The simulator and its 3D interface come from Uruguayan company AcruxSoft, and its software is now in use in more than twenty countries. Former trawler skipper Frank Chalkling is behind the development of the system and he created his first software package back I the late 1990s.
‘I was concerned with the amount of fuel we were using when fishing and with its impacts on the environment. So I started working on a way to simulate the behaviour of trawls and other gears,’ he said.
At first there was only a numerical simulator, which required a certain level of ability from the user. Then AcruxSoft was selected to take part in a government programme for innovative companies and a 3D interface was developed. He explained that from the outset the appeal of the software was the possibility of testing different fishing gears without the time and expense of sea trials.
‘Fishermen don’t have the time to carry out tests,’ he said. ‘They need to be fishing when they at sea.’
The TrawlVisionDesigner software allows the user to work on more than 120 gear models, calculating cutting rates, dimensions, twine surface areas, netting types, twine sizes, and rigging. Calculated designs can be saved and stored. The software includes a library with hundreds of designs suitable for different grounds and allows for varying towing power.
Users can load TrawlVisionDesigner with the information on the projected trawl design and calculate a number of variables. Then TrawlVisionSimulator simulates the fishing gear’s performance. Users can focus on each section of the fishing gear and make adjustments to the design, changing parameters for the nets, doors, twine sizes, towing speed and other elements, all of which contribute to optimisation of fuel consumption.
‘A hypothetical fleet of 15 vessels and a possible 30% efficiency optimisation – due to the adjustments simulated in our software – could provide a fishing company with a significant saving,’ Frank Chalkling, commenting that reducing fuel consumption is a major factor, but so is making the gear more effective.
‘More time fishing equals more fuel. So a greater selectivity of catch means that you’re spending less on diesel,’ he said.
For more than ten years, netmaker Manel Gonzalez of Catalan company TrawlNetControl has been using the AcruxSoft package to produce and simulate different designs – and show them to his clients in Spain, Portugal, and France.
‘To catch red shrimps in the Mediterranean, you have to deal with several kinds of seabed in the same place. The simulator helps you to predict the behaviour of your fishing gears in all conditions,’ he said.
Manel Gonzalez explained that the Spanish government is currently supporting the replacement of trawl doors.
‘I’ve been using the software to show my clients the resistance of different doors,’ he said, adding that if a client can operate more economically after using the AcruxSoft software, this is something that can be shown to others and this can override the traditional conservatism of many fishermen when faced with changing techniques and methods.
‘One of the main advantages of the simulation is that the fishermen go out to sea already knowing what their gear performance will be,’ Frank Chalkling said.
As improved selectivity have led to reduced seabed contact and lower emissions, AcruxSoft won an award in 2012 at the International Exhibition of Inventions.
He has been visiting dozens of maritime colleges in recent years, as AcruxSoft’s software is seen by many instructors as one of the few viable tools to demonstrate to their students the whole process of fishing gear design and performance evaluation.
In the coming years, he intends to offer a cloud-based version of the software.
‘It’s a way of reaching more users,’ he said.