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Canadian Fish Farm Describes Use of Underwater Drone

Aqua-Cage Fisheries is a Northern Ontario Aquaculture enterprise that harvests rainbow trout for the consumer market. Aqua-cage employees working at the farm receive fingerlings from hatcheries in Southern Ontario. They monitor, observe and feed them in the open waters of Georgian Bay. Ensuring that the farm's structure and protocols are maintained for optimum health is an important task.

_DSC0071(small)Last year, Aqua-Cage Fisheries acquired a Deep Trekker DTG2, mini-remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to help with their sub-surface tasks. Deep Trekker Inc. is a Canadian company that manufactures and sells remotely operated underwater inspection systems and pipe crawler inspection systems around the world. The first ROV unit was sold to a fish farm in Norway in 2011. The use of Deep Trekker's ROVs has been growing tremendously in the aquaculture market ever since.

Kana Upton is an Aqua-Cage biologist. In the interview below, she answered a series of questions from Deep Trekker (DT) regarding their farm and the use of the Deep Trekker DTG2 ROV system there:

DT: What does your project/work consist of? (Overall summary of what you are doing)

Kana: We are an open-water cage farm in Northern Ontario that produces Rainbow Trout for the food market. Our work consists of receiving fingerlings from hatcheries in Southern Ontario, growing the fish in the open waters of Georgian Bay and harvesting for a processor who ships them to major grocery stores.

DT: What is the purpose of what you are doing?

Kana: Our purpose is to be profitable while producing environmentally sustainable fish that are a high quality, healthy product for the consumer.

DT: How have you integrated the use of the DTG2 ROV?

Kana: We use the Deep Trekker ROV for a multitude of jobs around the farm. We do not employ commercial divers; instead, we are able to accomplish our subsurface checks in a safe top-side environment. Some of the tasks we use the DTG2 for include; routinely checking the fish nets for holes, monitoring fish behaviour and health, visual inspections of mooring lines and anchors, monitoring feeding, and checking cage depths – ensuring we are never touching the bottom.


DT: How did you handle these types of tasks before you had the ROV?

Kana: Before Deep Trekker we had another company's unit… two units in fact. We needed two because while one was away for necessary repairs/maintenance, we could not afford down-time and a second unit was essential to get us through that month or two (hoping it didn’t develop issues also). We’ve only needed one Deep Trekker even though it is less expensive than the other companies submersible

DT: Have you made any interesting discoveries/findings/results that have been helpful to your work?

Kana: Our work with ROVs is fairly routine. It’s always fun to see the amount of fish outside the nets, especially when you set the ROV down on the substrate under the nets and 30-40 wild fish come check you out.

DT: You said you owned another ROV before the Deep Trekker system. How does the DTG2 compare to it?

Kana: The Deep Trekker unit is unique in the fact that the battery is housed within the submersible unit. This significantly cuts down on set up time and equipment required to run the ROV. For example, with the other units we had, I would need to bring an inverter/generator, fuel, a TV (as the screen was too small), an extension cord, the unit’s box, the controller box, and all necessary connection cables.

With the Deep Trekker, I wheel one box around. The unit requires maybe 20 seconds to get in the water. The best part for me is not having the constant sounds and exhaust fumes from the inverter. The Deep Trekker is completely silent top-side. Plus it’s fast in the water! Really fast! We are currently getting a modification added to our unit that will allow us to check nets quicker and more effectively.

DT: Has the DTG2 saved you time or money?

Kana: When looking at investing in an ROV there are two things to consider. First, the initial cost of the unit. We found Deep Trekker units to be very reasonably priced, sometimes less than half the cost of other units (considering comparable models). The second thing to consider are the costs related to repairs, modifications and maintenance work.

Operating within Canada, we have found that shipping across the border is very costly and usually involves lengthy shipping times. Having units that continually need servicing adds up quickly! In addition, the Deep Trekker is much cheaper than using divers. It is also more functional than divers because bottom time is not limited. Experienced operators can use the units all day, every day.

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DT: What are the next steps in your work?

Kana: We strive to improve wherever we can; to become more efficient and to ensure we only have positive impacts on the environment.

DT: Will you be planning on using the ROV?

Kana: We will continue to use the Deep Trekker for all future sub-surface inspections.

DT: What are some of the challenges that you have faced during your work?

Kana: Untangling lines has been a challenge as well as seeing that our nets are hanging properly.

DT: Has having the ROV assisted in solving problems or challenges that you faced before owning it?

Kana: We’ve had the owner of Deep Trekker to our farm a couple times and I am extremely satisfied with their customer interaction. Deep Trekker works with farms in the Aquaculture industry to help solve problems we face, such as taking effective sediment samples, and patching nets. It all helps to keep more people out of the water and safely on a boat/dock. This is a great company to interact with. They care about their customers’ experience with the unit and strive to make their product work for you.

_DSC0083(small)DT: What do you think of the customer service you have received for the ROV?

Kana: I can’t say enough about the customer service we have received. Having the owner of the company make visits to demo, and again try out new features has been invaluable. They work diligently to solve industry problems and come up with effective solutions. Deep Trekker is an obvious addition to any underwater work. It’s cheaper, safer and often more functional than divers and it’s cheaper, more dependable, better service and more functional than the competitor.

A special thank you to Kana Upton and Aqua-Cage Fisheries for taking the time to answer our questions and share their experiences with the Deep Trekker DTG2 ROV system.

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