Ready, Set, Launch! Meet The Fish Cannon

By Joelle Renstrom | Published

This article is more than 2 years old

SalmonHere’s another one of those awesome devices that merges nature and technology, and the result is something like an amusement park ride for fish.

Remember the pneumatic tubes that companies used to use for mail systems back in the day, or that we used to put our bank deposit slips in back when we actually drove to the bank for transactions? These are the same tubes that might someday enable a Futurama-style transport system or even the ambitious Hyperloop. But I think launching salmon from these tubes might be their best use yet.

Whooshh Innovations specializes in transportation, namely of foods and other goods. They started by designing a machine to harvest and move fruit. After harvesting the fruit, it moves at 15 feet per second through 22-26-foot tubes, thus eliminating the amount of time it takes to gather and sort their haul.

It was only a matter of time before they thought, hey, what else can we move in these tubes? I’m not sure fish would be my first answer, but the Seattle-based company decided to use their tech to tackle a growing problem in the area. The west coast is home to a slew of endangered species affected by the presence of dams, which disrupt migration and mating patterns. They often end up killing fish trying to get upriver, particularly salmon that return to their original habitat to spawn. While some upstream passage systems have been designed to help these fish move in the right direction, they’re expensive and not very widespread. Whooshh got the bright idea of sucking these fish through a tube and launching them over the dams that block the Columbia River.

whooshhFive years after first experimenting with a tilapia in a fruit tube, Whooshh has been testing their system at the Roza Dam located on the Yakima River in Washington. In June, Chinook salmon got to try the tubes, which seemed to work well. They enter the tubes of their own volition, and are then moved along by a vacuum and given a pressure boost from behind, whisking them along at speeds of 15-22 miles per hour. Then they rocket out the other end, unharmed, over the dam. The Department of Energy has another test slated for September, and over the next few weeks the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will be testing out a 150-foot tube system to launch salmon into the back of a truck.

On the one hand, it looks and sounds kind of silly, but on the other, it’s totally brilliant. They even got a 500-foot-long tube for processing frozen fish, and just sent one to Norway. Whooshh’s vice president maintains a sense of humor about the project, along with high hopes, saying, “Try it, put a fish in, watch it go, laugh. But then really contemplate where this could go.”

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