Plankton provide about two-thirds of the Earth’s oxygen, are the largest sequester of carbon and the baby food to practically every species of fish. In aquaponics, plankton increase dissolved oxygen, stabilize water quality and reduce pathogenic microbes by consuming nutrients and bacteria in the water. However, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Huge plankton blooms, typically caused by too much nitrates, consume dissolved oxygen when they decompose which can result in massive fish kills. The key to a healthy aquaponics system is balancing many factors including pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, nitrates, phosphates, biological oxygen demand and turbidity. In our research, we are developing novel microscopes to monitor the distribution, shape and behavior of plankton and use this data to model and predict the health of an ecosystem. Our objective is to use plankton as an environmental sensor, like a smoke detector, to alert scientists of disturbances in the ecosystem before they become disasters. Aquaponic systems provide a small, contained and controlled ecosystem for us to train and test our microscopes, algorithms and models. Once trained, an AI microscope may be used to continuously monitor the health of an aquaponic system.
Tom Zimmerman is a Research Staff Member and Master Inventor in the Cellular Engineering group of IBM’s Research Division. His 60 patents cover position tracking, user input devices, wireless communication, image and audio signal processing, biometrics and microscopy. His Data Glove invention established the field of Virtual Reality, selling over one million units. His electric field Personal Area Network (PAN) invention sends data through the human body, exchanging electronic business cards with a handshake, and prevents air bags from injuring children in cars. His wireless sea turtle monitoring system predicts hatching and is installed in the US and Costa Rica. He received his B.S. in Humanities and Engineering and M.S. in Media Science from MIT.
Tom Zimmerman will be at this year’s Putting Up Shoots Conference