Stephanie King spent her childhood summers on the seaside, where she found her love for the ocean, and consequently decided to study oceanography at one of the best universities in Canada: the University of Victoria. Her family were farmers, so naturally, she developed an interest in farming the seas.
After 15 years of a career in satellite oceanography, she changed course to co-found InWater Technologies, a company which specializes in water quality monitoring for aquaculture. In addition to running InWater, she also participates in important associations such as the Fish Culture Section of the American Fisheries Society and BC Salmon Farmers Association. In this way, she proudly collaborates with farmers to improve the sector.
“After many years of working in science and research, I started on a new path which led me to InWater Technologies and the best job in the world”, she says. Immerse yourself in her history!
You have 15 years of experience in science and research. How were your beginnings?
I worked on a wide range of projects centered around the development of algorithms to detect plankton blooms in coastal waters. The research required ground truth measurements to validate the satellite data. I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the field.
One of the studies looked at water quality around fish farms on the west coast of Vancouver Island. This was my first introduction to aquaculture and I was enchanted with the idea of growing fish.
I did a lot of work on the state of the oceans, including how it relates to wild salmon returns. It was very interesting to work, but at times discouraging.
A lot of science has identified problems in our oceans. But, it is surprising and frustrating how little we seem to understand the cause of those issues. Becoming involved with aquaculture felt like I was contributing to a solution to many problems.
How would you explain the concept of good water and what water quality solutions does InWater Technologies offer?
“Good water” is a relative term. The definition of good water depends on the requirements for what is grown with it. Water quality will be affected by many factors including system design and the environment. It is critical to monitor water quality so that it can be managed, and in turn, grow the healthiest fish.
InWater Technologies works with equipment that helps growers monitor and manage their water quality so that their specific requirements are met – both in the ocean and on land. Our work typically involves monitoring dissolved oxygen, temperature, salinity, and pH but can include anything important for a specific species.
In the ocean, there is less control over the environment, so monitoring becomes very important. My business partner Kurt Lang has spent a lot of time working with farmers and has been designing methods for improving water quality. Collaborating with the user is the best way to develop a product that works.
Can you explain to us in more detail how InWater Technologies work with their clients? Who makes the first contact, what are the next steps, and what consists of those partnerships?
We were very fortunate with the immediate success of our company which was founded in 2019. We have had people calling us from the day we opened our doors. There were several factors for it, but there are two that stand out to me.
The first was that we took over the Point Four equipment line which has built an excellent reputation over 25 years. The second is that my business partner Kurt Lang has been to hundreds of facilities around the world and is a very well-respected and well-known field service engineer.
We have worked hard to maintain and to further develop the relationship with these existing connections. These relationships have been especially important through the pandemic. It is a small industry and in this way, word gets around and it leads to new connections and future customers.
To sum up, contact is typically established by the customer, who is often looking for a solution. Every situation is different and we specialize in providing solutions streamlined for their specific needs. The philosophy of providing the best service is fostered by all of our staff who are dedicated to an excellent customer experience.
Kurt and I work hard to support our employees as best we can so that they are in the best position to support our customers. Then it becomes a positive feedback loop wherein our customers are happy, so they’re great to work with, and in turn, this makes our jobs more rewarding.
Besides manufacturing water quality equipment, we have continued to expand the range of equipment we distribute to better serve our customers. We have also worked hard at building partnerships with like-minded companies.
How exactly does your monitor systems work?
Our system interprets the signal from a probe measuring any type of water quality parameter. The farmer can add alarm and control points, whereby if the parameter falls outside a specific setpoint there is an alarm or a device is triggered to adjust the water quality parameter.
For example, if the dissolved oxygen level falls too low in a tank, our system will open a valve and add more oxygen until the dissolved oxygen levels are safely restored.
How are you and your people meeting the sustainability requirements that the sector is demanding in recent times?
We are supporting the industry in making its operations run more efficiently and safely. On sea-sites, there is a move toward semi-closed or closed containment. This will mean that monitoring, aeration, and oxygenation are even more important.
On the other hand, in land-based facilities, our equipment helps the farmer focus on animal husbandry. We recently installed a system on a live fish transport truck. The customer said that as a result, they had lower mortality at the time of release, they used less oxygen, and the staff was happier.
Ultimately, we are helping to raise healthier fish, which is the most sustainable, green protein grown. We are also starting to work with companies that specialize in AI and more methods to optimize fuel consumption.
According to all your expertise, what is the actual condition of the Pacific Canadian marine ecosystem?
The marine ecosystem is out of balance. Things are changing and every year there are new phenomena that have not been previously observed.
We need to adapt to these changes quickly and the best way to do this is to collect data and have really good analytical tools to help quantify and understand the changes.
What is your personal opinion of how is Canada, as a state with remarkable aquaculture heritage, dealing with future challenges?
The industry, science community, First Nations, government, and environmental groups have historically not communicated very well, and the government has struggled with how to manage the aquaculture industry, but I believe this is changing.
Recently, we have seen exciting new partnerships formed and the large salmon farmers have become much more transparent with their monitoring efforts. Improved communication and transparency are essential for the success of aquaculture in Canada. The recent decision of the federal government to extend salmon farm licenses is a refreshing step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation coming from very few, but very loud voices. Thus, a lot of government decisions are made based on emotions rather than on the data and research done by scientists.
We try to promote the human factor investment. So, this industry can be attractive and reliable to the rest of the world. In which measure InWater Technologies invests in their people?
One of our core company values is that our employees come first. We put a lot of time into emphasizing a company culture that is positive, motivated, and supportive. If we are functioning well as a company, it puts us in the best position to support our customers.
About InWater Technologies
InWater Technologies is a Vancouver Island-based company. It provides water treatment solutions in a range of industries including aquaculture, greenhouses, and wastewater.
It was formed in 2019 and sells Point Four Monitoring and Controls. Also, it distributes a range of aeration and oxygenation equipment, as well as some commercial aquaculture feed systems.
The company supports all of its products with exceptional service. Further, can help out with other equipment issues including repairs, commissioning, installation, system assessments, and upgrades.