Not so long ago, people would say Sheamus MacDonald has fishing in his blood. These days, however, MacDonald, 30, would more than likely be described as a tech entrepreneur, albeit focused on the fishery sector.
He’s the CEO of a Dartmouth-based Startup, which is developing systems that help optimize the supply chain in the fishing industry with a product called the Sedna Ecosystem. The Ecosystem follows a catch throughout the supply chain, so that information can be easily accessed to update purchase orders, sales orders, prices, inventories and product offerings moment-to-moment.
By using internet of things, a system of interrelated sensors, to transfer data over a network so that storage conditions such as temperature and water quality could be monitored, a premium product is ensured and spoilage avoided.
In recognition of his work MacDonald is being presented with the Mitacs Global Impact Entrepreneur Award on Wednesday, during a virtual awards ceremony.
Growing up in Judique, Inverness County, the son of a snow crab fisherman, MacDonald says he was always involved in the fishing industry in one way or another.
He earned his undergraduate degree in Aquatic Resources Management at STFX University in Antigonish, not far from his home. After his undergraduate degree, MacDonald says he headed west, briefly, to work in the oil and gas industry but eventually came back to the East Coast to work in Newfoundland and Labrador’s offshore oil and gas sector as an environmental technician. “After a few years though..I wanted to get closer to fishing, so I came back home and went fishing with my father,” he explains.
It was while he was fishing that he decided to fo for a graduate degree in fisheries management from Memorial University of Newfoundland. And during his time off, MacDonald was working as a supply management consultant for a few companies to help them optimize their business.
It was during that time that MacDonald moved from actually fishing to becoming more involved in the business operations side of the fishing business. From there, he was able to identify some of the key problems most fishing operations had, which was mainly “identifying quality and making sure everything was coming though their supply chain.”
But it wasn’t until he was having a conversation with his formater roommate at STFX, Aleksandr Stabenow who was working in supply chain technology that the idea of creating a technology company to help the fishery was discussed.
“I was telling him what I was doing and he said, ‘Hey we could solve a lot of this with technology.’ And we kind of put our heads together and came up with the product and started the company,” says MacDonald. Besides being the co-founder of the company, Stabenow is also Sedna Technologies’ chief technology officer.
“I’m just finishing up my graduate degree in fisheries and Mitacs is an organization that helps academics trying to commercialize products. So a lot of the work I was doing was optimizing supply chains to reduce waste.. My whole thought is, ‘if you are going to harvest a product or a resource, just make sure it gets to market,” he says.
Sedna Technology’s Ecosystem product first came to market around November 2018. In 2019, the first full year of operation, MacDonald says the company had really strong sales “doubled what our expectations were and coming into 2020, again we were still trying to accelerate that growth.”
Sedna works across the entire supply chain, he says. “We work with harvesters, we also work with the buyers and exporters with holding facilities before the product is shipped overseas. Locally, some of his clients included Louisbourg Seafoods Ltd., Victoria Co-operative Fisheries Ltd, in Neil’s Harbour and the Ceilidh Fishermen’s Co-op Ltd. in Port Hood
“We focus with live product, although we do work with other species, we are able to track when it was caught and the conditions it was held in. We have a preemptive decision making tool so that they can see changes to the environment that may alter the health of the product.
Our whole mandate was to enhance and enrich the seafood supply chain,” says MacDonald.
Read more about Mitacs Entrepreneur Awards: https://lnkd.in/diXKMqN
Sedna Technologies is highly engaged with the academic community and we are constantly collaborating on research projects as well as bringing on interns to further develop skills and growth. At Sedna, we have been working with Gregin Soju following his graduation from the Industrial Engineering Technology program at NSCC. On top of optimizing internal processes and documents, Gregin has also put together a comprehensive write up of how water quality influences the overall quality, growth and welfare of salmon in the aquaculture supply chain.
The Importance of Monitoring Water Quality in Aquaculture
For obtaining success in aquaculture the species should be provided with a satisfactory environment for growth. Water quality is determined by physic-chemical and biological factors that directly or indirectly affects the survival, growth and reproduction of the fish.
