Planet | 16 Jun 2023

Vodafone and Extreme E use IoT to help protect Atlantic salmon from the effects of rising water temperatures and changing rainfall patterns

As part of its partnership with Extreme E, the electric off-road racing series, Vodafone is using the Internet of Things to help protect salmon in a Scottish river.

  • Vodafone has implemented its market-leading Internet of Things (IoT) technology to monitor water quality and temperatures at the River Nith in Scotland to help protect Atlantic salmon from the effects of rising water temperatures and changing rainfall patterns caused by climate change.
  • As part of their partnership, Extreme E, the electric off-road racing series, and Vodafone are working to mitigate the impact of climate change on local communities.

Vodafone has implemented its market-leading Internet of Things (IoT) technology to help measure and mitigate the impact of rising water temperatures and changing rainfall patterns on Atlantic salmon in Scotland. The project is part of the restoration of the River Nith, and its tributaries, to help ensure the preservation of Atlantic salmon. It will initially run for one year.

For centuries, the River Nith has been home to Atlantic salmon, one of Scotland’s iconic species. But in recent decades, the return of adult salmon to the river has been declining year-on-year. According to the Atlantic Salmon Trust, wild salmon numbers have declined 70% in the last 25 years, with water quality and rising water temperatures the two environmental factors known to impact salmon populations.

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Salmon are cold water fish. As climate change causes temperatures to rise, it becomes harder for them to find the cold water they need to survive and thrive. Warmer water has less oxygen, which makes it harder for the fish to breathe. The increased need for oxygen forces salmon to use more energy and swim farther in search of food and cooler water.

In addition, each individual salmon returns to spawn in the river where it hatched, so if the temperatures go over 23 degrees Celsius, the Atlantic salmon cannot return to their spawning ground, which will disrupt their life cycle and threaten their very existence.

The Nith District Salmon Fishery Board has been monitoring Atlantic salmon stocks for over 30 years and one of the issues they have seen is the erosion of the immediate land zone at the side of the watercourse, meaning the channel goes very wide, increasing water temperatures.

Vodafone, in partnership with Extreme E, are working with the Nith District Salmon Fishery Board to find more sophisticated technical solutions using IoT technology to give more accurate water quality and temperature readings. From theses readings, the Nith District Salmon Fishery Board can understand which parts of the river catchment are most vulnerable and how they can then apply tree planting and other initiatives to try to resolve the issues.

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Vodafone has been working with Defra and Forest Research since July 2020 to investigate how Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) technology could help monitor tree growth and support research into the role trees play in tackling climate change. 

Vodafone is providing water quality sensors and temperature sensing devices submerged in the river and on the riverbank, all connected over its IoT network. They can collect and analyse vast amounts of data quickly and efficiently, helping the fishery board accurately assess the quality of water and the temperature in the area.

Vodafone’s specialist sensors are designed to withstand harsh environments. They are placed in the water and attached to trees in the surrounding area. The data is constantly gathered and transmitted back to a user-friendly web portal accessible by the Nith District Salmon Fishery Board.

NB-IoT operates within a very narrow radio band frequency, so it can provide coverage over longer distances than traditional networks – even in remote areas. It also operates at low power so that batteries within IoT devices in the field, such as sensors, can last up to 10 years. This combination ensures that NB-IoT solutions are more sustainable and less expensive to install and run than current alternatives using 4G or fixed-line networks.

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Rockfalls and landslides pose a danger both to people and to one of England’s few World Heritage Sites, which makes the monitoring work done by Vodafone’s sensors even more vital.

Gemma Barsby, UK Head of IoT, Vodafone, said: “At Vodafone, we are determined to reduce carbon emissions and our impact on the planet, but also enable our partners, suppliers, and the UK to do the same. Our partnership with Extreme E is based on these shared core values, and the river Nith legacy project is a perfect example of how technology can be used to monitor environmental conditions of fish populations and the impact of the measures taken over time.

“IoT technology can be used in remote and hard-to-reach places and we see lots of opportunities to use IoT to better support the environmental and sustainability agenda.”

Ali Russell, Chief Marketing Officer, Extreme E, said: “Being in Scotland allows us to talk about issues relating to climate change that are right on our doorstep. For the Hydro X Prix, we are talking about how water plays a huge role in future renewables and heathy conservation.

“It was pertinent to us to find projects that impactfully tie in and we are delighted to be working with Vodafone delivering a project that could help to safeguard the future of the river and its inhabitants for generations to come.”

Jim Henderson, Director, River Nith Catchment Fishery Trust, said: “It is fantastic to work with Vodafone and Extreme E on this innovative, collaborative project.

“The legacy project has the potential to transform the future of Atlantic salmon in the way we are able to collect and analyse data, and to reduce the need for frequent site visits.

“The project will also help us to gather more data which is critical to targeting efforts to measure the impact of rising temperatures on salmon populations.”

Justin Shields, Vodafone Business Platforms & Solutions Director, said: “Vodafone is proud to be providing the fixed and mobile connectivity required by Extreme E to run their core race operations for the championship in Scotland.

“In conjunction with our partner Proximie, Vodafone’s solar-powered MPN (Mobile Private Network) is also delivering a remote medical solution to enhance the safety of the race.

“Away from the track, as part of the Extreme E Legacy Program, our innovative IoT technology is providing water quality and temperature sensing devices to help reduce the impact of climate change on the salmon population in the River Nith.”

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About Vodafone UK

Vodafone UK is a technology communications company that connects people, businesses and devices to help our customers benefit from digital innovation. Our services span mobile, fixed-line connections, home and office broadband, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

We have a strong track record as a tech pioneer, making the UK’s first mobile phone call, sending the first text message, and making the UK’s first live holographic call using 5G in 2018. We were the first to start carrying live 5G traffic from a site in Salford, Greater Manchester and now have 5G in locations across Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain as well as the UK. Meanwhile, our 4G network coverage currently reaches over 99% of the UK population.

Today, Vodafone serves more than 18 million mobile and fixed-line customers in the UK. Vodafone is the largest provider of full fibre in the UK – our superfast broadband services are now available to nearly 12 million homes across the UK.

Sustainability is also at the heart of what we do: as of 1 July 2021, 100% of the grid electricity we use in the UK is certified to be from renewable sources.

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