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3 Ways Kana Upton and Aqua-Cage Fisheries Use Their ROV

Deep Trekker is proud to provide submersible remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to the aquaculture industry. By providing a safe and effective way of performing a variety of tasks around the farm, Deep Trekker is able to empower fish farm operators around the world.

We were thrilled to speak to Kana Upton of Aqua-Cage Fisheries to hear how Upton and her team use their Deep Trekker ROV around the farm.

Net Inspection

One of the primary uses for ROVs in aquaculture is to inspect nets, including mooring lines and anchors.

Regular net and mooring inspections are crucial in fish farming. Pen inspections are incredibly important for monitoring regular wear and tear, maintaining cleanliness, and ensuring mooring line and anchor points are secured. By guaranteeing structural integrity, farms prevent costly escapes and are able to repair minor issues quickly before they become potentially costly disasters.

“We typically use Deep Trekker to check out net pens for holes, so we’re checking the physical net structure,” shared Upton. “This is part of our due diligence and maintenance program but it’s also a requirement for the certification that we hold.”

In addition to checking net structure Upton explained, “we observe fish feeding and check for mortalities. We also monitor anchors and make sure that everything is still in check.”

By using an ROV for net inspections as opposed to a diver, farms are able to save both time and money, while keeping human divers safe. Upton notes, “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 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.

Fix Entanglements Around the Farm

Deep Trekker ROVs are versatile vehicles that can be used for a variety of purposes around the farm. Upton shared a specific case study where the ROV allowed the Aqua-Cage Fisheries team to quickly and safely discover and fix an entanglement.

“We had an instance where the ROV was used to untangle an anchor from a line it got wrapped around,” said Upton. “We have very large 2 inch thick rope and that’s what secures our cages to the bottom. It holds it in place in wind and currents. The actual nets that the fish are contained within are held open by anchors that are attached to the bottoms and it keeps the shape of the net open in all sorts of currents and events. These anchors are hung on the outside bottom of the nets, without them it would look like an empty shopping bag blowing in the wind. There are 10 anchors attached to the outside bottom of each one of these cages.”

Upton and her team knew from topside that something was going on beneath the surface and they needed to check the nets quickly. “We got the ROV out and we could see when we put it in the water that the net’s anchor had actually wrapped around and intertwined around 3 mooring lines that hold the entire structure in place.”

“This entanglement happened about 25 feet below the surface...Without the ROV we wouldn’t know what was going on, we wouldn't know where that line runs, we wouldn’t know if it was connected to any other of those 10 anchors underneath the cages,” explained Upton.

Following the discovery of the entanglement it was necessary to confirm that the remaining pens were safe and intact. “With the ROV we ran underneath the cages, followed the lines and could see that they weren’t entangled - they came up on the other side and we could see that they were free. We knew that we didn’t have to pull up any other anchors, just the one surrounding that area.”

Feed Monitoring

Upton also 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 Celsius, 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.

Deep Trekker Difference

The durability and toughness of Deep Trekker vehicles prove very useful in the varying conditions of a fish farm. “The water temperature isn’t a concern at all, we’ll use the ROV regularly at any time of the year. Where we’re located we get extreme temperatures down to -30, -40 fahrenheit,” shared Upton.

Deep Trekker ROVs are battery operated, meaning that they don’t require an outside power source. The portability afforded by this provides users with great advantages and ease of use.

“The ROV takes 30 seconds to get in the water,” said Upton. “The battery lasts for several hours, the operator usually wears out before the battery does, needing a lunch break or something.”

Deep Trekker also provides industry specific add-ons to enhance your capabilities. From Net Repair Systems to Mort Pusher Kits to Water Samplers, Deep Trekker ROVs are equipped to perform on fish farms.

We sincerely thank Upton for her time and insight. You can learn more about the use of Deep Trekker vehicles in aquaculture by checking out our case studies with MOWI and Erko Seafood.

Our team is here to help you, reach out today to get your questions answered. When you’re ready to get a vehicle of your own you can request a custom quote.