Halifax’s 4Deep inwater imaging develops new underwater algae detector

[Canada] A Halifax company is preparing to roll out the world’s first-ever underwater fluorescence microscope to detect harmful algae outbreaks before they spiral out of control.

The prototype microscope, developed by 4Deep Inwater Imaging, is expected to become a standard instrument in water quality monitoring and research that can be used for public health, aquaculture and shell fishery purposes, among others. The microscope will allow researchers to pinpoint algae cells in extremely low numbers.

“The world’s first underwater fluorescence microscope will serve as an early detection of fluorescence (light) signals from harmful algae before a full-blown algae bloom appears. This type of monitoring is crucial for public health and other applications such as aquaculture and fisheries,” said 4Deep CEO Stephen Jones.

4Deep’s new microscope is receiving a $500,000 cash injection from the federal government, a repayable contribution that is being made via the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s business development program.

The fluorescence microscope has been under development for the past year, having previously undergone both lab and underwater field testing before it reached prototype stage. All going to plan, the microscope will be ready for commercial use and export later this year.

“With applications in oceanography, oil and gas, biomedical, manufacturing and more, 4Deep Inwater Imaging is creating solutions for a broad cross-section of industries locally and globally. The government of Canada is pleased to support 4Deep as they develop a new solution — the world’s first underwater fluorescence microscope, right here in Nova Scotia,” said Halifax MP Andy Fillmore.

Jones anticipated rising worldwide demand for 4Deep’s new product as spreading algae blooms wrack waterways and oceans worldwide.

“If you look at the number of algae outbreaks globally in the last five years, they’ve not only increased in frequency and severity but also geographically,” said Jones.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns that toxic blooms may become more common as climate change takes hold. As rising temperatures warm up oceans and more carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere, it can create ideal conditions for poisonous algae to flourish.

In 2015, Scientific American republished a Climatewire report on an algae bloom that stretched from the Californian coastal town of Monterey up the Pacific to Alaska. This bloom was up to 65 kilometres wide and 200 metres deep, possibly the largest ever recorded.

Blooms such as these often produce domoic acid, which builds up to dangerous levels in shellfish and small fish such as sardines, and moves up the food chain to larger predators. Eating contaminated seafood can cause nausea, vomiting, memory loss brain damage, or death in humans.


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