Technology for Ecology: Fishes, Robots and You

Jun 30 14Acknowledgements,Interviews,Panels,Press

eye-on-net

Image by Rob Terry

The Cost of Doing Nothing: Let’s Talk Tech, Fishes, Robots and You – by Ann Bradley

There is a new technology that will feed the planet, save species, employ people and make ecofriendly a little bit faster and friendlier. It’s the biggest tech revolution you never heard of. And it is fighting to disrupt the biggest problem of all: apathy.

We all know there is a tree in the forest that falls with no one around and we ask if it makes a sound. Take it out of the philosophical realm and the answer must be yes if sound is compression of air and vibrations. Along with that ever falling yet always available tree we have other questions that are similar. Like this one:

If a species is here today and gone tomorrow and you don’t interact, care, know, eat, or farm that species, does it make a difference?

We can’t change the past, but we can imagine possible futures and choose one and make it happen. What matters is not what our ancestors did to wipe themselves out of existence (obviously they sent some DNA down the chain), but what we do, today, with what we have and how we deal with it is what matters in the here and now.

In the heart of Silicon Valley is always the new, new thing – new app, new social media, new medical device, new way of driving. We call it creative destruction. Proudly. Even currency is being disrupted. So here we are in the middle of creative destruction as in disrupt the medical industry, disrupt climate change, mobile payments, cars and currency and all this disruption is giving birth in short order to driverless cars and biometric payment systems and OTC genetic tests and pics that self destruct.

And yet, We also do some things just like they were done 5000 years ago. Although tradition has its place and if isn’t broken don’t fix it has merit suppose it just isn’t good for anyone, anywhere but apathy trumps action. Silent Spring was Rachel Carson’s wildly game changing best selling book that smashed the complacency of the world when she showed us birds were dying off because of pesticides. No birds, no singing and thus a silent spring.

Today, we have a similar problem, cloaked in invisibility and drowning in apathy. Our fish are becoming extinct. We are overfishing, we are slaughtering the fish that feed half the world’s population. $50 billion wasted each year. Remember that number. That’s what we are losing due to overfishing.

I want to know: How do we disrupt the apathy?

Let’s cut to the chase: let’s talk about fishing. Overfishing, to be specific. We are in the midst of a massive loss of species. We are doing nothing about it. But we can.

Call it environmental tech using robots. Call it the first creative destruction of fishing for 5000 years.

Precision fishing – that’s what Rob Terry of Palo Alto, CA has designed. He has amazing tech to the net that brings alive the waste not, want not philosophy.

This is from Rob, and now, to you:

When fishermen throw their nets into the water the contents of their nets remain a mystery until they haul them back up on deck.  Even with our best trawl-nets today 1 out of every 4 fish caught is the wrong fish and is  tossed back into the water, already dead. The problem is that after thousands of years of fishing primarily with nets the number of ‘wrong’ fish wasted is adding up and threatening a total collapse of our planet’s wild fish populations.

Read that again.  It isn’t hyperbole. According to experts there will be no seafood left to catch by 2048. That’s right, a total collapse of Earth’s wild fish. Gone.

I developed SmartCatch as a way of stepping in and saying, “Let’s apply some of our great tech to this crisis and build tools that can provide meaningful solutions.”  Our SmartCatch team is developing technology-based products to help fishermen save millions of fish from wasteful destruction and at the same time help solve many of the problems associated globally with the management of sustainable wild fish populations, the ocean’s health, and profitability/fiscal viability for fishermen.

Our first products consist of real-time video cameras, lighting and sensor arrays in durable pressure compliant packages that can be mounted anywhere in a trawl-net.  We are also developing escape panels that can be remotely opened and closed – and this means that from the wheelhouse captains can inspect the contents of their nets and control their catch.

We are at the cross-roads of either a global ecological and food source catastrophe or a dramatic shift in commercial fishing technology.  I believe we can meet the challenge and evolve into a new era – the era of Precision Fishing.  In the near future I envision fishermen deploying sophisticated sub-sea fishing equipment that will give them the ability to minimize waste and harvest target species with superior precision.  New technologies will result in more efficient fishing.   Entire fleets of fishing boats will begin to incorporate modernized trawl-nets equipped with integrated sensors capable of streaming relevant data up to secure cloud facilities. Once in the cloud that data will provide markets, researchers, and policy makers with critical intel for sustainably managing global fish stocks.

25 words or less? OK – A real-time robotic trawl-net system that allows fisherman to have greater precision in controlling the contents of their harvests, reducing the accidental capture of fish they don’t want – thereby allowing those fish to live, spawn, and be available to be harvested another day.

If you cared enough to count, thanks. Yes, more than 25. People are busy and so, for all you busy people, here is your take-away:SmartCatch is game-changing fishing technology that will save species and money by leading the fishing industry through the first major change in 5000 years.

$50 billion a year, 5000 years. The Chinese have a saying about change and making a difference: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

Originally Published by Silicon Valley Story: http://www.thesiliconvalleystory.com/technology-ecology-fishes-robots/