Three years. That’s the time it takes for salmon to grow to their market size, starting from their time as eggs in the hatchery all the way to their time in the ocean waters. Anytime the water temperature drops below zero degrees Celsius, the salmon do not survive and so Cooke Aquaculture Inc., a Blacks Harbour, N.B.-based salmon farming business, turned to Bulletproof Solutions Inc., to implement a unified communications (UC) solution using Cisco technology to monitor water temperatures and related data to help protect its fish.
Cooke Aquaculture, a privately-held, family-run business, has locations in Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Maine and operates over 100 ocean-based salmon farms and 11 freshwater hatcheries and three processing plants.
Warren Giesbrecht, IT manager for Cooke Aquaculture, said the company is responsible for raising its salmon starting from their time in the hatchery, which lasts anywhere from 12 to 18 months to their time in sea cages in the ocean for another 12 to 18 months. In about three years time, Giesbrecht said the salmon reach their intended market size and are then ready to be sent off to Cooke Aquaculture’s processing plants.
When water temperatures dip below freezing levels, Giesbrecht said the ocean salt water crystallizes into a condition known as “superchill” which causes the salmon to perish. He explains that it therefore becomes necessary for the company to monitor the water temperatures to help keep an eye on the fish to ensure their survival.
“Before, we relied on people getting into a boat and going on site to take the water temperatures and writing them down manually before the information was sent out to other people,” Giesbrecht said. “By the time the key decision makers would get this information, they weren’t able to react fast enough because the information was by that time at least two days old.”
With the help of Fredericton, N.B.-based Bulletproof Solutions, a network and security services and consultant provider and also Cisco partner, Cooke Aquaculture was eventually able to implement a UC solution using Cisco IP phones and VoIP technology that would help it track temperatures in the salmon pens along with other pertinent information.
Bob Buchanan, chief operating officer at Bulletproof Solutions, said the solution was first implemented for Cooke Aquaculture executives as a pilot project over a year ago. Since then he said, the solution has proved itself successful and so over the next year of its initial implementation, Bulletproof Solutions found itself rolling out the solution to the rest of the Cooke Aquaculture company and key decision makers as well.
“The solution gives real-time sight of information by using VoIP technology,” Buchanan said. “Some of (Cooke’s) business requirements were around market pricing, the fish and on currency evaluators. To monitor the water temperatures, the data is coming back from the salmon pens themselves. That data is then collected by a PC and is stored on a server and the telephone system will collect this info and display it near to real-time on the telephones,” he added.
Giesbrecht said the air and water temperatures are now logged about once every 30 minutes, which he said, has been a huge change and time-saver since the company had previously received this information at its fastest speeds of two days.
“The application is available on every IP phone,” Giesbrecht said. “Right now, every key decision maker in the company has one.”
Additionally, Nitin Soni, chief information officer at Cooke Aquaculture, said that the phone systems are also being used for applications that allow for real-time market pricing to be pulled off from the Web and to also view currency exchange prices which he says is important since about 50 per cent of Cooke Aquaculture’s market is international.
“Bulletproof Solutions has been a very strategic and creative partner for us,” Soni said. “Now if the water temperature is dropping, we can take some actions to avoid any future disasters.”
Giesbrecht said this year’s water temperatures have not been kind in particular for Newfoundland, where he said the company has been monitoring its salmon pens quite closely.
“This application has come into play quite a bit this year in Newfoundland because the water temperatures have been borderline,” Giesbrecht said. “Because the application was able to identify temperatures that were getting close to “superchill” level, we were able to bring in an emergency airlift system that was installed in a number of our Newfoundland sites that would blow warm air up from deep down below to help negate some of the effects of the colder water,” he added.
Giesbrecht and Soni said Cooke Aquaculture is currently looking at other areas to extend the applications to as well, such as for use in the company’s hatcheries and processing plants.
“The feedback we’ve been getting has been great from top to bottom,” Buchanan said. “We’re talking about a business solution rather than a telecommunications solution. This kind of a solution doesn’t necessarily have to be deployed to an enterprise customer but rather it can be of value to all kinds of customers because it can grow with an organization.”