Carp be gone: Inventors pitch Snyder plans

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Detroit — Oh, carp!

Experts say the invasive bighead, silver and black species of Asian carp poses an imminent threat to the Great Lakes and inland waters with its biological capabilities to rapidly grow large and reproduce in high numbers.

And its agile leaping skills have seriously injured boaters.

At risk is a $7 billion fishing industry, a $16 billion boating industry and a $20 billion tourism industry in Michigan alone. It must be stopped, officials say.

But how?

That was the question at the center of “Carp Tank” Tuesday at the Detroit Port Authority. Four Great Lakes Invasive Carp Challenge finalists competed for $500,000 in prizes by trying to convince a panel of four expert judges, including Gov. Rick Snyder, that their solutions for stopping the invasive creatures were the best.

The $200,000 grand winner? Edem Tsikata, 38, a software consultant from the Boston area who presented a “cavitation barrier to deter Asian carp.”

Tsikata’s would basically turn away the fish.

According to his plan, a row of specially designed propellers would generate a wall of cavitation bubbles that implode and send off high-speed jets of water. The painful sensation of the bubbles along with the noise of the propellers would repel fish and prevent their passage beyond the bubble barrier.

Tsikata told The Detroit News he plans to use the money to “connect with interested parties and agencies to develop the system further.”

Snyder was impressed.

“He had a great presentation, and this can really help,” he said following the presentation of awards. “I admired all of the other finalists and runners-up. With more brainstorming, we can find ways to improve the situation.”

The Carp Tank competition was the final result of the Great Lakes Invasive Carp Challenge, which invited innovators from around the world to develop methods to prevent invasive carp from entering the Great Lakes. Snyder announced the challenge in February 2017 and solutions were accepted through crowdsourcing’s InnoCentive’s Challenge Center from August through October.

A second-place award of $125,000 was given to David Hamilton, Senior Policy Director for The Nature Conservancy in Lansing.

Hamilton’s “AIS Lock Treatment System” is designed to function in a lock system. After vessels are moored in a gated chamber, a carefully measured amount of chlorine — which is lethal to a wide range of aquatic organisms, including invasive carp – would be injected and mixed into the chamber’s waters. Following treatment, sodium bisulfate would be used to detoxify the water before it is released into the river.

Michael Scurlock, a hydraulic engineer with RiverRestoration in Carbondale, Colorado, received third place and $100,000 for adjustable physical velocity barriers. They are designed to concentrate water flow in a lock system after vessels are moored, creating a current that fish cannot swim against and essentially flushing the system before the lock gates are closed.

D.J. Lee of Smart Vision Works International in Orem, Utah, also a professor and director of the Robotics Vision Laboratory at Brigham Young University, took fourth place with his Recognition and Removal of Invasive Fish. Lee received the fourth-place award of $75,000. His solution is designed to prevent invasive carp from moving past the installation point by directing all fish through an automated imaging and sorting system that uses unique recognition software to divert invasive carp to a holding area for harvest.

The four finalists had about 15 minutes to make their pitch, similar to the way the popular television series, “Shark Tank” is conducted.

Following the award presentations, Snyder talked about next steps.

“We will follow-up and continue to create a dialogue and try to have a collaboration coming out of this by getting everyone to continue to talk,” he said.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources contracted with the firm InnoCentive to design, market and administer the challenge. InnoCentive, a crowdsourcing company, has performed more than 2,000 challenges representing about $48 million in awards.

Tammy Newcomb, senior water policy adviser with the DNR, described the competition as a “fascinating approach to a complex natural resources problem.”

“I think all of the participants today have ideas that are worthy of consideration any place we’re looking to prevent the movement of invasive carp,” she said.

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