Blue Ocean Gear embarked on its first journey to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi during the summer of 2022. When Peter Macy, the chief business officer of Blue Ocean Gear, received an invitation for an exclusive preview of the program, he readily accepted the opportunity.
For years, the Gulf Coast of Mississippi has been a vital hub of the blue economy, characterized by bustling shrimping vessels, industrious oyster farmers, and dedicated shipbuilders. Now, a new era of the blue economy is emerging, driven by innovative technologies like those developed by Blue Ocean Gear, which introduces intelligent sensors to fixed gear fisheries worldwide.
In November 2022, the California-based team joined the pilot program of the Gulf Blue Navigator. Since then, they have capitalized on the program's industry connections to conduct testing of their state-of-the-art hardware on a research vessel from the University of Southern Mississippi. They have also successfully completed a pilot project in collaboration with local oyster farmers and engaged in data analysis projects with the esteemed faculty at the University of Southern Mississippi's Marine Research Center.
Founder, Kortney Opshaug, previously worked at NASA, overseeing operations for a major research program. While her Ph.D. focused on aerospace engineering, her passion for the ocean led her to explore underwater robotics. During her time as a docent at the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary, she became acquainted with fishermen and recognized a significant issue they faced. Fishermen often ventured out to harvest their crab and shrimp pots without knowing if they had any catch. To address this problem, she began developing technology that could count the catch in traps, transmit the data to the surface, and subsequently to the cloud for users to access.
As a team, they are driven by the imperative of enabling ocean stewardship through technology. In doing so, they tackle multiple challenges. Firstly, Blue Ocean Gear addresses the issue of lost fishing gear. Studies have indicated that an astounding 640,000 metric tons of gear are lost annually. More recent research conducted in the Pacific Garbage Patch revealed that 75% to 80% of its contents consisted of fishing gear or plastic entangled in fishing gear. By reducing even a fraction of the gear lost each year, we can make a substantial impact on the health of the ocean and its climate.
Secondly, Blue Ocean Gear technology helps fishermen save time by eliminating the need for extensive searching for their gear. This directly translates into fuel savings and a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. Their product can be submerged to depths of 200 meters or more, endure prolonged periods in the Bering Sea, and establish communication through various channels. Through cloud technology, data collected by the buoys can be transmitted to diverse sources, ranging from the fisherman's spouse's cell phone to the fleet manager's computer.
One of the significant challenges that Blue Ocean Gear faced, and many innovators face, is the deeply ingrained traditional nature of the fishing industry, characterized by its small size and fragmentation. Pressure from external groups to change their practices constantly burdens the fishing industry. Hence, it was crucial to build a technology that genuinely caters to the needs of fishermen, rather than being designed solely around the objectives of other stakeholders. This requires considerable time and effort to conduct extensive testing and collaborate closely with fishermen to develop a solution that genuinely adds to the value to their operations.
Blue Ocean Gear is making waves in this space! Great job Blue Ocean Gear!