Hundreds of water quality variables may affect the well being of fish or crustaceans, but fortunately, only a few normally play a decisive role (Boyd.1995). They can be mainly divided into 3:
- Physical Parameters : Temperature, Turbidity, Salinity and W
- Chemical Parameters: Dissolved oxygen (DO), Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD), Carbon-di-oxide (CO2), Alkalinity, Conductivity, Chloride, Hardness, Ammonia (NH3), Nitrite (NO2), Nitrate (NO3)
- Biological Parameters: Plankton, Primary Productivity
Water temperature greatly influences physiological processes such as respiration rate, efficiency of feeding and assimilation, reproduction, behaviour and growth. Temperature also affects oxygen solubility and causes interactions of several other water quality parameters.
Standard environmental temperature (SET) is required for the optimum growth of fish. The optimum temperature range varies from one species to another.
What happens when the temperature is below recommended value?
Below recommended values can cause reduced feed intakes leading to a reduction in growth and high death rates. Fish are more stressed at low temperatures, therefore more susceptible to disease.
What happens when the temperature is above recommended value?
There is a lower solubility of oxygen leading to stress and death at extreme temperatures.
Dissolved oxygen refers to the free, non-compound oxygen present in water. The leading source of dissolved oxygen in water is atmospheric air and photosynthetic planktons. It affects the survival, growth behaviour, distribution and physiology of the species. Depletion in the level of oxygen can cause reduced growth, poor feeding of fish and increased fish mortality either directly or indirectly.
A minimum DO concentration of 5 mg/L is recommended for warm-water fish and 6 mg/L for cold-water species (Thomas 1994). Crustaceans are also sensitive to low DO conditions. The optimum dissolved oxygen level is 5-8 ppm.
What happens when the dissolved oxygen is consistently below the recommended value?
Below 0 – 1.5 mg/l- Dangerous if exposed for long periods.
Below 1.4-5 mg/l – Fish survive, but reduced feed intake, slow growth, stress and increased susceptibility to diseases. It also results in building up of toxic wastes.
What happens when the dissolved oxygen is consistently above the recommended value?
Gas bubble trauma when the water is supersaturated to levels of 300% or above.
Carbon-di-oxide ( CO2):
In all water bodies CO2 is a common component. When compared to natural water, aquaculture ponds have a higher percentage of biological activity. Dissolved carbon dioxide concentrations cycle daily, and the amplitude of those daily fluctuations depend on the relative rates of photosynthesis and respiration.
CO2 concentration of 10- 15 mg/l is recommended as a maximum for finfish, concentrations in open and pond water averaged less than 6mg/L (Boyd 1990,1995).
The optimum level of CO2 is 5 ppm.
Low pH affects fish gill structure and function and affects the metabolism and physiological processes of culture organisms. It also affects the solubility and chemical forms of various compounds, some of which can be toxic.
An optimum pH value is between 7 and 8.5 for fish life.
What happens when consistently below recommended value?
Below 4: Acid death point.
4 to 6: Survive but stressed, slow growth, reduced feed intake, higher FCR.
What happens when consistently above recommended value?
9-11: Stressful for catfish, slow growth rate.
Above 11: Alkaline death point, all life including bacteria in the pond will die at this point.
Ammonia is a by-product of a protein breakdown. Depending on the PH level of water it occurs in two forms; (ammonia) and nontoxic form (ammonium). The sum of the two is called total ammonium or simply ammonia. Ammonia in the range greater than or equal to 0.1 mg/L tends to cause gill damage, destroy mucous producing membranes. It also results in poor feed conversation, reduced growth and osmoregulatory imbalance.
The optimum level of NH3 is 0.3 to 1.33 ppm and less than 0.1 ppm are unproductive.
Nitrite is an intermediate in the process of nitrification, which is the two-stepped oxidation of ammonium to nitrate carried out by highly aerobic, gram-negative, chemoautotrophic bacteria. It oxidizes hemoglobin to methemoglobin in the blood, turning the blood and gills brown and hindering respiration. It also damages the nervous system, liver, spleen and kidneys of fish.
The ideal and normal measurement of nitrite is zero in any aquatic system. The optimum level of nitrite is 2.5 mg/L.
