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Process Optimization and Automation Projects

Smart agriculture data analysis.
Smart agriculture data analysis.

IT/IoT solutions - smart agriculture and precision farming

Agriculture is a strategic economic activity and is fundamental to keeping many rural areas alive in Nova Scotia, Canada and worldwide. In order to support the economic and social welfare of their population, today's agriculture should be productive and environmentally responsible. This requires technological innovation to maximize the efficiency of the activity while ensuring that food production delivers a good quality, reasonably priced results that comply with sustainable environmental criteria.

Hanatech is a local company that develops Internet of Things (IoT) solutions; they currently focus on building systems. With the support of NSCC, the company is looking to expand into agricultural systems to help farmers be more productive in their crop yields by utilizing new technologies, such as smart sensors, farming drones, and self-drive tractors.

Hanatech is developing a Smart Sensor, which includes multiple sensing functions - soil temperature, moisture, and pH. The Engineered Technology Applied Research Lab (ETARL) is tasked with validating and optimizing the Smart Sensor for commercial use. NSCC's work will help Hanatech gain valuable insights into feasibility and productivity of their agriculture-based IoT solution.

The Cougar XT 1420 ROV at Dominion Diving.
The Cougar XT 1420 ROV at Dominion Diving.

Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) in high-flow marine environments

Energy conversion technologies that harvest the energy from the tides in the Bay of Fundy are becoming increasingly popular. These technologies require dependable tools that can be used to inspect and interact with submerged infrastructure over sustained periods, such as Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs). Improving the performance of this key installation tool is required. Currently, conventional ROVs operate in subsurface currents of up to 1.5 m/s, but the subsurface current speeds in the Bay of Fundy reach 5 m/s.

Dominion Diving is collaborating with NSCC to investigate the technical feasibility of deploying an ROV, the Cougar XT 1420, in the Bay of Fundy. The ETARL will provide Dominion Diving with the information they need to optimize the ROV performance in a number of different operation scenarios. With the ETARL's design parameters validation, Dominion Diving aspires to become a global leader in the use of ROVs in high flow marine environments. Results will help bring the supply of tidal energy - a clean, predictable, and renewable energy source, in line with other energy supply options in Canada.

Research associate, Khan Sakib, presenting data on process optimization for microalgae production.
Research associate, Khan Sakib, presenting data on process optimization for microalgae production.

Microalgae culture for sustainable bioproducts

Over the last decade, interest in sustainably derived bioproducts has increased drastically. Bioproducts, such as biofuels and protein, are in demand due to high oil prices and a lack of protein from fishmeal for aquaculture feed. Unlike agricultural bioproducts, microalgae grows naturally all over the world, in marine or freshwater, and avoids using extensive agricultural land. Under optimal conditions, microalgae is grown at high density and produces renewable bioproducts that contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions with no conflict to food supply.

In an effort to complete the prototyping and optimization of a full-scale, continuous algal biomass production, SabrTech has identified noninvasive and real-time quality assessment of algae as a key for achieving an optimum production rate. The company sought NSCC's support to design a solution that would be economical, easily maintainable, and could be quickly implemented using standards parts. The solution developed addresses the challenges of low biomass yield, high capital, and the harvesting costs.

SabrTech's microalgae solution aligns with the federal government's bioproducts initiatives and represents a new product line for a Nova Scotia's company. SabrTech's business is expected to grow across North America and internationally.

The water ultrafiltration testing system.
The water ultrafiltration testing system.

Using ultrafiltration to test potable water in Shelburne African Nova Scotian community

Despite the Canadian Federal Government's significant financial investment to provide safe drinking water for First Nations communities, many of these communities, and others such as the African Nova Scotian community in the Shelburne County, still do not have adequate and safe drinking water.

In the Shelburne's south end, individual wells are used and are the responsibility of the homeowner. This community is situated in the proximity of a recently closed, unregulated town waste facility, raising the issue of drinking water contamination from leachate.

The ETARL is conducting a pilot scale study through a water ultrafiltration testing to investigate its applicability for given water qualities in the Shelburne's south end community. This is done in partnership with, and additional to previous contributions from Dalhousie University's Environmental Noxiousness, Racial Inequities and Community Health (ENRICH) project, the South-End Environmental Injustice Society (SEED) and the Rural Water Watch (RWW) association in the Shelburne’s south end community.

NSCC and partners foster social innovation in the form of looking back to old practices and rediscovering how they show the community the way forward. The resulting outcome will help marginalized communities build capacity around drinking water treatment in a sustainable manner.

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