Go Small or Go Home: Our Migration to Develop a Miniature Fish Tracking Tag - Online

Aug 27, 2020 11:40 AM - 1:00 PM


Location: Online (see instructions below)

Date: Thursday, August 27th, 2020

Time: Virtual Networking: 11:40 am, Presentation: 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Cost: Free

RSVP: Please use our Online Registration process to register by Tuesday, August 25th, 2020.


This event qualifies for 1 Professional Development Hour (PDH) for the Engineers Nova Scotia CPD program.


The river systems in California are regulated by the government who need to be certain that obstructions placed in the waterways are not affecting the migratory behavior of the native fish. As such they need to tag fish and monitor their passage through the river system using receivers which listen for the tags. In particular, our customers in that area were interested in monitoring juvenile salmon on their trek from their spawning grounds, in the cold clear water at the top of the river, out to the ocean. Unfortunately, these baby salmon are so small, that our “normal” small tags were too big. Fish tags must be no more than 5% of the fish’s weight which, for juvenile salmon, means that the tag can weigh no more than 300mg. Our smallest tag at that point in time was 450mg and it did not have any features that were required for the Californian market such as long shelf life and high power level, both features that would add substantially to the weight. So this was our challenge! We needed to design a tag that was under 300mg but with at least a 30 to 60 day operating life and power levels comparable with the larger tags. A competitor of ours was also working on the same challenge, so it was important to beat them to market. This began the year-long project that took many twists and turns along the way.  It turned out that the microbattery we found was both the enabling technology for the tiny tag and the bane of our existence. Our development project included an Apollo 13-esc effort to minimize battery usage and extend the tag life as long as possible, a complete platform change mid-way through due to a world wide shortage on the microcontroller we chose, and some interesting testing in the Sacramento river during crazy high-flow water conditions. My presentation will explain a bit about fish tracking and what we do at Innovasea and then highlight the interesting aspects of the development process. The presentation will end by revealing our new tiny tag product, which is about to be officially launched to the market.


Presenter: Sara Stout-Grandy, M.Eng., PhD, P.Eng.

Sara is an Electrical Engineer who graduated from TUNS in 1997. She has a master’s and doctoral degree in electrical engineering from Carleton University, with specialty in Antennas and Electromagnetics. She is currently employed at Innovasea (previously Vemco) as a Hardware Engineer in the R&D Fish Passage Department. Sara has been at Innovasea for just over 3 years and has been fortunate to work on several very interesting fish tracking related projects. She is involved in the design effort as well as project management and gets to interface with many different departments as they develop products and introduce them into manufacturing. Previously, she spent 7 years at GeoSpectrum Technologies (GTI) learning all about underwater acoustics, where she happily discovered that there are many similarities between RF and underwater propagation (it’s all the same equations)! When she started at GTI, they were a team of 7. By the time she left, she was the Operations Manager for a team of over 50. She has also been an adjunct professor at Dalhousie University in the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department where she taught Design Methods II for 4 years and is still a guest lecturer on occasion. She is a mother of two and an active participant in a local dinner theatre group.


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