Surrounded by innovation

By: Meredith Burke and Catilin Stockwell

Over the past few decades, technological advances have completely revolutionized our society. It has influenced the way we live our lives, from the way we watch TV, to the way we conduct our scientific research. However, the aquaculture industry has fallen by the wayside. Big data, collected and distributed to our hands in the form of apps, have begun to dominate our world, so why is this not the case in one of the fastest growing industries in the world?

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Farming fish with the Atlantic Canada in the background

Atlantic Canada has recently emerged as a global leader in ocean technology, as well as playing host to one of the largest aquaculture companies in the world, Cooke Aquaculture. We have the unique opportunity of being surrounded by innovation. We are able to work side by side with the developers, as well as the consumers, to field test new technologies, and optimize their performance prior to commercialization.

However, aquaculture is still a relatively young industry, often operating in remote places, so introducing the use of technology has been difficult. Through research projects, we have been able to merge two key industry partners: ocean technology via InnovaSea, and salmon aquaculture, through Cooke, in order to improve management practices.

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Meredith’s research focuses primarily on using real-time sensors to study water quality parameters, like oxygen and temperature, to understand how they vary through a farm, and what may influence these variations. At the same time, Caitlin uses acoustic telemetry to track fish movement in order to understand fish behaviour and improve welfare management. These two projects together allow us to provide a more holistic view of fish farming to create a more sustainable industry.

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We hope that our work will help inform other aquaculture industries throughout the world, to become more innovative, improve farming practices, and ultimately create happier and healthier fish, with the ability to feed a growing population.

Women in aquaculture

By: Caitlin Stockwell

I am Caitlin, a Californian living in Canada studying salmon aquaculture at Dalhousie University. Some of the questions I get asked all the time is “why did you leave California?” and “why come to Canada?” And the answer is simple: my education.

Canada is one of the top producers in salmon in the world, and a large percentage of exported salmon is farm raised. So, what better place to study aquaculture than in Canada? It seems like a simple solution, but how could I be successful in a field mainly dominated by men?

Email after email, I contacted professors to see if there was any availability for a new graduate student, and got no response at all, or rejections with responses of “not enough funding” or “no more space for new students”. It was discouraging, and I was about to put my efforts on hold until the following school year when I met my current advisor, Dr. Jon Grant, at a benthic ecology conference. He gave me the opportunity to follow my interests of fish behavior and apply them to an expanding field of aquaculture.

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Now two years later, I have been to two provinces performing fish behavior studies. There is always one thing I can rely on when going to a new site, all of the site workers are male. I have visited or worked at 4 different aquaculture sites in two different provinces and every site is mainly dominated by men, and I have more often than not been the only woman around. This has inspired me to continue to pursue my passion for improving fish welfare in aquaculture while at the same time continuing to push the next generation to pursue their dreams despite the societal norms.