Nitrate (NO3) is a common form of inorganic combined nitrogen in natural waste and aquaculture systems. Most of the nitrate found in unpolluted natural waters is the product of nitrification. Nitrate may be applied to pond bottom soils to prevent reducing conditions that leads to sulfide production. Where ammonia and Nitrite are toxic to fish, Nitrate is harmless. Its concentrations from 0 to 200 ppm are acceptable in fishponds and is generally low toxic for some species whereas especially the marine species are sensitive to its presence.
The Nitrate level is normally stabilized in the 50 -100 pm in range.
Aquaculture Value chain
For better production and harvest, the water quality must be optimal throughout the supply chain. Transportation of fish is generally an important practice in aquaculture. In transporting fish, there are technicalities in which one needs to understand for successful transportation.
The slaughter period includes the effects of pre-slaughter treatments such as transportation, handling and stunning, in addition to the killing of fish. Most fish species are starved for a period before slaughter. During starvation the fish will lose biomass as they mobilise energy stores such as lipids, but after several days, the biomass reduction will slow down as the fish become hypometabolic and down regulate their metabolisms. Depending on the production system, the fish is then caught, stunned and killed or transported by some means to slaughter sight. This last period in the fish’s production cycle is probably the time when various welfare issues most strongly affect general muscle quality traits. So real time monitoring is necessary during the entire supply chain.
Stress is defined as a condition in which the dynamic equilibrium of animal organisms called homeostasis is threatened or disturbed as a result of actions of intrinsic or extrinsic stimuli, commonly defined as stressors. Stress during transportation includes water quality, handling, temperature and crowding.
This section provides annual statistics on the volume of aquaculture (In tonnes) production in Canada. The data is organized by species and province.
From the above figure, salmon is one of the species that is being produced in mass volume. The water quality must be maintained to optimize production.
Dissolved Oxygen and Salmon Growth:
USEPA (1986) performed a literature review and cites the effects of various dissolved oxygen concentrations on salmonid life stages other than embryonic and larval (Table 2). These effects range from no impairment at 8 mg/L to acute mortality at dissolved oxygen levels below 3 mg/L.
Salmonid mortality begins to occur when dissolved oxygen concentrations are below 3 mg/L for periods longer than 3.5 days (US EPA 1986). A summary of various field study results by WDOE (2002) reports that significant mortality occurs in natural waters when dissolved oxygen concentrations fluctuate the range of 2.5 – 3 mg/L. Long-term (20 – 30 days) constant exposure to mean dissolved oxygen concentrations below 3 – 3.3 mg/L is likely to result in 50% mortality of juvenile salmonids (WDOE, 2002). According to a short-term (1 – 4 hours) exposure study by Burdick et al. (1954, as cited by WDOE, 2002), in warm water (20 – 21°C) salmonids may require daily minimum oxygen levels to remain above 2.6 mg/L to avoid significant (50%) mortality. From these and other types of studies, WDOE (2002) concluded that juvenile salmonid mortality can be avoided if daily minimum dissolved oxygen concentration remain above 3.9 mg/L, and the monthly or weekly average of minimum concentrations remains above 4.6 mg/L
C02 and Salmon Growth:
Atlantic salmon post-smolts were exposed to six CO2 concentrations (5–40 mg/L) for 12 weeks in 12 ppt salinity RAS
Fish showed no mortality, cataracts, nephron calcinosis or signs of external injuries. Skin dermis layer was significantly thinner in fish exposed to 40 mg/L of CO2. Body weight and growth were significantly lower at CO2 concentrations ≥12 mg/L.
Temperature and Salmon Growth:
Efficient salmon growth was previously believed to be best promoted at water temperatures between 13 – 17 degrees Celsius (Wallace, 1993). However, recent studies show that growth is better achieved at colder temperatures. In controlled experiments in which salmon were fed at temperatures of 13, 15, 17, and 19 degrees Celsius over 45 days, the experiment showed that the most efficient growth was achieved at a water temperature of 13 degrees Celsius (Ernst M Hevroy et al., 2013). Furthermore, salmon that lived at temperatures of 15 and 17 degrees Celsius grew efficiently in the first two weeks but exhibited reduced feed intake and growth over the remainder of the study period. Additional research is necessary to determine whether the optimal temperature is lower than 13 degrees Celsius. This finding indicates that the best temperature interval, or the comfort zone for the salmon, should be somewhere around or below 13 degrees Celsius.
