Technology is harnessing an ocean of resources and bringing remote corners of the world closer together.
Did you know that people are eating nearly as much farmed fish as nonfarmed fish? The gap could narrow faster thanks to innovations such as Ocean Farm 1. Picture an electric yellow Ferris wheel lying on its side. Ocean Farm 1 is by far the largest open-ocean fish farm in the world and home to 1.5 million baby salmon.
The experimental Norwegian fish farm, owned by SalMar, is solving a host of problems that have challenged traditional aquaculture. Ocean Farm 1 sits in the open sea off Norway, which is deeper and better oxygenated than fjords. Stronger currents disperse fish waste material quickly.
To get a better understanding of how salmon behave, the fish farm is gathering data from oxygen and echo sensors and cameras. It plans to use the data to automate feeding, pushing feed at the best times and depths for the salmon. If successful, many more fish can be sustainably farmed — taking pressure off wild fisheries.
Opportunities for underwater innovation extend far beyond fishing, however, and are as vast as the oceans themselves:
- Saildrones are doing the work of manned research ships at a fraction of the cost. These autonomous vessels resemble a bright red surfboard powered by a carbon fiber sail. Their array of sensors can measure carbon dioxide, acidity, currents, water temperature and much more. Saildrones can stay at sea indefinitely and have been used to study the El Niño effect, track melting ice, count sea life and even detect submarines smuggling illegal drugs.
- The environment itself helps a new kind of autonomous boat called the AutoNaut, developed in the United Kingdom, monitor ocean conditions and marine wildlife. Solar energy powers the boat’s sensors, and energy harvested from the motion of waves provides the propulsion.
- Google is expanding its cloud business to new regions by expanding its undersea fiber optic cable network. The cables will reach new customers and help improve service. Google’s network accounts for about 24 percent of the world’s internet traffic.
- Riptide Autonomous Solutions, a Massachusetts drone company, is working on a system of small torpedo drones that can be deployed to create a temporary acoustic communications chain in any area of the ocean by bouncing data from drone to drone.
PHOTO ABOVE: Ocean Farm 1, Norway