Oceanographic and Marine Science

  • Dom Ohl posted an article
    Technologies that will solve industry problems in the natural resources and applied sciences. see more

    Source: innovateBC

    Innovate BC awards more than $600,000 to clean, bio and marine tech companies

    VANCOUVER, March 7, 2019 – Innovate BC, a Crown agency that connects local innovators with government funding, resources, and support, has awarded $613,850in round six of its Ignite Program to spark the commercialization of technologies that will solve industry problems in the natural resources and applied sciences.

    Three BC research projects in diverse fields such as clean technology, biotech, and marine technology will split the funding. To date, Innovate BC has awarded $4.9 million in Ignite funding since the program launched in 2016.

    The successful projects were selected based on their promising commercial and technical viability as well as their ability to be market ready within three years. To be considered, projects must also address an industry problem with the potential for significant benefit to British Columbia and be realized by a group of academic and industry members.

    The three awarded research projects, with their academic and industry members, are:

    SIFT Process for Extraction of Battery-grade Lithium Salts from Waste Brine

    Dr. Jason Hein of UBC and industry partner Standard Lithium are developing a novel process, known as the SIFT technology, for recovering high purity lithium from waste brine using a unique crystallization process. The high-quality lithium carbonate is ideal for use in a range of products from lithium-ion batteries to precursor components in nuclear fusion reactors. The growing demand for high-grade lithium is being driven by the rapid adoption of both electric vehicles and solar, wind and tidal power systems to reduce environmental emissions. The SIFT technology will solve the significant supply, cost, and logistical problems facing the lithium mining and recovery industry globally.

    Award amount: $300,000


    mWaveWind: Real-Time Wind and Wave Data from Fleets of Compact Buoys

    Dr. Brad Buckham of UVIC and Marine IoT company MarineLabs are developing a compact, robust, cell-network connected ocean monitoring buoy called the mWaveWind. Using advanced algorithms deployed on a cloud platform, these novel buoy fleets will provide real-time, high resolution data to service industries such as ports, ferries, and marine operators. Most maritime operations currently lack quality wind and wave conditions data to make operational decisions for safety and efficiency. These high-tech monitoring buoys promise a more cost-effective and reliable solution compared to the existing legacy buoy systems being used globally.

    Award amount: $228,850


    RNA Mango: Sensitive and Rapid Nucleic Acid Detection Kits

    The innovation team of Applied Biological Materials and Dr. Peter Unrau’s lab at SFU are collaboratively developing the “RNA Mango” technology. These cutting-edge RNA molecules can generate fluorescence at unprecedented brightness and affinity towards their targets, mainly the detection of viral and bacterial contaminants in lab tissues and cultures. This new pathogen detection method will have many unique applications that will help solve pressing problems in the multibillion-dollar food and biotechnological industries. Current detection and screening kits can be subject to high variability and require long experimental time, while these new kits promise to be a cheaper, more reliable, and rapid solution.

    Award amount: $85,000


    “The winners of this year’s Ignite Awards demonstrate the creativity and specialized knowledge required to drive B.C.’s tech sector forward,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology. “Innovation provides a critical competitive advantage and it is through innovation our province will secure its future prosperity.”

    A total of $2.9 million is being contributed to the three projects as a result of Innovate BC’s Ignite cost-shared funding model. Innovate BC Ignite requires applicants to leverage award funds at a ratio of two matching dollars to every Innovate BC Ignite dollar. More than $17.7 million, including leveraged funds, has been contributed to Ignite projects to date.

    The Innovate BC Ignite Program has supported the hiring, training, and retention of more than 70 highly qualified personnel in the first three years of the program. Furthermore, several projects have reported that receiving the award has elevated the credibility of their research and helped attract additional investment.

    “The Ignite Program showcases some of the most innovative, inspirational, and impactful research projects happening not just in B.C., but all over the world,” says Raghwa Gopal, Innovate BC’s President + CEO. “The industry and academic collaborations provide a unique opportunity to stimulate our innovation economy while addressing real, market driven challenges that impact the lives of British Columbians all over the province.”

    The Ignite Program is funded by the Natural Resources and Applied Sciences (NRAS) Endowment Fund, which was established by the Province of British Columbia to enhance the quality of life for British Columbians by building strong environments in research and development, advanced training, technology transfer, and commercialization.

    Several Ignite-funded research projects will be featured at the #BCTECHSummit, which takes place March 11-13 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

    For more information about the program and past winners, visit the Ignite program page.

  • Tessa Bousfield posted an article
    Darrell Groom can expect, at a moment’s notice, to be sent on a service call anywhere on Earth. see more

    Source: Field Service Digital
    Author: Nevin Thompson

    Plumbing the Depths: A Roving Tech Team Keeps Scientific Expeditions in Shipshape

    From his home base in Halifax on Canada’s Atlantic coast, Darrell Groom can expect, at a moment’s notice, to be sent on a service call anywhere on Earth. It comes with the territory for a project manager whose clients include navies and scientific organizations around the world.

    Groom’s company, AML Oceanographic, employs about 40 people on both coasts of North America and in Scotland to design, manufacture and service a variety of hydrographic surveying systems that navies, government agencies and private companies use to collect a variety of oceanographic data, including water salinity, temperature, and the topography of the seafloor.