Nitrate and Salmon Growth
Nitrite has an affinity for the mechanism of absorption of chloride in the gill; that is to say, NO₂¯ can replace Cl¯ in gill transporters of chloride / bicarbonate (Cl¯ / HCO₃¯). Therefore, provided that NO₂¯ is present in the water, a part of the absorption of Cl¯ will shift towards the absorption of NO₂¯, which can also lead to the accumulation of NO₂¯ in plasma and have a negative effect on productive performance and animal welfare.
The study was conducted with 810 Atlantic salmon parr divided into 15 ponds, where they were exposed to five different nominal concentrations of NO₂¯ (0, 0.5, 2.5 and 10 NO₂¯ -N, mg / L) and with a constant nominal concentration of Cl¯ (200 mg / L), for 12 weeks.
Growth rate reduced
The study’s results showed that the specific growth rate (SGR) was significantly reduced compared to the control, during the first three weeks, in fish exposed to the highest concentration of nitrite (10 mg NO₂¯ -N / L) and a Cl¯: NO₂¯ -N ratio of 21:1. “The results suggest the activation of compensation and adaptation mechanisms in the last stages of the experiment,” wrote the study’s authors.
As explained by the main author, Xavier Gutiérrez, who is general manager of NIVA Chile, “in the study no significant effects of NO₂¯ were found on the gill tissue, associated mortality, food intake and conversion (FCR) and physiological markers (Cl¯, glucose and pH). However, it was found that nitrite entered the plasma of fish exposed to the two highest nominal concentrations of nitrite, 5 and 10 mg / L, and Cl¯ : NO₂¯ -N ratios of 43:1 and 21:1, respectively”.
Industry standard ‘not enough’
The authors concluded that “the ratio of Cl¯ : NO₂¯ -N previously recommended for fish culture in RAS of 20:1 (Timmons & Ebeling; 2007), which today uses the industry as a standard, is not enough to protect Atlantic salmon during the early stages of nitrite exposure. Consequently, it is recommended to maintain a ratio of Cl¯ : NO₂¯ -N above 104:1 to avoid the accumulation of nitrite in the plasma of the Atlantic salmon in parr stage and growth losses”.
Ammonia and Salmon Growth:
Ammonia is toxic to fish and aquatic organisms, even in very low concentrations. When levels reach 0.06 mg/L, fish can suffer gill damage. When levels reach 0.2 mg/L, sensitive fish like trout and salmon begin to die. As levels near 2.0 mg/L, even ammonia-tolerant fish like carp begin to die. Ammonia levels greater than approximately 0.1 mg/L usually indicate polluted waters. The danger ammonia poses for fish depends on the water’s temperature and pH, along with the dissolved oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. Remember, the higher the pH and the warmer the temperature, the more toxic the ammonia. Also, ammonia is much more toxic to fish and aquatic life when water contains very little dissolved oxygen and carbon dioxide.
Figure (a) represents relative growth and Figure(b) represents relative mortality due to IPN virus susceptibility as a function of the degree of intensive rearing in juvenile Atlantic Salmon. Each circle represents an experiment with different water quality treatments, and each point represents an average of the experiment groups estimated as a percentage of the control groups (dashed line). All treatments are within the normal range of salmon farming, and the treatments within each experiment range from optimal (left side) to sub-optimal (right side).
In extensive systems, the farmer has no possibility to control the water quality and few means to avoid suboptimal levels of, for example oxygen concentration. Intensive industrial framing on the other hand, includes high fish density produced with less water, high energy feed and fast growth, short generation time and season-independent production. In these systems, the fish farmer may easily monitor and change water quality traits, but these systems face the challenge of finding a balance between what is economically optional for the farmer and the limits of acceptable fish welfare.
Traceability has become an important tool to communicate ethical quality of fish products. Food and feed operators should be able to identify any person from whom they have been supplied with a food, a feed, a food-producing animal, or any substance to be, or expected to be, incorporated into a food or feed. There should be systems and procedures to identify other businesses to which their products have been supplied. This can be done using paper and pen having large batch sizes, but if technologies such as sensors or data carries are used, this would speed up the product registration and open possibilities for the use of the data in the management of food production chains. The data captured by traceability systems could then be used for other processes such as process rationalisation, process optimisation and marketing.
- Helps to trace the movement of products from origin to point of sale.
