Oliver Skisland, chief executive of Water Linked. Phto: Fish Farming Expert.

'Underwater GPS' for fish farming

A Trondheim company says it has developed a wireless underwater communications system that is better, cheaper and much smaller than existing alternatives, and can benefit aquaculture.

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Water Linked says its technology can be used for feeder positioning, feeder camera links, cage cleaner positioning – including logging where the cleaner has been – wireless sensor data transfer, diver positioning and anchor positioning.

The company also believes its system will be capable of ocean current measurement and is currently working on making that a reality.

The technology’s only weakness compared to underwater communications via cable, according to Water Linked chief executive Oliver Skisland, is that it does not yet have the capacity to send good video signals. He believes that problem will be overcome within a couple of years.

Water Linked's underwater GPS developer kit sells for NOK50,000. Photo: Water Linked

Speaking at a well-attended seminar on autonomous aquaculture at the Aqua Nor trade show in Trondheim, Skisland said: “Existing underwater technology is both very expensive and has a very low performance.

“We have applied a lot of new technologies. We are offering this for NOK50,000. It is also very small. If you go to the big companies and pay millions you will get something that is huge and impossible to mount on an ROV (remotely operated vehicle).”

Skisland said Water Linked’s system, which it describes as “underwater GPS”, is being used on the FNC 8 net washer produced by AKVA. He explained that four receivers hanging from a boat next to the fish cage are used to triangulate the washer’s position, so its location and previous movements are always known.

Although it works on the same basic principle as sonar, Skisland says Water Linked’s technology differs because they pack a lot more information into a digital ultrasound signal. He says the signal is not affected by the swim bladders of fish in the cage, something which has hampered other wireless technology.

Water Linked is four years old, but Skisland said most of that time has been spent “in the lab”, developing products from scratch, as existing components on the market were too expensive and wouldn’t do the job the developers required.

The company entered the market at a US trade show earlier this year, and, according to Skisland, has already started partnerships with US and large Norwegian companies. It is also selling its technology on its website, offering an “underwater GPS development kit” for NOK50,000.