10 May Wrapup: 2016 Fishackathon in Taipei

By Crystal Tu, Co-Founder of Ocean Says, Fishackathon Taipei Partner

The curtains are drawn on the 2016 Fishackathon in cities around the world this past Earth Day weekend. This year in Taiwan, Fishackathon was held in both Taipei and Kaohsiung.  The Taipei Fishackathon was hosted by the American Institute in Taiwan, the Fisheries Agency and the American Innovation Center.

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Participants discussing the problem statements (Photo by Crystal)

Now, what are some of the most pressing issues threatening fishery sustainability today? From this year’s problem statements, it is not difficult to see that the identification of fish species, the handling of ghost fishing gear, a fisheries database and the integration of regulations are among the top priorities in the fisheries sector today. Unlike what was done previously, the specific contents of the nine problem statements for this year were announced on the day of the event, preventing any team from getting a head start. Though details for products were specified in the problem statements, the participants were given free rein to use any programming languages, packages and hardware to hack the problems.

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Participants showing a lobster net and recovery device created with recycled materials from the venue, which made a splash on the Internet (Photo by Crystal)

In addition, given the participants’ varied levels of training and knowledge pertaining to marine science or fisheries, a special consultation session with the experts was arranged in Taipei to ensure that the participants wouldn’t feel like fish out of water as the event got underway.

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Experts providing fishery consultation (Photo by Crystal)

The organizer also created a repository on Github, where all related documents were centralized and participants could pose their questions using “Issues.” In this way, the problems and feedback from the experts in the repository were visible to all participants which is a pioneering practice in Fishackathon events.

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Github platform (Photo by Crystal)

My teammates and graduate students from the Institute of Marine Affairs and Resources Management at National Taiwan Ocean University also took part in this event. Everyone toiled well into the night, during which there was even a consultation session with Ting-Chun (a.k.a cot), the co-founder of Ocean Says from Canada through Google Hangouts.

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Cot saying hello to all (Photo by Crystal)

The Fishackathon in Taipei congregated a diverse pool of talents. Some teams comprised company colleagues, while others were fellow club members from college or laboratory mates. Some were even made up of hackers who met during previous hackathons.

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Refreshments time (Photo by Crystal)

Among the 26 teams that submitted their final work on the third day of the event, 19 teams advanced to the second round, while teams whose applications failed to function or were irrelevant to the stated problems were eliminated. Six teams chose to tackle the challenge of ghost fishing gears, four decided to help fend off the Asian carp invasion, three focused on fishery data collecting and three focused on fish fillet identification apps. Two teams devoted themselves to creating applications to integrate information of fishing vessels and collect biological measurements from fisheries catch, and one team worked on the interoperability of fisheries data.

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Participants working on the projects (Photo by Crystal)

The competition was fierce, but three finalists were chosen by a panel of expert judges. Team CLHY clinched third place with their FiCoMal application, which offers a comprehensive solution for identification, measurements, and data collection of the fishery catch. The camera installed on fishing vessels captures images of fish for species identification and calculates the amount of the catch from a pile of fish (with calibration from weight). It can be used offline, and uploads the data once the fishing vessel docks and backs online.

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Concept and motivation for FiCoMal (Photo by Ramon Lin)

Team SUV claimed the runners-up spot with their Ocean Agent, which offers a solution for the collection of ghost fishing gear. Their idea is to install a float tracking device (“ball”) on drift nets. If the nets are damaged, the device emits signals for the biomimetic robots to track and recover damaged fishing gear.

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Florescent float tracking device and biomimetic robots with clown fish (Photo by Ramon Lin)

A team from Akubic Corporation netted the grand prize with their solution for containment of the invasive Asian carp species in the Great Lakes. Aside from providing relevant information and visualizing the invaded locations on the map, the team also created a low-cost US$20 water sensor to help monitor the potential locations of Asian carp invasion.

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Akubic Corporation’s water sensor (Photo by Ramon Lin)

Team Watercode won the Best Innovation Award for their creation of an application designed to tackle the difficult task of fish fillet identification and to prevent consumer scams. Their goal is to diminish any possibility of being scammed even before the consumer steps into the restaurant or store. Their application allows users to upload photos of the fish (be it the fish fillet or fish skin or whole fish) sold by the store to be identified by experts. The app also allows for mutual ratings by stores and experts. It ensures safer consumption by showing the credibility of the retailer.

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Team Watercode’s demonstration (Photo by Ramon Lin)

During the award ceremony, American Institute in Taiwan Director Kin Moy commended all participants for their innovation and perseverance, saying that everyone deserved a medal for their effort. He noted that that the problems facing fisheries today are daunting tasks even for the experts, and every team could only help tackle part of the problem. Yet, he was confident that given time, the Fishackathon pool of talent will eventually surmount all obstacles and pave the way for a more sustainable ocean and fishery environment.

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AIT Director Kin Moy addressing all participants (Photo by Ramon Lin)

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