- Helps to find inefficiencies in the operation
- Saves money and time.
- Ensure quality throughout the supply chain and prevent losses.
A former Bridgewater high school student along with his former classmates and others in the area are buoying a growing fisheries and aquaculture technology company now based in Dartmouth. Aleksandr Stabenow of LaHave, who graduated from Park View High School in 2008, is the co-founder and chief technical officer of Sedna Technologies. “I am proud to be from the South Shore and would love to be able to acknowledge the people and educators who guided and pushed me along the way,” Stabenow told LighthouseNOW in an email. The company he helped found in his LaHave home touts seafood supply chain software “made easy.” It has seven full-time employees, including Shaemus MacDonald, chief executive officer and Stabenow’s older brother, Kerrigan, who also attended Park View. Its technical lead, Moira Frier, lives in Cherry Hill. Another Park View graduate, Charlemagne Tremblay of Chester, is Sedna’s research engineer. The company has earned the attention of governments, gaining funding from Innovocorp, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. As with for other companies, business slowed down during the COVID-19 pandemic, however Sedna currently has more than 100 customers, 70 per cent of which are on Canada’s East Coast, with the rest in the U.S., New Zealand and Australia. “And we’re putting a lot of focus into Europe right now.” There are “huge applications” for the aquaculture industry there,” Stabenow reports. From Park View, Stabenow went on to graduate with a degree in business administration from St Francis Xavier University in Antigonish. Following university, he travelled to Guatemala, where he worked with the Campesino Committee of the Highlands, an organization that aims to defend the rights of workers on large coffee, sugar and cotton plantations. He assisted a team responsible for the procurement, production, and global exporting of organic coffee, organic honey and macadamia nuts, and was responsible for researching new methods of financing for local development projects. Upon returning to Canada, a year or so later, Stabenow focused on developing and implementing digital solutions to automate core business functions at companies in both Canada and the U.S., including a cannibas company. But it was always in the back of his mind to return to Nova Scotia to do the same in his home province, and in 2018 he did so. “I’m very passionate about where I grew up. I have a lot of respect for the community.” He teamed up with Shaemus MacDonald, a university friend with a masters degree in aquatic resource management who is a commercial fisherman. They discussed how technology could improve the seafood supply chain, and co-founded Sedna. MacDonald became the company’s chief executive officer. According to Stabenow, historically Nova Scotia’s fishing industry has focused on quantity rather than quality. “Delivery, volume. I think that’s where the industry kind of was.” Stabenow believed the insights that he gained in the cannibas industry could be applied to the fisheries and aquaculture, such as tracking the quality of the product with sensors. Stabenow notes that some harvesters are out in Southwest Nova Scotia for up to three days at a time, accummulating up to 9,000 pounds (4,082 kilograms) of live lobster. “That can be $90,000 worth of product for them.” And while they have systems in their boats to air-ate and pump water to make sure oxygen is flowing, Sedna has developed sensors to go in the live wells to alert the harvesters when there’s an issue with water quality. “There’s lots of examples where harvesters have lost a good portion of their shipment because something went wrong and they weren’t notified,” says Stabenow. In addition to water quality monitoring, Sedna says its technology is able to track inventory volumes, purchases, such as fuel, bait and other supplies, as well as sales. It helps eliminates a lot of paperwork, and is able to reconcile accounts and pay harvesters directly into heir bank accounts. According to Stabenow, the pandemic has served notice that Sedna’s technology is essential. “Because companies were having less people go into the plants and manage things, the sensors are automating that process.” At the same time, the former Park View student is hopeful the fisheries industry is starting to pick up again and the trajectory for moving forward is there. Before too long, he suggests, “we’ll be back on track to expanding at an accelerated rate.”
How Technology is Transforming the Seafood Supply Chain
Technology is vastly changing how companies around the world are operating, and the seafood industry is no exception. Over the years, the usage of sensors, computer networks, and artificial intelligence have allowed for increased traceability and data analysis throughout the seafood supply chain. Through this, companies can find inefficiencies in their operations which allows them to serve their customers better.
