Safe, sustainable and cost-effective – how IoT and AI is helping the seafood industry.

How can New Zealand’s seafood industry become safer, more sustainable and more cost-effective? Disruptive technologies are transforming the way we catch, monitor and store seafood, helping drive the industry toward a better future.  

Using artificial intelligence (AI), to analyse data from devices connected to the internet of things (IoT), systems can now provide seafood businesses with essential information to help them succeed.  

Precision seafood harvesting and aquaculture  

With a set of sensors in the water, a seafood business can be receiving a wealth of information about the water and the wildlife within it. This allows for more accurate harvesting of aquaculture, with reduced waste and more streamlined processes.  

This is already being used in offshore salmon farms, where cameras and water-quality sensors can monitor the health and growth rate of the animals. IoT devices capture the information and AI provides an automated analysis.  

Smart buoys can also provide commercial vessels with information on the location of schools of fish, the approximate number of fish and the species. This means vessels can focus on the species they are targeting and avoid catching juveniles, which promotes sustainable fishing.  

World-leading AI on commercial vessels 

Spark Business Group has been appointed prime supplier by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to manage the rollout, training and support for the installation of on-board cameras on New Zealand in-shore fishing vessels.  

Our Customer Director, Grant McBeath, says, “We are excited to support this project, which aims to promote more sustainable business practices on fishing boats and support the conservation of protected ocean species using the power of technology.    

“Combining on-board cameras with IoT, artificial intelligence and machine learning, cloud computing and data and analytics, will provide clearer, independent data to help inform policy decisions, scientific research and fisheries management.   

“Spark Business Group is uniquely positioned to deliver this innovative and secure technology solution, because we can bring together expertise across the full spectrum of modern and emerging technologies through a highly effective ‘one-supplier' operating model.”   

The program leverages the strong capability of Spark Business Group, including services, skills and expertise from across Spark, Spark IoT, Qrious, CCL, Leaven and Entelar.

Tracked vessels and products improve efficiency  

A vessel, a forklift, or a shipment of hki – seafood businesses can now track all of these items, from small to large. With IoT technology, any one of these assets can be connected to a network and receive real-time data about its location and condition.  

This allows businesses to follow the movement of vessels, improve fleet management and optimise fuel use. Analytical models let decision-makers make real-time adjustments, boosting efficiency and profitability within the business.  

The condition of the asset can also be tracked, including its temperature and humidity. An IoT device on a shipment can provide a text alert if the temperature or humidity exceed set points, allowing the asset owner to act fast to prevent spoilage.  

How AI is protecting the Māui dolphin  

The Māui dolphin is the world’s rarest dolphin species – with around 50 individuals left, they are rarer than kiwi and critically endangered. Each dolphin is precious, and one of the main threats it faces comes from commercial fishing. So serious is the situation that in late 2022, the US banned the import of seafood from Māui dolphin habitats, a decision that could cost the industry up to $2 million annually. 

But we have a new tool in the fight to protect the smallest dolphins in the ocean: artificial intelligence. Qrious has worked with MAUI63 (a not-for-profit tech company dedicated to protecting the species) to develop a drone that identifies and tracks Māui dolphins.  

The drone recognises a Māui or Hector’s dolphin, distinguishing them from other species with over 90% accuracy. The drone follows the dolphin, so the remaining population can be mapped. Using this data, Qrious is working to predict where dolphins will be.  

Real-time data delivers outstanding results for Westpac Mussels 

Mussels can only be harvested when ocean salinity is in the Goldilocks zone: not too high and not too low. In the past, salinity was measured via inaccurate and delayed rain data, or using legacy data buoys that need weekly cleaning.  

Now there’s a better way. Working with Spark IoT, Westpac Mussels has switched to new data buoys that deliver salinity data every 40 minutes. The Westpac Mussels team accesses the information on a phone app or online. The result has been fewer missed opportunities and more harvesting time. As a bonus, the buoys only need cleaning eight times a year instead of 50, saving additional time and money.  

Texts from dolphins at SailGP  

The SailGP event in March 2023 brought nine F50 foiling catamarans and 200 spectator boats to Whakaraupō Lyttleton Harbour – great news for Kiwi sport, but a risk to the local marine mammal population.  

Luckily, Spark and Styles Group had a solution: buoys around the race that provided acoustic monitoring and detected any dolphins from as far away as hundreds of metres from the race zone. When a dolphin was detected, the system would send a text and track the dolphin so race organisers knew where it was and could take action.   

“It’s as if the animal comes into the bay and sends a text message to let you know it's there,” Dr Matt Pine, Principal Scientist of Underwater Acoustics for Styles Group told the press. “The ‘voice’ part of the system is the communication network provided by Spark, which gave priority to the network so it would never drop out.  

“If there’s an animal there, we have to know about it.” 

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