IoT enhancing Fishing for the common man: SwahiliBox shows us how to do it

My recent move to Doha to work with Al Jazeera Media Network was not the end of the line for SwahiliBox (I just realized some people may have seen things this way), a technology open space initiative we had set up in Mombasa together with some brilliant fellows, among them Aly Salim, Ajra Abdulatif, Nayla Hatimy and Lilian Wambua — together with the crew and brilliant community members we have who are very active in our Code Challenge and Maker Space outfit who are up to this day a great force in shaping the future of the technology sector in Mombasa and the coastal Kenyan Landscape. We have an amazing line up of various events and activities this year. I shall also soon be blogging soon about the new Makers Lab we are setting up in Likoni though our SwahiliBox Ladies initiative. But this is not what this blog post is about.

Mombasa is Kenya’s largest town linking the Indian Ocean to the interior of the Eastern Africa region as a whole, with a huge port. That also means fishing is a big thing to also do in this coastal town, as it is in all coastal towns close by. Aly Salim and his IoT crew who work out of our Maker Space in Mombasa (SwahiliBox Labs) worked with some fishermen to come up with an impressive new project…


Fishermen on the Kenyan coast have been fishing for a long time and with the advent of bigger boats being available to them they have been staying at sea for more than 24hrs. This meant that they have acquired more fishing gear (reels with over 100 hooks) thus the need for them to track these reels, nets or cages when they are dropped in the ocean so as to minimise the loss of this equipment which works up from 250000 to over a million Kenya shillings. The cost of having buoys with tracking system specifically for the fishing industry is too high (5000usd upwards) for these local fishermen. They thus end up loosing gear a lot of the time.


Building the prototype

Why can we not use the IOT hardware like arduinos and gps, gprs sensors to come up with a more affordable version of the same in order to help out the fishermen. This is a solution that would involve using a gadget attached to the fishing gear made by us at Swahilibox which would either respond to an App on the fisherman’s phone or have a secondary unit on the boat that would communicate with it and display coordinates of the fishing gear which would be of use to the fishermen in tracking the gear. This would reduce their losses over an annual period and benefit them enabling them to focus on building on their fishing businesses rather than contend with losses and start from scratch every few months due to loss of equipment at sea.

Connecting similar prototypes together

The essence of the project is to have a transmission unit and receiver unit the transmission unit will be fitted in a buoy attached to the fishing gear and the receiver unit will be on the boat and will be triggered to receive any data coming from the transmission unit. This data involves gps coordinates that are then used by the fishermen to keep track of their fishing gear at sea. They do this by means of their smartphones or garmin map gadgets that have downloaded maps and can be fed with coordinates to direct the fishermen on their location and on how to get from point A to point B.

There will be a self-recharging mechanism involved in order to keep the transmission unit going when the gear is at sea. This will involve using seawater to recharge the battery fitted for providing power to the transmitter unit in the buoy.

We are waiting on a component to finish it off but dry run works need to get it in a Buoy for the fitting once we get the remaining component. So we will be getting this to the field in no time.

Updates to follow. Do not hesitate to keep in touch if interested. Send us a Facebook inbox through our SwahiliBox page.