Marlborough Sounds mussel farm getting boost from floating electronics

Mussels and electronics might sound like an unusual pairing, but the two are sharing space on a marine farm as part of a new project.

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Technology’s helping to reveal exactly what’s going on beneath the surface of the Marlborough Sounds. Source: 1 NEWS

There are large knowledge gaps on what goes on beneath the surface in the Marlborough Sounds, which can be as simple as the temperatures for each bay.

Pioneer marine farmer Graeme Clarke says he’s always thought there was a "serious lack of information of what goes on in the sounds".

"A sheep farmer can go and measure his grass very easily, but we can't because it's such a difficult environment," he explains.

But after 40 years of farming, he's had a breakthrough after installing sensors on his mussel farm in Crail Bay.

The equipment, attached to a buoy, records dissolved oxygen, temperature, salinity and turbidity. Clarke can access the data any time online.

His sensor system is a proof of concept as part of a wider Marlborough District Council project to grow aquaculture and protect the environment using smart technology.

The council has applied for Provincial Growth Funding to scale up, aiming to eventually get commercial and research groups all sharing their data in one place.

Marlborough District Council chief information officer Stacey Young says they know some farms already collect data, often manually, "but we can actually start doing it in realtime".

"We can actually have rainfall, the temperature of the sea, so it's actually putting all the information together and not just looking at things in isolation."

The Marine Farming Association's waiting to see how it develops, but hopes the project will help answer some key questions.

General manager Ned Wells says that includes asking, "Why is one farm 20 per cent more productive than other farms situated over 500 metres away?"

He says it should also save time for crews on the water gathering information.

"Being able to access this data remotely and in real time would be a huge advance and this is a really forward thinking project that we're really only scratching the surface of," he says.

Sensors on other sites in the sounds are expected to come online soon.