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The world’s first fully automated ‘salmon cannon’ is here to save the planet

You’re probably familiar with the hyperloop, the concept of transporting cars at high speed through a sealed tube in order to get them from one place to another. Seattle-based Whooshh Innovations has created its own twist on that — only its model is for fish.

Several years ago, the company — whose website proudly notes that, “We are revolutionizing the world of fish passage” — created the Salmon Cannon, a tubular system through which salmon are sucked, via air pressure, at speeds of up to 32 feet per second. This is to help them get across river-blocking barriers such as dams.

Now it’s back with, in essence, Salmon Cannon 2: Electric Boogaloo — or, as Whooshh refers to it, the Whooshh Passage Portal. And it’s better in all kinds of ways, including the fact that it no longer needs to be loaded by hand.

“The Whooshh Passage Portal can be used on land, or on a floating barge,” Vincent Bryan III, CEO of Whooshh Innovations, told Digital Trends. “It’s a volitional, selective fish passage that can work with obstacles of any height, and most species of fish. Volitional means the fish are attracted to and actually swim into the entry on their own. They then swim over our FishFaucet, like a false weir, and into our FishL Recognition scanner system.”

Salmon Cannon
Whooshh Innovations

As the fish pass through the scanner, they are photographed 18 times in high-definition in just 0.5 seconds. The data from these images, with some smart A.I. assistance, tells the system the size of the fish, its species, whether it’s injured or healthy, if it’s native or hatchery in origin, and more. The fish are then routed to the appropriate Migrator Tube for passage.

“For example, if it’s a native salmon, it can be allowed to continue up and over a dam,” Bryan explained. “If it’s a hatchery salmon, it can be routed to a hatchery. If it’s an invasive species, it can be bypassed and put back in the water below or removed from the waterway entirely at the discretion of the fisheries managers. The fish then glide through the selected Migrator Tube, for passage either above or around the obstruction in a matter of seconds.”

The system is already in use. According to Whooshh Innovations, in 2020 it aided with fish migration in three countries, including the U.S., Canada, and Sweden. In total, it imaged more than 300,000 fish from 12 different species. Then shot a bunch of them through a freakin’ fish cannon to safety.

And to think that people considered 2020 to be an all-out terrible year!

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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