Meet the remarkable 'Foover' from UCO
by Underwater Contracting, Scotland
"INTRODUCING THE NEW MORT COLLECTING ROV SYSTEM"
Mick Bower has made a splash back into the aquaculture industry after leaving it almost 15 years ago to pursue senior diving roles in the oil and gas field. With a wealth of knowledge from both industries, Mick has developed an innovative new system for fish farms – the Foover. Although he had the idea several years ago, Underwater Contracting (UCO) was launched last year and the Foover systems have since completed more than 20,000 dives in commercial operations around Scotland.
The "patent pending" system consists of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) with a collection cage attached, that when dropped into a fish pen, hoovers up dead fish. The collection unit can cram up to 750kg of fish into the cage which equates to around 150 large salmon. As well as having a large capacity, the Foover works very quickly. It takes one minute to plunge 30 meters into the depth of the pen, just three or four minutes to collect 150 morts, and another minute to return to the surface.
The sites where the system is currently operating report that the whole process takes no more than six minutes in total. Impressively, a 10-pen site in 25 meters of water with an average amount of morts, can be rendered 100 percent mort free with visual verification through the camera system in under 2.5 hours.
Customers are mainly using the Foover for mort removal; but once on site, they can really see
the potential for other uses. This generally involves net inspections and the cleaning of cages and pipes leading back to the feed barge. The Foover is easily installed on-board typical workboats with deck space of less than three square metres and can be deployed and recovered from the pen using the workboat crane. It"s simple to control with a joystick from the wheelhouse of the boat, with a monitor that displays information from the ROV, whether it"s inside the pen or performing operations outside of it.
UCO maintain that at this stage the Foover doesn"t necessarily replace divers, but it does
significantly reduce the amount of time personnel spend underwater. The traditional method carries inherent risks, while working for longer times and deeper depths, with no restrictions on the amount of diving undertaken. When Mick was a fish farm diver, the cages were 15-20 meters deep but now they are closer to 30 meters in the centre. Therefore, there is higher risk of decompression implications and diver illness adding to the risk of scuba diving in fish cages.
As one can imagine, UCO performed several in-water trials with various "mort-like dummies"
before approaching fish farms with the system. Luckily, Mick"s old contacts who had been farm operatives and managers alongside him, were now area managers and allowed him to perform the initial trials at their sites.
With headquarters in Aberdeen, Scotland was the obvious target area to begin with, but UCO
fully expect further orders from Norway and, perhaps, in Spain and Chile, following serious enquiries. Still in its first year of operation, UCO now has six Foover systems in place with another two to be delivered by the end of 2018.
The company is flexible in its approach and can provide both full service and rental only
agreements for clients. Most customers like to hire the system along with a UCO Operator for the first 4-8 weeks for trials onsite before committing to using the system full time. Others prefer a UCO Operator on site longer term, for troubleshooting and maintenance.
Following trials of the clients chosen length, UCO can train nominated staff in-house so
that the Foover can be rented on long term agreements at vastly reduced costs. UCO will carry on maintaining and updating the system as technology evolves in conjunction with further UCO developments.
UCO is now progressing other potential applications for the Foover including the removal of
excess feed, fish waste from underneath pens, net repair systems, net weight installation, "hamster wheel" cleaning and the list goes on. UCO is confident that the UCO Foover system could cover all general subsea maintenance in the aquaculture industry in the future so watch this space.