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Case Studies

Enhancing Aquaculture Sustainability with Hydrus

By Last edited May 30th, 2024No Comments
Case Study Tassal

Key Points

  • Hydrus is revolutionising the aquaculture industry by offering cost-effective and sustainable solutions for monitoring seabed health. 
  • Tassal is utilising Hydrus to streamline seabed monitoring, resulting in improved efficiency, enhanced data quality, and reduced environmental impact.  
  • Hydrus empowers aquaculture companies to achieve a balance between economic success and responsible environmental practices.

Tassal is an aquaculture company based in Tasmania, Australia. It is the largest vertically integrated salmon, barramundi and prawn grower, and seafood processor in Australia, employing over 2,000 people across the country. In 2022, Tassal Group was acquired by Cooke Seafood of Canada.

Navigating the Future of Aquaculture: A Case Study with Tassal

Aquaculture, the practice of farming fish in controlled environments, holds great promise in addressing the growing demand for seafood while alleviating the strain on wild fish populations. However, aquaculture companies often find themselves facing the dual challenge of negotiating economic viability and responsible environmental management.

Tassal, a prominent player in Australia’s aquaculture industry, has explored how to leverage Advanced Navigation’s micro-autonomous underwater vehicle (micro-AUV), Hydrus, as a data collection tool. By integrating Hydrus into their operations, Tassal aims to not only streamline their seabed monitoring process but also usher in a new era of enhanced environmental stewardship.

Beneath the Surface: Aquaculture’s Environmental Challenge Down Under

Despite its benefits — including increased seafood production, reduced pressure on wild fisheries, economic opportunities for communities, and the provision of a stable source of essential nutrients — aquaculture is not without its challenges. In the absence of diligent management, overcrowded fish pens, waste buildup, disease outbreaks, and habitat degradation could pose potential threats to seabed health and overall marine ecosystem integrity.

For this reason, the aquaculture industry must adhere to regulations set out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), such as a mandate to routinely monitor and maintain the health of seabeds beneath fish pens. This is done through a method known as benthic surveys, a qualitative assessment designed to gather information about the organisms, sediments, and physical characteristics of the seabed. 

To date, Tassal has employed tethered remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to carry out benthic sampling. Despite its advantages, this approach does typically require large crews and expensive equipment. For users who are sensitive to cost, this may make it difficult to detect and address issues in a timely manner if inspections are not conducted regularly.

Fishing for Solutions: How Hydrus is Revolutionising Aquaculture

These challenges will hopefully be a thing of the past – thanks to micro-AUVs, such as Hydrus, a pioneer marine technology that is changing the game for aquaculture operations. Engineered with precision and innovation, this underwater robot offers aquaculture companies a cost-effective and sustainable solution to monitor seabed health.

How Hydrus impacts the aquaculture landscape: 

  1. Access to enhanced imagery data: Unlike Tassal’s previous use of a tethered ROV, which required tilting its camera away from the seabed for simultaneous piloting and data collection, Hydrus, being fully autonomous, can position its 4K camera directly at the seabed. This captures flat, undistorted images ideal for creating a mosaic of the entire survey area. This mosaic effectively represents a digital twin of the seabed, enabling spatial and temporal analysis of changes in seabed composition over time.
  2.  Improved operational efficiency through autonomy: Hydrus autonomously records time and location data, eliminating the need for manual data input. Tassal can also create a catalog of preset missions for Hydrus, reducing the reliance for specialised expertise. Anyone at the pens can simply select a mission for Hydrus to run on independently, freeing up personnel for other tasks and optimising resource utilisation. Furthermore, the data collected by Hydrus on each mission can be reviewed directly on the boat immediately after recovery.
  3. Simple and cost-effective benthic surveying: In contrast to the resource-intensive deployment of ROV equipment, Hydrus’ simplicity and versatility enables environmental teams to investigate the seabed more regularly for anomalies and track spatial and temporal changes.

In summary, Hydrus is not just a game-changer; it’s a transformative force in the aquaculture industry, offering advanced capabilities, improved efficiency, and unprecedented independence to aquaculture operations like Tassal.

A Win-Win Solution: Hydrus Offers Benefits for Aquaculture Fisheries and the Environment

The advantages that Hydrus can bring to the aquaculture industry will not only benefit the companies operating in the field, but they also translate into direct benefits for the environment. This can be accomplished through the following ways:

  • High-Frequency Data Collection: Hydrus operates continuously, and as such, this high-frequency monitoring enables aquaculture companies to detect issues promptly, enhancing Tassal’s ability to protect their fish and the environment.
  • Improved Data Quality: Hydrus offers precise and consistent data collection, reducing the risk of human error. This accuracy enhances the quality of information used by Tassal’s decision-makers, ultimately benefiting both their business operations and their environmental stewardship.
  • Environmental Protection: By aiding in proactive seabed monitoring, Hydrus is helping Tassal reduce its environmental footprint. This contributes to the broader goals of preserving marine ecosystems and adhering to regulatory standards.

Operating right out of the box, Hydrus requires minimal setup, and its automated operation minimises the need for constant human presence and expensive equipment, significantly lowering the cost to carry out benthic surveys. This translates into a “win-win” solution for both Tassal and the environment.

The data sample shown above was obtained from a location outside of Tassal Group for illustrative purposes.

Charting the Course: Environmental and Economic Convergence in Aquaculture

It is essential to acknowledge that aquaculture companies often operate within the constraints of a competitive market and regulatory thresholds. In addition to staying economically viable, however, companies nowadays also place a great deal of emphasis on environmental stewardship and responsible practices. Hydrus offers a path toward achieving this balance.

Tassal’s collaboration with Advanced Navigation underscores the notion that, in the realm of aquaculture, it is indeed possible for all stakeholders to emerge as winners. The use of micro-AUVs empowers companies to monitor seabed health more effectively, which both enhances their operations and provides richer environmental data, all at a lower cost. By striking this balance, aquaculture businesses can thrive, regulators can be satisfied, and our oceans can remain healthy for generations to come.

hydrus
Hydrus

Hydrus takes the drone revolution underwater with the most
advanced sonar, navigation and communications systems of any
subsea vehicle. It contains a DVL, USBL, INS, acoustic and optical
modems, all tightly integrated. This enables highly reliable, fully
autonomous underwater missions at your fingertips. It also provides
obstacle detection and collision avoidance.