One area that is being improved by technology is traceability, the ability to trace products from their origin to the point of sale. There are several benefits of increasing traceability in seafood supply chains. First of all, it allows for the verification of a sustainable origin and process. This is becoming increasingly important as more retailers and consumers are becoming concerned about how socially and environmentally responsible their products are and are willing to pay premium prices to maintain that standard. Additionally, traceability allows companies to prove their innocence when wrongly accused of a food safety issue which will prevent penalties and damage to their reputation.
Traditionally traceability in the seafood industry takes its form on paper. In some cases, traceability is maintained through barcodes that can be scanned along the supply chain. Despite the wide use of these methods, there are inefficiencies in both such as human error and labour costs. However, there is a new method that uses modern RFID technology to address these issues. RFID or Radio-frequency identification consists of tags that can be used to track seafood crates from the start of the supply chain to the end with electromagnetic fields at various stops along the way that can identify the tags. This means that crates can be tracked automatically when brought into storage, shipping, or processing plants without the need for scanning or tracking with paper. With Sedna’s Shop Floor Application this hardware comes bundled with software for handheld devices that allows users to easily track the movement of inventory.
Traceability isn’t the only aspect of the seafood supply chain that has the potential to benefit from technology. Sensor technology also allows the temperature of seafood in storage and shipment to be monitored. Vital characteristics of water storage tanks such as temperature, ammonia, ammonium, pH levels, and light can also be monitored. For all of the above attributes, Sedna provides the hardware and software to be able to view them in real-time and be notified if they reach potentially dangerous levels. This can help fix problems before they result in losses.
There is an additional hidden power that comes along with the implementation of technology-based solutions to traceability and quality monitoring: both greatly increase the ease of and capacity for data analytics. By having technology integrated along the entirety of the supply chain that is constantly collecting data in real-time, the quantity of data to be used in analysis is dramatically increased compared to traditional methods. This means that the extent to which inefficiencies can be discovered and improvements can be made is increased as well, ultimately resulting in better business and higher profit.
While the advancement and implementations of technology have greatly improved business’ operations, perhaps the most influential is the collection and analysis of data. We’ve already seen the impact data analysis has in other industries. For example, algorithmic trading in the finance sector or medical imaging in health institutions. In our world of “big data”, it is important to use the tools we have to make the best decisions we can.
As technology is becoming more prevalent in the seafood industry, it is clear it is essential for the future of companies. From improved traceability to getting temperature data in real-time, technology is transforming the seafood supply chain and the increased capacity for data analysis makes it all the more important. As our society continues to change and evolve, so do the techniques and operations we rely on. As long as we are ready to adapt, the possibilities are endless.
Jack Hipson & Robie Gonzales
Needless to say the seas have been turbulent in the seafood industry over the past few months with the emergence of COVID-19. Beginning in December with Asia closing down and the U.S. just starting to close down, it has left many stakeholders within the industry wondering what to do next. Although it is difficult to predict when this crisis will end, we have been working diligently with our clients on how to best leverage our technologies and services during this time.
Most companies in the seafood industry have had to scale back operations as well as lay off workers. The reason for this is that there is less day to day work to do in terms of inventory management and order fulfilment. However, there is still product to be monitored in live holding tanks as well as processed products in freezers and fridges. Facilities are having to hold products in larger volumes and for a longer period of time, Sedna’s water quality solution and cold chain monitoring have been key in maintaining efficient quality control. With safety being the number one concern for companies at this time, our remote monitoring solutions have empowered our clients to work from home with only having to go to the facility if they are notified of an issue. This has allowed our clients to alleviate stress levels when reducing a workforce and still being confident that their product is safe and sound.
Taking stress off of labour operations is one of the assets we have been providing. Additionally, company management is using this time to increase efficiencies internally to prepare for the upswing on the other side of this downturn. From production planning to inventory management, leaders of seafood organizations are looking at how they can become more effective and efficient. With our cloud based software our clients are able to review past years productions in real time with their entire team from the comfort of their home.
Using this time to visualize new opportunities is essential, this is why we have been busy working one on one with our clients to ensure their operations continue to run smoothly during these times. Our cloud based ecosystem not only allows our clients to collaborate but also allows us to provide ongoing insight and planning for when this crisis ends.
To learn more about how we can help your organization now and in the future, please feel free to reach out to one of our representatives at (902) 903-6424 or contact us on our website.
Stay safe and be well,
The Sedna Team