The ocean is critical to life on earth. It covers over 70% of our planet, and nearly 40% of the world’s population live within 60 miles of the sea. The ocean provides oxygen, food, and livelihoods for billions of people. But humanity is pushing the ocean past its breaking point. Pollution, rapid acidification, and unsustainable fishing practices are destabilizing oceanic ecosystems, from tropical reefs to the Arctic, advancing a chain reaction of damage that threatens both aquatic and human life.
Today, half of the world relies on fish as a major source of animal protein, but nearly 90% of our wild fishing stocks are depleted. With our global population expected to balloon to 10 billion people by 2050, there is an urgent need to find new ways to nourish our growing global population without damaging the ocean.
In order to meet humanity’s growing protein needs, we need to be able to expand ocean farming. However, fish farmers do not have all of the tools they need to farm sustainably. They operate without consistent objective information about the health of their fish or the environment they swim in, and constantly have to manage challenges from pests like sea lice and pollution from uneaten feed. This lack of information can lead to outbreaks of disease and pollution, which is costly both for the farmers and the environment. Helping fish farmers find environmentally friendly ways to run and grow their operations could prove critical both for feeding humanity and to protect the health of the ocean.
Tidal’s underwater camera system and machine perception tools are bringing visibility to our ocean ecosystems so we can better understand and protect them
Tidal started with a small team eager to find ways to address climate change and aid in the global food crisis. On both fronts, the ocean is one of our greatest assets—it is the world’s largest carbon sink and provides food security for 3 billion people with nutritious low carbon sources of protein including fish, shellfish, and sea vegetables.
The earliest tests of the system were in a kiddie pool at the X lab. As the system became more sophisticated, the team brought several prototypes to Norway for extensive testing in ocean farms. The team tested the system in different locations in the ocean—from protected fjords in the Arctic Circle, to the open ocean in the North Sea—where environmental conditions like temperature, currents, and the power of waves vary greatly.
While in Norway, the team captured millions of images of fish to train their machine learning systems to identify and interpret how the fish were behaving, and collected environmental data like temperature and salinity to better understand the environment the fish swim in.
Today, the Tidal system is able to continuously monitor fish underwater while surviving the rough oceanic conditions like frigid temperatures, salt water (which causes corrosion), and strong currents. The system can detect and interpret fish behaviors (such as feeding) and model fish behaviors over time—all of which can help fish farmers make better, more environmentally-friendly decisions about fish feeding, welfare, and health.
Continuously collecting and interpreting images of fish helps farmers understand how the fish are growing, identify disease, and monitor behaviors like feeding.
Collecting a mix of environmental data like temperature and salinity helps identify patterns between fish health and the environment.
The camera can rotate 360 degrees to capture a complete picture of what’s happening underwater.
Machine learning makes it easy to quickly process and interpret images in remote locations.
The insights from Tidal’s system help with day-to-day decision making on the fish farm, like determining how much feed is needed to keep the fish healthy while reducing waste. Much of the information the Tidal system gathers is not detectable to our human senses and happens in milliseconds.
Today, Tidal is working with a producer of Atlantic salmon to deploy its system to ocean farms in Norway. By exploring new tools that can help fish farmers run and grow their operations more sustainably, Tidal is making progress on a small corner of the problems facing our ocean. But this is just the beginning. The team is also working with ocean health experts to determine how machine learning models and underwater vision and sensing systems can help find new ways to protect the ocean.