July 1st, 2019 by Aqua Nor

The Innovation Award Finalists: Ecotone

– Automatic salmon lice counting with advanced machine vision

Hyperspectral cameras have been a preferred technology for automatic monitoring, mapping and classification in land-based industries for decades. Ecotone was the first to make a version of the technology that works underwater – and has also patented it. Having delivered products and services to customers within the oil and gas industry, as well as to research and management, they are now investing heavily in the aquaculture industry.

Ecotone is nominated with its camera solution SpectraLice, which counts and reports salmon lice automatically 24 hours a day.

It is the very special camera technology that enables Ecotone to fully automate the counting.

Director and co-founder, Ivar Erdal.

A world of hidden information
A hyperspectral camera can “see” colours that the human eye and ordinary cameras fail to detect. Since Ecotone’s sensors and software can detect and interpret such a wide range of colours, it can be used to detect small differences and nuances.

– When it comes to salmon lice counting, everything is about effectively detecting differences. Down in the cage there are poor lighting conditions, and ordinary cameras struggle to see the difference between regular salmon skin and salmon lice. With SpectraLice we see not only the difference between skin and lice – we can also see the difference between, for example, fresh and sick fish, as well as skin injuries and other conditions, says director and co-founder of Ecotone, Ivar Erdal.

This is possible because salmon lice and salmon skin have different hyperspectral signatures – they reflect the light in different wavelengths – and thus have different optical “fingerprints”.

– When we further develop the system, there are many possibilities besides lice counting. For example, we can look at the gender and maturation of lice, injuries and irregularities on the fish. This development takes place in close cooperation with our customers in the aquaculture industry, says Erdal.

Will replace manual counting
SpectraLice is currently mounted in several cages along the Norwegian coast – and is well underway with the salmon lice counting. For the fish farmers, the goal is that the manual count, which today requires much of both time and resources – and results in far less data – can be phased out.

– We want to deliver the first system for uninterrupted and automatic salmon lice counting that is put into operation in industry. Now we will consolidate our position as the leading supplier of technology for salmon lice counting,” says Erdal.

Illustration: EGGS design

Many opportunities for hyperspectral technology
There are also other uses for the hyperspectral camera technology. In oil and gas, hyperspectral cameras are used, among other things, to map fauna and environmental conditions, as well as the spread of sediments from drilling operations. Researchers also use the technology to identify and map the prevalence of species and organisms with such cameras.

These methods can now benefit the aquaculture industry. Since the hyperspectral camera can map entire areas, more fish farmers now swear by hyperspectral mapping of fish faeces and feed residues – as well as how the cages affect life on the seabed below the site. The alternative today is so-called grab samples – which are limited to spot sampling – and thus cannot be used by the fish farmers to document their actual environmental impact throughout the area around the locality.

By using automatic hyperspectral mapping of the entire area under the site, the fish farmer gets far better documentation of their environmental footprint.

Looking forward to busy fair days
After the nomination was announced, Erdal and his colleagues are looking forward even more to Aqua Nor 2019.

– Now we expect even higher pressure on our stand from people who are interested in automatic salmon lice counting.

Of course he hopes for victory. At the same time, the nomination is a victory in itself.

– The timing is perfect. We have been working on the development of SpectraLice for the last three years, and have always had the goal of coming to Aqua Nor 2019 with a finished product. Then it fits incredibly well that the jury recognizes our innovation work right now, concludes Erdal.

For more information on SpectraLice and automatic salmon lice counting:

Ivar Erdal
Director and Co-Founder
Tel: + 47 911 89 395
ivar@ecotone.com

Read more about SpectraLice on ecotone.no and visit Ecotone at stand F-568.

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