Alphabet’s Tidal moonshot tracks individual fish to help sustainably feed humanity

Today Alphabet is announcing Tidal, an X division moonshot project with the goal of preserving the ocean’s ability to support life and help feed humanity sustainably. Tidal’s initial goal is to develop technologies that will give us a better understanding of what’s happening under water, with a focus on helping fish farmers to run and grow their operations in environmentally friendly ways.

”Humanity is pushing the ocean past its breaking point, but we can’t protect what we don’t understand,” writes Tidal General Manager Neil Davé in a blog post announcing the moonshot.

To achieve its early goal, Tidal has developed an underwater camera system coupled with computer vision and other AI techniques to track and monitor thousands of individual fish as they develop. The electrical components had to be developed to withstand the extreme cold and crushing pressures of the ocean’s unforgiving salt water environment. The system can also interpret behaviors not visible to farmers.

By logging eating behavior and environmental data like temperature and oxygen levels, the farmers can make smarter decisions about how to manage their pens, according to Davé. And healthy fish require fewer antibiotics, a concern amongst environmentalists.

The project has been operating for three years already, according to a report from the Financial Times, with Tidal cameras deployed in Europe and Asia to help track fish species like salmon and yellowtail. “There may be an opportunity there to relieve some pressure on wild fishing if we made aquaculture very compelling from an operational and environmental perspective,” says Davé.

”Fish have a low carbon footprint relative to other sources of animal protein and they play a critical role in feeding 3 billion people today,” continues Davé, “so helping fish farmers could prove critical both for humanity and for the health of the ocean.”

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