The Right Measurement Tech Can Boost Chilean Business

On August 1, 2017, Posted by , In News, With No Comments

Climate change is just one of the challenges that ports in Chile increasingly have to deal with, and investment in the latest Doppler technology and online systems has proven to be a significant benefit for its ports. These same technologies can also help Chile’s aquaculture industry.

From the early 1990s to 2007, Chile’s aquaculture took off, and by 2006 Chile was producing 38 percent of the world’s salmon. Now, the country produces 1.4 million to 1.5 million tons of salmon a year, putting it on a par with the world’s biggest producer, Norway. But there is still significant potential for Chile to run its aquaculture operations more efficiently and profitably.

Nortek’s Doppler technology has already helped improve safety and efficiency in Chilean ports. Now, Chile can improve the performance of its aquaculture by fully adopting this technology to measure waves and currents. Measuring waves and currents helps with issues such as calculating the most effective location of the cages’ moorings, the shape of those cages and the position of floating barges.

It also helps fish farmers economize on fish fodder. Typically, fishmeal is unnecessarily wasted during the feeding process, as currents draw the pellets through the cages’ netting. Constant measuring giving real-time data can be supplied via Nortek’s AWAC and AOS systems and by the Aquadopp current profiler. Data from these systems informs when and from what position food can best be released and where and when to position the cameras to reveal when the fish are finished feeding. Nortek’s representative in Chile, Mariscope Ingenieria SPA, has done a study that found that using this equipment could reduce food loss by up to 20 percent – big financial savings for any fish farm operator.

Lack of Reliable Data

At the moment, many aquaculture sites in Chile still rely on spot measurements, meaning that they really don’t have enough reliable data to make informed decisions, and guesswork comes into play. The situation is somewhat different in Norway. The contrast between efficiency levels in Norwegian and in Chilean aquaculture can partly be put down to the widespread use of top-of-the-range technology. In Norway, many fish farmers have installed permanent measurement systems that supply constant, real-time data that allow for much more informed decision making.

Nortek has supplied approximately 300 AOS (or Realfish) systems to Norway’s fish-farming sites. The Nortek AOS system offers online access to data on oxygen, salinity and temperature, as well as ocean currents and wave data from any coastal location. It does not require significant engineering resources, and, once deployed, the system will be up and running in a matter of minutes. It transmits data collected via satellite to software developed specifically for the aquaculture industry. This whole system generates daily reports so that fish farms can document that they operate according to standards set out by governmental and nongovernmental organizations, such as the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC). There are at least 100 ASCcertified fish-farming sites in Chile, most of which would become more efficient by adopting the AOS system in combination with current profilers.

Meeting the Depth Challenge

Like Norway, Chile has very deep fjords, but it experiences stronger currents and stronger winds. As we have discussed, reliable and constant measurements of these currents can markedly improve the performance of fish farms. But it can be particularly challenging to achieve accurate measurements in deep fjords.

Nortek’s Signature range of ADCP instruments include current profilers with broadband capacity that offers a higher resolution and a longer range than competitors, resulting in reliable data at depth. This is all achieved on a power consumption 90 percent lower than standard products, using internal batteries.

Lessons from Chilean Ports

The aquaculture industry in Chile may benefit greatly from considering the success of AOS and AWAC systems already installed in Chilean ports. Mariscope has supplied Nortek’s AOS and AWAC systems to nearly every Chilean port from Arica in the north to Punta Arenas in the south. The result is fewer accidents and speedier entrances and exits for port-bound ships, both of which present significant cost savings.

As a leading producer of copper, Chile has a number of ports specifically servicing the copper mines that can accommodate bulk carriers. These ports are particularly affected by huge waves. By accurately measuring waves, it is possible to predict the arrival of such a wave and preempt delays by closing the port. That sort of planning ahead saves time and money.

These ports rely on the AOS system combined with the AWAC, and together they are a vital aid for navigation and operations in ports. All Nortek’s AOS and AWAC systems installed at copper ports are in constant use. The technology provides information on waves and currents that ship pilots rely on.

The AWAC has become the standard reference technology in submerged wave-measurement applications. With a 35-m maximum range for wave measurements and 4-Hz sampling of the surface elevation, the 1-MHz AWAC is a good tool for shallow current and wave measurements. It can be used both with fixed frames and subsurface buoys. The AWAC is unique in its ability to accurately resolve waves from very shallow waters to the extremes of the continental shelf.

The Need for More Data

The expansion of the Panama Canal in 2016 created a third lane of traffic and doubled the waterway’s cargo capacity. It also resulted in locks that are 21 m wider and 5.5 m deeper than those in the original canal. It can now take ships that are 330 m long, reaching a depth of 16 m. With these vessels passing through, several South American ports need to be enlarged. But even when the ports are big enough, they can still have problems with safety. AOS and AWAC systems can have a key role to play by assisting safe operation of ships in these ports.

Measuring waves and currents will be increasingly important to ports along the entire Chilean coast, as well as aquaculture in the south of Chile as the frequency of huge waves several meters high generated by ocean storms continues to rise. A decade or so ago, such waves hit the shore just two or three times a year. Now, they are happening two or three times a month. These waves are often too high for ports to operate when they appear, which affects many sectors, particularly copper.

Looking ahead, oceanographic measurements will also be important for handling harmful algal bloom (HAB) events. Permanent measurements of oceanographic parameters, such as current and wave measurements, are necessary to feed the models thar will helps address these events with an efficient risk assessment in the future.

During the summer of 2016, Chilean aquaculture faced a severe problem related to an unusual HAB. Although HAB events are common in the South Pacific, there has not been a record of a bloom with the scale and duration like the one in 2016. Two things must take place in the sea for an algal bloom to develop in this manner: There must be enough nutrients in the water and enough sunlight. If the conditions are favorable, the growth may be massive, and sometimes the growing species are harmful to marine life and to humans because of toxins that develop in specific zooplankton species.

A thermocline, an abrupt temperature gradient in the water, normally develops during the summer in the ocean. The thermocline is an inhibitor of nutrient exchange of the upper ocean layers, which are nutrient poor, and the deeper layers, which are nutrient rich. Less nutrient exchange inhibits the growth of algae.

During the 2016 HAB in Chile, the bloom strengthened during summer instead of being inhibited. This was a result of a change in the circulation patterns of the Eastern South Pacific currents – likely due to the impact of climate change on ocean currents.

The result was a loss of $800 million due to mass starvation of salmon in the marine harvesting sites of southern Chile. This event showed clearly that the companies were lacking correct risk assessment procedures.

The basis for risk assessment and management must be real-time measurements over a period of time, and up-to-date meteorological and oceanographic parameters are needed, among other elements. After the HAB event of 2016, fish farmers and oceanographers tried to understand the special conditions that resulted in this massive bloom, but oceanographic data were not available in order to analyze the situation in depth. Permanent measurement systems of oceanographic parameters should be in place so the necessary data will be available to assess and predict future events in a better manner.

Through an investment in the right technology, Chile can continue to make huge strides, improving the efficiency of its most important industrial sectors and positioning itself as a Latin American business success story.

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