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Open Ocean Observation Platforms

Measurement instrumentation for in-situ data collection
The offshore engineering required to collect in-situ data from the open ocean environment has been subject to ongoing iteration to improve on the ability to correlate real world data with modeled behaviors, and ‘close the modeling loop’ to refine model outputs and increase certainty in quantification results. The approach to verification hardware development has focused on dematerializing (i.e. making components smaller and more efficient), scaling to production, and developing an ecological impact design philosophy to maximize information gained with the minimum possible footprint.
Verification hardware sensor deployments conducted in the North Atlantic in late 2022 and early 2023 included custom designed camera buoys, as well as GPS-enabled trajectory buoys and environmental sensors (wave energy, chlorophyll-a, and temperature) — both pictured below. Extending open ocean sampling capabilities to include parameters of the carbonate chemistry of seawater is an active area of exploration.
Offshore prototype tests have been conducted for multiple generations of verification hardware sensors over the past several years:

2021 - Proof of concept and working system for offshore data collection

North Atlantic 1 - March 2021

  • Tested off-the-shelf GPS and remote imaging systems for the purpose of observing open ocean macroalgae seed recruitment. The basic functionality of these systems was validated.

Labrador Sea 1 - July 2021

  • Custom-designed imaging prototypes were tested and certain failure modes were revealed. This deployment also allowed for the exploration of drifting dynamics in a location with less dispersive ocean gyre properties.
  • First offshore photos from camera systems built in-house were captured, ~1,100 miles northeast from the Maine point of departure into the Labrador Sea.

North Atlantic 2 - December 2021

  • Significant improvements to the camera system design, including move to internal solar panel, antenna bulkhead through lid to eliminate the need for an external harness, custom charger board (i.e. lower floor power), and more.
  • Successfully tested the electronics and software systems for the second generation of custom imaging systems.

2022 - Reliable platform for offshore data collection fit to carbon removal system design

Open Ocean Observation Platform Development - Q1/Q2 2022

  • Evolution from camera system testing to full-stack open ocean observation platforms outfitted with GPS-enabled trajectory instruments and environmental sensors alongside imaging instruments.
  • Observation platforms outfitted with fluorometers (used to measure chlorophyll, a proxy for nutrient levels) developed in-house. Off-the-shelf fluorometers cost up to $2,000 each; Running Tide fluorometers, in development since early 2021, cost less than $300.
Figure 6: Instrumentation for open-ocean data collection.

Gulf of Maine - June 2022

  • Stress testing of observation platforms to prepare for open ocean deployments — drop testing, drag testing, and stability testing. First operational observation platforms with full capabilities deployed into the Gulf of Maine.

Iceland Sensor Deployment 1 - December 2022

  • Successful deployment of fully operational verification hardware systems into the North Atlantic, providing real time biogeochemical data and in-situ imagery over multiple months.
  • Sensor deployment location and trajectories were used to test and tune the trajectory model and improve deployment quantification processes from site selection and prediction to carbon credit quantification.
  • Carbon buoy floatation data collected from open ocean observation platforms was compared to laboratory results.

2023/2024 - Increased efficiency, dematerialized design, improved measurement capabilities

Iceland Sensor Deployments 2 and 3 - Q1 2023

  • Two additional verification hardware deployments were conducted in January and March/April of 2023, collecting additional data on performance in varying wind/wave conditions and testing different deployment methods and trajectories (i.e. lowering camera buoys with a long line vs. trajectory buoys dropped off the side of the boat, released over a larger geographic area rather than in once place, etc.).
  • More than 1,700 photos and 10,000 trajectory points were shipped back from the first two verification hardware deployments.

Ongoing Hardware Innovation

  • Additional dematerialization of core hardware components (top enclosure and camera box evolution shown below).
  • Preparing for rollout of next generation of open ocean observation platforms.
  • Exploration of substrate “wearables” (i.e., verification components attached directly to a subset of carbon buoys) and capacity for onboard data processing.

Machine Vision Image Analysis for Macroalgae Growth Quantification

  • Ongoing, multi-year project to generate texturized, three-dimensional models from a set of two-dimensional macroalgae images to verify macroalgae biomass accumulation and carbon content — more detail below