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What do Underwater Drones have to do with Offshore Aquaculture?

Kiara Vallier   |   April 13, 2016

The global debate surrounding the sustainability and environmental consequences of the aquaculture industry continues. At the same time, the need for food sources to nourish the Earth’s growing population is a worrying concern. On one side of the spectrum there are critics who are completely against all aquaculture. The opposite view believes that all aquaculture should be allowed to take place. Popular opinion lays somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, believing that aquaculture in some form is acceptable but that limitations and restrictions are necessary to protect against negative environmental implications.

There are currently aquaculture operations taking place around the globe on both land and sea. For the most part ocean aquaculture operations take place along the coast in shallow waters with less current. Recently the Norwegian Government gave the go-ahead for the company Ocean Farming AS, supported by Kongsberg Maritime AS, to build the world’s first “offshore” aquaculture development project. To learn more about the project and offshore aquaculture read the story here.

We have written numerous blogs about mini-ROVS and how they can be used to improve ocean aquaculture operations, but did not speak specifically about offshore fish farming. In this post we will examine how the use of a tool like Deep Trekker's DTX2 remotely operated vehicle (ROV) has the potential to be a huge asset to offshore aquaculture farms as they develop in the future.
Deep Trekker’s very first customer was a fish farm in Norway and we have since developed and strengthened our ties with that industry to better identify and meet the needs of customers in aquaculture. Deep Trekker’s DTX2 ROV is a response to those needs. It is built utilizing the same creative and robust engineering that is the hallmark of our DTG2 ROVs. The same patented pitching system is combined with 4 powerful vectored thrusters, allowing operators to execute lateral movements with ease and making tasks such as net inspections a breeze. The DTX2 comes equipped with additional auxiliary lights, 150 meters of tether and the same easy viewing and operating capabilities present on our DTG2 ROV model.

By focusing on offshore aquaculture operations specifically, it is easy to see why the DTX2 ROV is a better fit for farm utilization than smaller units such as the DTG2 ROV. Using a mini-ROV on a farm can offer the same benefits to offshore aquaculture as experienced on near-shore operations. These include quick and easy net inspections, reducing the likelihood of escapes, improving employee knowledge of the underwater environment, possessing the ability to retrieve dropped objects, and the ability to conduct species and benthic monitoring.

However offshore farms will generally be found in deep, open water, a considerable distance from shore. This can bring about multiple reasons as to why they need to be considered separately from the rest of ocean aquaculture. First of all, the further you swim out in the ocean, the stronger the currents get and the deeper the water goes. Typically, smaller ROVs in deeper water and stronger currents are less likely to be able to withstand the elements and the sustained use required in aquaculture applications on the open sea.

The DTX2 ROV's depth rating of 305 meters and its ability to withstand currents of up to 3.5 knots make it a natural choice for these more extreme ocean conditions. Divers are also less likely to be a safe and time efficient option for inspection purposes on such farms. Currents may be too strong or the identified concern may be too deep for a human to swim.

Utilizing an ROV can be the perfect solution to making sure that you can still monitor and maintain all aspects of your farm.
Challenging ocean currents, greater depths and more daunting elements require that the infrastructure of offshore aquaculture farms be improved and developed to withstand the environment and to increase yield and profitability. An ROV like the DTX2 can bring about two major benefits.

First, constant inspections are very important ensuring that no underwater structures are compromised and that fish are healthy and contained. As a farm moves further out into the water and faces more force in terms of winds and currents, the importance of effective, timely inspections increases.

The second benefit is that with new infrastructure, comes the task of farm managers, employees and other staff being educated on how these structures and operations must be maintained. An ROV like the DTX2 allows farm managers and owners to capture live video footage of the underwater structure to ensure that the operations staff have a complete understanding of the farm workings.

It will be interesting to see how the industry of offshore aquaculture develops throughout the world. One thing for certain is that having a mini-ROV to act as your eyes underwater will be a major advantage to anyone looking to start up and develop a healthy and profitable operation site.

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