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November 23, 2016

The World is His Oyster: Connected Solutions Enable Daniel Ward to See Food


Fresh seafood can taste great, but if it is not handled properly, people can get sick, and that can lead to business closures and lost revenues. That’s never happened to Daniel Ward of Ward Aquafarms, and he wants to make sure it never does. So, a few years ago, Ward set out to find a solution that would enable him to track the location and condition of his company’s products throughout the value chain – all the way to the point at which it reaches the consumer.

Cape Cod’s Ward Aquafarms is a 10-acre, 1,000-cage facility that provides bay scallops, oysters, and other seafood to Boston-based wholesale distributor Pangea Shellfish, which then distributes the products all over the country. Traditionally, record keeping on the seafood was done on pen and paper. But today Ward Aquafarms has a solution that lets it verify the location and temperature of the seafood in real time to make sure every organization in the value chain is treating the company’s product correctly, says Ward.

A connected sensor now goes into each mesh bag in which the oysters are transported to their final destinations. That means if there is an issue with the food, Ward Aquafarms can identify the root of the problem instantaneously, rather than shutting down its organization until investigators can pinpoint the source of the problem.

Ward, a PhD in environmental science and biology, now also has a system in place that helps him better understand his growing environment. In the past, he says, figuring out where best to do work was a guessing game. But water temperature and how much food is in the water impact the oyster growth rate, he explains, so the company has put in place a solution that provides satellite imaging data, measures environmental and sub-tidal water temperatures, and can monitor chlorophyll.

Assuming such a solution existed, Ward reached out to Verizon with his request. The service provider hooked up Ward with couple of cameras – one of which does thermal data collection, gathering information about water temperature and the temperature of the shellfish. The data from the cameras and sensors is sent to the cloud via a Cradlepoint device and Verizon services. And a software backend brings that information together with data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  

Ward said he was able to get the Mobotix thermal camera and Cradlepoint gear up and running, and begin moving data from these devices to the cloud, within a couple of hours. The backend software, which Verizon custom developed for Ward Aquafarms, was created in just a week. However, since the launch of this solution, which was the first phase of the company’s Internet of Things implementation, the partners have gone through multiple iterations to streamline the process.

While there was a learning curve for Ward to understand how to use the platform, he said there have been no major challenges or difficulties with the deployment to date.

“It’s been excellent,” he said.

Ward declined to provide the total cost of this implementation or an estimate on when he expects to realize a return on the investment. But he did say that this is a solution that clearly brings value to Ward Aquafarms and that it’s a platform on which the company expects to build over time.

For example, in addition to temperature, Ward Aquafarms wants to gather data on oxygen. The company also tracks its oyster sorters with cameras, and Ward would like to integrate those cameras with the Verizon ThingSpace IoT platform.

Verizon over time also has been adding various Intelligent Track & Trace features to ThingSpace.

The Track & Trace feature was initially introduced to support customers in the pharmaceutical space with its serialization feature. That enables companies to track shipments at lower levels than the container level to comply with the Drug Supply Chain Security Act.

In the third quarter Verizon expected to add cold chain/environmental monitoring Track & Trace functionality. And in the fourth quarter the carrier will introduce Intelligent Hospital Track & Trace, which will allow tracking of devices throughout their 4G journeys to the Wi-Fi within medical buildings.


Edited by Ken Briodagh


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