Sigfox IoT Network for the New Zealand Aquaculture Industry
New Zealand is one of the largest and most efficient exporters of lamb, beef and dairy products in the world. It has a strong reputation for the development of advanced techniques in the optimisation of primary industries and many of these techniques are highly prized in overseas markets. But there is another comparatively new primary industry climbing the ranks showing rapid year on year growth.
With 14,000 Kilometres of coastline making it the 10th longest in the World, New Zealand also has a large and thriving aquaculture industry, with major players including Sanfords, Sealord and Aotearoa Fisheries. The aim of all New Zealand fisheries is to provide long term sustainability – thereby not increasing the stock take but to increase production in a smart and sustainable manner.
A long range, low power, low cost network built just for IoT
Thinxtra has deployed a New Zealand wide Internet of Things (IoT) network with its partners Kordia utilising Sigfox technology, now covering 89% of population in NZ. It is an ultra-low power, low cost and long range network that is particularly good over water with messages delivered as far as 150km out to sea. This makes it ideal for connecting assets that previously had no option but to connect to an expensive satellite system and in many cases, the lack of a local power source made this simply impossible. The new network could have a significant impact for the Aquaculture industry, enabling increased yields by smart means and allowing operators to act on real time information.
Sustainable Fisheries are adopting IoT technology
One of the first NZ fisheries to take advantage of the innovative Sigfox IoT network is Moana New Zealand. Moana is the largest Maori owned Fisheries Company in New Zealand with a long term view to ensure sustainability of their fisheries for generations to come.
With pristine New Zealand coastal seawater, Moana harvests some of the highest quality pāua (known globally as blue abalone) in the world on their commercial farm on the East Coast of Northland.
Pāua is a large edible mollusc, with a unique deep blue colour shell. It has a subtle taste and firm texture. At over USD 100 per kilo it is also a very valuable shellfish.
Pāua requires very specific conditions to grow well, ideally with seawater temperature between 17.5˚ to 18˚C. Although they can tolerate colder temperatures, they are very susceptible to warmer temperatures. Last summer, Moana lost valuable stock at the Northland pāua farm, due to a heat wave. Moana Nursery Team Leader Joss Birss is pleased to be able to introduce technology to assist them to act on real time data.
“There are so many variables you can’t control in this industry, particularly with the weather, so we continually look for ways to improve on the things we can control.” Birss says. With a number of the breeding stock lost with the higher temperatures as well as the possible economic impact of losing important genetic variation, this was a situation which Moana had to avoid in future years.
Moana engaged with Auckland based Hot Water Heat Pumps Ltd to control the temperature of the seawater to the majority of the brood stock pāua tanks. The variable capacity heat and chill unit controls the seawater temperature to a steady 17.5 ˚C to all tanks allowing for optimal growth and consistency for the brood stock pāua.
“Since the industrial heat pumps were installed we have not lost one pāua, and we are seeing increased rates of conditioning and growth which will only increase our productivity.” Birss explains.
The heat pump units were recently upgraded to provide remote connectivity to constantly monitor and control the equipment via the nationwide Sigfox network. Hot Water heat pumps engaged with industrial IoT design company Motiv Industrial IoT Solutions to design and implement a SIGFOX-RS485 Din rail mounted transceiver, which connects directly to the heat pump control circuitry using a standard Modbus protocol.
Kevin Trigg, Sales and Marketing Manager at Hot Water Heat Pumps Ltd was delighted to discover Motiv and the Sigfox technology they specialise in. “When we engaged with Motiv, it just made sense for such important control equipment which is responsible for such a high value product that we should have constant remote control and monitoring of the unit. Before now, we had no easy way of providing simple connectivity to our -out of the factory- assets that just worked. We didn’t want to rely on our customers WiFi systems to connect our assets and 3G systems were too complicated. We now know if there is problem with the heat pump before our client does and we can react before any performance issues occur.”
This isn’t the first unit Hot Water Heat Pumps have provisioned with Sigfox technology. It is also being used to monitor commercial swimming pools. Mike Day, Service Manager at Hot Water Heat Pumps Ltd was pleased they could be alerted to a problem and that a service agent could be sent before a problem was noticed by the client.
“Before the Sigfox network was implemented, if there was a problem on one of our pool heat pumps, it might not be noticed until the pool water went cold. By that time it is too late and the pool may need to be closed for days while it was being repaired and brought back up to temperature. We can now turn up on site with the correct parts and disruption to services is minimised. With on-time maintenance, it dramatically changes our service model and sets us apart from our competitors.”
“The solution presented to us by Motiv ticked all the boxes. The combination of low hardware and operational cost was a must. We don’t want to add this cost burden to our customers so it had to be a level we would accept while adding a point of difference. The hardest part was creating a SIGFOX-RS485 transceiver that fitted into a single DIN rail mounted enclosure, which fits seamlessly within the limited space of our units existing control circuitry. Motiv really delivered here and as far as I know, fitting it all into such a small unit was a world first. Finally, the ease of which the unit is setup to connect and display monitoring data to our service team made it a simple choice.”
Kevin believes they have taken a big step forward in customer service by being able to offer IoT technology to their clients:
“In fact, we have been so impressed with how easy it was to make this change to our products, we plan to offer Motiv’s Sigfox transceivers as an option on all commercial heat pumps leaving the factory and we are even upgrading some of our commercial heat pumps that are already in service”.