    Groom, however, is focused on the AML’s Moving Vessel Profiler, or MVP, product. He leads a team of six engineers and services technicians who keep the company’s MVPs operating wherever in the world the systems might be deployed.

    The MVPs consist of hardware, high-tech electronics and software, though each model varies in size and complexity depending on customer needs. Components include a mechanical crane and computer-controlled winch to lower and raise the device into the ocean, and a torpedo-shaped device that’s towed behind the ship. Roughly the length of a human arm, the tow body is studded with sensors that beam readings to a computer onboard the customer’s ship.

    So far, about 130 MVP systems have been sold around the world. Clients include navies (to map the sea seafloor and spot submarine hideouts), oil and gas companies (to survey potential undersea drilling sites) and scientific agencies (to conduct oceanic research or to update coastal undersea terrain that changes constantly because of storms and underwater currents). These organizations rely on the MVP to improve data quality and to contain mission costs. But the complex devices require regular maintenance, which often falls to customers. And that can create problems.

    The MVP allows research institutes, navies and businesses to collect a variety of oceanographic data to profile the water column.

    Once a survey mission is complete, the crew responsible for MVP’s maintenance might rotate off the vessel, leaving the system unused as the ship and its crew pursue a different mission.

    “Similar to a car, our equipment may not work when you try to fire it up, and sometimes a system will experience problems only a few days before a survey,” says Groom, who has a background in electrical engineering.

    That, Groom says, is when his field service team gets called to fix the problem.

    Making On-the-Go Research Possible

    The MVP is so prized — and Groom is so very much in demand as a troubleshooting service tech — because the system can significantly reduce the cost of survey missions.

    Using conventional survey technologies, a research vessel must make frequent stops to collect profiles of the water column by dropping and retrieving sensors and other instruments. This start-and-stop method is expensive and time-consuming — ocean survey missions costs can spiral to hundreds of thousands of dollars per day — and also increases the risk of damaging equipment as crews deploy the equipment into the water.

    The MVP solves this problem by allowing crews to collect data simultaneously from the vessel and the tow body while the ship is on the move. The computerized winch uses locational data from both the tow body and the vessel itself to automatically adjust the depth of the tow body to avoid the seafloor. This means the vessel can follow its survey pattern without ever needing to stop and retrieve the tow body and its array of sensors.

    Since costs from even brief outages or downtime add up quickly, Groom says customers are willing to fly his team in to fix problems they can’t fix themselves. AML offers service contracts, or customers can opt to pay on an as-needed basis. Scheduled maintenance is sporadic, he says, because the systems are designed to be highly reliable.

    Worldwide Dispatch

    Groom recalls a recent call from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the agency responsible for charting U.S. coastal waters, which had a problem downloading data from the MVP. “They needed someone to go up to Alaska right away.”

    Groom spent one day planning the trip and caught several flights for the 14-hour journey from Halifax to Ketchikan at the southern tip of Alaska’s panhandle. But his trip wasn’t finished yet.

    “When I arrived at the harbor they were waiting for me with a Zodiac inflatable boat to take me out to the survey vessel,” Groom says. “It turned out that the tow body was slightly damaged, so I improvised and MacGyvered a solution that allowed them to collect data and continue the survey.”

    Groom’s service calls, as well as trips to install and set up MVP systems have taken him on some memorable trips, including cruises from the Azores and between American naval bases in Okinawa, Japan, and Saipan.

    “When I arrived in Saipan, I realized I was booked into a five-star vacation resort, so I was forced to stay there for a few days until my flight home to Halifax,” Groom jokes.

    One of his most memorable service trips was to Ireland, where thieves stole most of his tools from the back of a rental van. While transporting the MVP to Dublin, Groom and the client spent the night at a hotel close to the airport. There were concerns in the area about theft, so Groom backed the van against a chain-link fence.

    “The thieves simply cut open the chain link fence, pried the doors open, and stole all of my tools,” says Groom.

    But the story has a happy evening: He was able to improvise with borrowed gear, and Dublin police eventually recovered the stolen tools.

    For the most part, service calls out at sea are for unusual problems that stem from neglect or preventative to keep the reliable MVP systems in shipshape.

    AML provides training and documentation to its clients on how to use and maintain the system, but Groom says that institutional knowledge isn’t always transferred between crews as they rotate through survey vessels.

    “As people move through the ranks they take a lot of valuable knowledge about operating the MVP with them,” says Groom.

    He recommends that customers deputize at least one person on each vessel to own upkeep and maintenance for the system.

    “It can be difficult for customers to perform daily, weekly and monthly maintenance,” he says. “Someone needs to have ownership of the MVP, but for the most part this doesn’t happen. They just want it to work when they do a survey.”

    As a result, Groom is certain he’ll keep getting phone calls to depart at the drop of a hat to almost any place in the world to service the MVP.

    Featured image courtesy of Pexels. All other images courtsey of AML Oceanographics.


    Nevin Thompson is a journalist, copywriter and a content strategist who works in a variety of different verticals.