructure and increasing costs from storm damage. Warmer temperatures can also cause instability in marine ecosystems, as invasive species enter areas that were formerly too cold for them. This can cause issues for aquaculture operations that were predicated on a particular local ecosystem. Inshore operations are not immune to this change; many aquaculture operations rely on the monsoon season and it is expected that changing water temperatures will tend to disrupt this major weather pattern.
A significant portion of global aquaculture comes from the cultivation of mollusks. Mollusks as a group tend to be very temperature sensitive, and as waters warm, mollusk-growing operations will need to move to colder waters in order to maintain yield. When that is not possible, that portion of the aquaculture system could cease to function.
One major, albeit indirect, disruption could come from changing availability of freshwater inshore. Ecologists anticipate that global warming will cause reductions in the availability of freshwater, particularly in Africa and Asia, and as a result of this water stress, water for aquaculture development may simply not be available.
Unfortunately, it seems likely that future water temperature increases will have an increasing impact on the development of new aquaculture projects. Currently, the majority of world aquaculture is in the tropics, and although those areas are still growing strongly, new development is likely to center around the temperate zones of our planet. Increases in ocean temperature is expected to be significantly higher in the colder northern and southern waters than in the equatorial zone. That means that new aquaculture projects, for example off the eastern seaboard of the United States, are likely to be severely impacted by water temperature changes.
Fish farming in the ocean and off the coasts has become an enormous business. Declining wild fisheries and an insatiable (and growing) global appetite for fish have created tremendous opportunities for the development of oceanic aquaculture. Local cultures have conducted aquaculture (generally in lakes and river systems, rather than the ocean) for thousands of years, but modern aquaculture has become a globally important food source. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about half of the world’s food fish come from aquaculture, and the sector continues to grow at an astonishing rate – five to six percent annual increases in production are the norm. Total aquaculture production is over 80 million tons per year of fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and aquatic plants.
There are two basic types of oceanic fish farming. Coastal farming involves shallow-water farms located on the coast, along rivers, or in lakes. Open ocean farming involves deep-water farms that are not tied to a specific coastal location. There are important differences in these two approaches to oceanic aquaculture.
Coastal fish farming is the predominant form of oceanic aquaculture today. In a coastal aquaculture facility, pens or fish cages are deployed along the coastline, often in a protected bay or inlet. Most crustacean and mollusk farming is done inshore, using racks on which the food animals are grown. Depending on the species being farmed, the nutrients for the farmed food animals might come from the water itself, from the provision of forage fish, or from the addition of nutrients into the water in soluble form.
There are advantages to farming fish along the coast. Because the facility is located near the shore, storms are attenuated by the proximity of the landmass, and both workers and shipping infrastructure are close at hand. Operators can bring in supplies and export product from the convenience of local railheads and ports. Because the water is generally shallow at the coastline, it is also possible for operators to use ranch-style techniques, building habitats on the sea bottom for desirable fish such as abalone, and then simply catching the fish in the normal fashion without needing to closely manage the population.
Coastal farms have a number of significant disadvantages as well. Coastal areas are subject to intense competition from other uses such as recreational activities, fisheries, ports, and renewable energy development. Fixed-site aquaculture also has fairly severe environmental impacts on the delicate coastal ecosystem. Fish farms produce large quantities of waste and excess nutrients, which settle onto a fixed location on the sea bottom. This can utterly disrupt or even extinguish the local benthic ecosystem, causing repercussions to fisheries and tourism. Disease among the fish stocks is also a major problem, and because coastal fish farms can be close to one another, a disease which decimates one population can spread to other operations, even crossing species barriers.
Offshore fish farming, or deep-ocean aquaculture, cuts the ties to the shore, although not to the sea bottom. Generally, an offshore facility is tethered to the bottom and anchored to buoys, so that cages can move up and down in the water column but are still at a fixed location in the ocean. An offshore aquaculture can be sited almost anywhere, and does not have to compete with pleasure boating or fishing fleets. In addition, the much greater area (and stronger currents) available for dispersal of waste products and excess nutrients means that the environmental impact is significantly reduced or eliminated. Disease transmission is less problematic, and experimental offshore aquaculture operations have found that parasitic infestations are much more easily managed in the relative isolation of an offshore facility. Offshore locations are also more able to coexist with other uses of the same area of the ocean; since the cages can be moved deeper into the water than is possible in a coastal area, other uses such as boating can be accommodated.
Offshore aquaculture has its own set of problems, however. The expense of building cages that can withstand the storms and currents of the open ocean is considerable. Because the environmental conditions are more rigorous in the open sea, fish escapes are more likely to occur, which has ramifications both in terms of cost and in the potential for the introduction of invasive species to ecologically vulnerable areas of ocean. In addition, the laws and regulatory environments that apply close to shore (within the three-mile limit, for example) become more complex further out to sea; for this reason, off-shore aquaculture in the United States has primarily developed only in areas of the ocean that are unambiguously under Federal jurisdiction so that operators can have a predictable legal environment in which to do business.
Despite the potential issues and problems that arise in both coastal and offshore aquaculture, it is a certainty that these areas of economic activity will continue to grow and expand. Fish are a vital part of the global food infrastructure and aquaculture is rapidly becoming the dominant way in which this sector produces its output.
Thank you to Aquaculture North America for the coverage of the HydroView pro 7M/AQ in the Jan/Feb 2016 edition. The HydroView Pro 7M/AQ is configured specifically to address the needs of aquaculture applications and includes options most requested by fish farm operators.
To learn more about Aquaculture North America, visit their website at www.aquaculturenorthamerica.com.