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4 Ways Deep Trekker ROVs Save Fish Farms Money

Rachel Doornekamp   |   July 8, 2020

Robotics in aquaculture are commonly used to solve challenges with regards to underwater inspection and monitoring. From net inspection to mort removal to feed monitoring, Deep Trekker ROVs provide farms with an effective and efficient way to optimize operations.

In addition to providing operators with a safe and dependable way to complete tasks around the farm, Deep Trekker ROVs allow teams to make the most of their budget.

Net Health

Deep Trekker submersible ROVs provide operators with a safe, reliable and accurate way to monitor net integrity.

Kana Upton, Fish Farm Biologist/Manager at Aqua-Cage Fisheries shared, “We typically use Deep Trekker ROVs to check out net pens for holes, so we’re checking the physical net structure. This is part of our due diligence and maintenance program but it’s also a requirement for the certification that we hold. We also monitor anchors and make sure that everything is still in check.”

By consistently checking nets, farms are able to ensure that everything is safe and in place. Furthermore, regular inspection means that minor wear and tear is caught early, before a catastrophe such as an escape can take place.

In addition to the inspection of nets, Deep Trekker ROVs provide users with a reliable way to temporarily mend holes until a more permanent repair can be made. Cristian Aguilera of Deep Trekker SpA built on this when he explained, “predators like sea lions cut the nets and our net patching tool allows for quick emergency repairs.”

By staying on top of net, anchors and mooring line integrity, as well as quickly repairing holes, Deep Trekker ROVs allow farms to maximize their budgets.

Reduced Diver Use

ROVs provide a safe alternative to divers, allowing farm operators to optimize their spending. The use of an ROV in lieu of divers provides farms with benefits in terms of finances, time and most importantly human safety. “It’s a safety concern having a diver in the water no matter what they’re doing,” said Upton. It is important to note that the use of ROVs “is not to get rid of the divers, but protect them,” as stated by Aguilera.

By using an ROV, teams are able to save significant amounts of time and money while keeping divers safe.

Chilean based Aguilera noted that farms in his area “changed from divers to ROVs about 6 years ago.” Aguilera went on to say that, “most of the things that are done on a fish farm today, whether that be inspections or mort retrieving, are done together with the ROVs.”

Upton echoed this sentiment, “there hasn’t been a diver in the water for about 15 years now. Having a scuba diver check these nets presents an enormous amount of challenges. Bottom time is extremely limited at these depths, meaning that you can’t check as many nets in a day. Our regulations have also made it difficult to scuba dive at all without a special license or extensive training and support teams.”

The quick deployment and easy portability of Deep Trekker ROVs allow farms to use a submersible vehicle for smaller tasks that would otherwise require a dive team to complete. Sverre Føyen, site manager for Erko Seafood, noted that the easy and convenient deployment of the ROV allowed him and his team to save money. “Before we bought the ROV we had to contact divers for every little thing, from losing an item in one of the cages or just a quick check,” said Sverre. “I think that I have saved the price of buying the unit a few times since now I can do all the small things that I before needed divers to fix or check.”

Gerry Burry, Site Manager at MOWI’s Quatsino operating area in British Columbia agreed with Føyen in terms of the convenience of an ROV for getting eyes underwater quickly and safely.

“You can see your fish whenever you want to,” says Burry. “Plus, every time we can prevent a scuba diver from entering the water, we increase safety and save money, it doesn’t take long for one single unit to pay for itself.”

Feed Monitoring

Farms can make use of their ROV to monitor the feeding of their stock and ensure that they are employing the most efficient feeding practices. Upton detailed feed monitoring with the use of robotics. “Feed is by far the most expensive component at the fish farm,” highlighted Upton. Using robotic solutions, Aqua-Cage Fisheries can monitor the feed intake of their stock.

“We’ve been working with Deep Trekker to develop a system to observe fish feeding in excessively warm temperatures,” explained Upton. “What happens when our water temperature reaches about 24 or 25 Celcius, which is surprisingly warm for our area, the larger fish who are getting the most feed don’t like to come up to that surface water, where it really piles up and heats up in that top metre or two. Instead they like to hang out at a cooler temperature down deep. This could be 20, 30 feet deep.”

In more typical conditions, personnel are able to observe and monitor feeding behaviours from the feed boat. However in these warmer conditions the fish don’t come up to the surface, making observation from the feed boat impossible. “The problem is the fish are hanging out at depth and we can’t observe their feeding from the surface,” continued Upton. Using the DTPod, Upton and her team can conveniently and accurately observe underwater feeding behaviours. “It allows us to better gauge the feed that we’ve rationed for the cages so that we are not underfeeding and allows us to get the fish up to size efficiently,” explained Upton.

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In addition to observing feeding, Deep Trekker ROVs can be used to minimize the need for sampling and handling, thereby reducing stress. Sampling is time consuming and raises cortisol levels in fish. At certain times of the year when oxygen levels are lower and water temperatures are higher, farms try to minimize handling to prevent loss. A DTG3 or REVOLUTION ROV make for useful alternatives to help assess pen conditions while not meaningfully affecting cortisol levels. By using an ROV or submersible camera to observe key behavioural indicators, technicians can make educated judgments about the current state of health and welfare in their pens. Common diseases among fish are the source of billions of dollars in loss annually. Early identification will go a long way in preventing the spread of costly diseases. ISA, for example, can cause major economic losses to infected farms. The fish develop pale gills, and may swim close to the water surface, gulping for air. Symptoms of ISA and other ailments can be caught early by monitoring fish appearance and behaviour with Deep Trekker’s ROVs or DTPods. With early detection, health challenges can be identified before they impact your bottom line.

Demonstrated Cost Savings

By examining MOWI’s ROV usage over the years, the Deep Trekker team was able to determine the value created over the life of a Deep Trekker ROV. As a part of our analysis, the following key terms were used to determine value creation:

Estimated Dive Hours Saved

This is based on the number of hours per week divers would spend in the water at the average farm doing visual inspections only, and then multiplied by the length of time the ROV has been in operation.

Dive Costs to Date

The amount that would have been spent on divers if the company had not invested in an ROV. Based on a cost of $250/hour.

Value Creation to Date

The amount they've saved on divers minus the initial cost of the ROV.

Future Dive Hours Saved

This is the estimated dive hours saved based on the remaining lifespan of the ROV, multiplied by 5 hours per week.

Expected Value Created Over Remainder of Lifetime

This is the estimated amount saved on divers over the remainder of the ROV's life.

Expected Total Value Creation

Value creation to date plus the expected value created over the ROV’s life.


  • Average unit cost: $7,900 USD
  • Total units in service: 17
  • Estimated dive hours saved: 14,898
  • Estimated dive costs saved to date: $3,724,500 USD
  • Estimated value created to date: $3,608,052 USD
  • Estimated future dive hours saved by newest ROVs: 1,742
  • Estimated value created over remainder of lifetime: $435,500
  • Estimated expected total value creation: $4,043,552 USD

Learn more about Deep Trekker ROVs in our Optimizing Environmental Safety on Fish Farms with an ROV and 5 Ways ROVs Help Mitigate Risks Concerning Fish Health. If you have any further questions the Deep Trekker team is here to help. Ready to get the journey started? Get your customized quote.

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