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Photo courtesy Heidi Hanson

It was in 2014 that the term Salmon Cannon entered the national vocabulary, thanks to a Last Week Tonight episode in which an ecstatic John Oliver shot fish at famous people. But the Whooshh Transport Tube, as it’s more formally known, serves a greater purpose than just slapping Wanda Sykes with a scaly one: It safely launches wild salmon over hydropower dams so they can spawn. But how did Vincent Bryan III, whose family made a big splash in the music industry, end up turning salmon into a flying fish?

1970–79: Love For The Water

At five years old, Bryan moved from Chicago to Poulsbo. His neurosurgeon father wanted to live “somewhere he could get his hands dirty”—not on the operating table, but with soil and sweat. Bryan’s early memories of the PNW include Bayliner trips out on the sound to catch salmon with dad. In fourth grade, he participated in a marine science program on Liberty Bay, to collect sea cucumber specimens and test water quality. 

1980–86: The Family Business

Upon graduating high school, Bryan enrolled at USC in 1982 to study economics and poli sci, with a particular interest in international law. He spent a semester traveling around the world on a rustic passenger ship, where he was struck by the inefficiencies in global food distribution. Back home, Bryan’s parents purchased 700 acres in Central Washington to plant grapes and establish their first winery, Champs de Brionne. In 1984, to help attract visitors to the remote valley, the family launched a modest, 3,000-seat outdoor event space that live music junkies now know as the Gorge Amphitheater.

 1987–2004: Changing Careers

After getting a master’s degree in law in 1991 Bryan started his own firm. “No one was hiring,” he recalls. He focused on international work, primarily with software developers, before joining Adobe Systems in 1996. Eight years later he took a sabbatical, and Vincent Jr.—who had since sold the Gorge and the original winery—seized the opportunity to convince his son to help run the family’s orchard and vineyard in Quincy.

2004–09: Whoosh Innovations

Back at the family business, Bryan noticed how “workers in the field were very efficient, but transporting the fruit was so time consuming.” In 2007 he gathered a team of agricultural engineers, horticulturists, and IP lawyers to research ways to gently transport fruit from tree to bin. Enter the Whooshh Transport Tube: a hand-fed chute that moves produce at 10 feet per second. With the new system in the fields, Bryan turned his attention to the helicopters flying up and down the Columbia River, lugging bins of wild migrating salmon over the Wanapum and Rocky Reach Dam.

2010–Present: The Dam Problem

“If we are going to feed the world, we need to produce more protein,” says Bryan. With that in mind, he began testing a more durable tube that could withstand extreme temperature changes and high volume in Norwegian fish processing plants. In 2014 Bryan installed the first—and only—domestic system near Vancouver, Washington, to help wild salmon migrate to spawning waters, and to separate hatchery fish from wild salmon, an arduous process normally done by hand. “More fish upstream means more fish back down,” he contends. If even 1 percent of offspring return in a cycle, that would mean an exponential population increase over the next few generations. “The math is pretty simple.”

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