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Success Stories

Polyculture Development

Back in 2001, down on Newfoundland’s Burin Peninsula, a Grade 9 student named Sarah needed an idea for a school science fair project.

Her mom suggested she look at wave power; a rather fortuitous choice, when you consider that the Canadian Hydraulic Centre reports that the south coast of the Burin Peninsula has the highest “near shore wave energy density in eastern North America”. It was also fortuitous that Sarah’s dad, Mike Graham, Ph.D., works at the Burin Campus of College of the North Atlantic.

The southeast coast of the Burin Peninsula is home to the ‘perfect storm’ of conditions for this research: a unique combination of geography (significant waves, winds, and tidal currents) and technological capability (metal fabrication, welding QA/failure analysis, electronics, control
systems, biologists, chemists, and more) at the CNA campus in Burin.

Inspired by Sarah’s school project, the Ocean Technology and Wave Energy Centre, located in Lord’s Cove on the Burin Peninsula, began its first project in 2003, with the aim of designing and deploying a wave-powered piston pump to provide low-pressure seawater to shore-based facilities, such as shore-based aquaculture.

The lead researcher on the project, Mike Graham, Ph.D., is setting up a land-based pilot aquaculture farm to optimize a cascaded poly-culture system and a relatively cheap supply of fresh seawater is crucial in this process, thus the importance of the pump.

The tanks will be set up to raise salmon and sea urchins. Mussels and scallops will be used to filter out the suspended particulate matter from the salmon and sea urchin tanks’ effluent. The effluent from these mussel and scallop races will be used to sustain macro algae populations. This will significantly reduce the nitrogen content of the effluent. The macro algae will in turn be used to nourish the sea urchins.

The farming of aquatic species is complex, and for many reasons, it works better if you can ‘farm’ many species (polyculture), instead of just one (monoculture). A longer-term goal then, is to establish a prototype - the first in Canada - for modeling commercial-scale polyculture, which would have significant potential for fish harvesters, processors and buyers, and aquaculturists.

Meanwhile, significant work has been done at Lord’s Cove: building and wharf renovations, and installation of piping, data acquisition equipment and telecommunications equipment, for example. This infrastructure, and the expertise and technology found at the college’s Burin Campus, are available to interested parties.