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AquaNor blog 2019: Sea lice spread to Silicon Valley

Stay on top of all the recent aquaculture innovations here.

Thursday, Aug. 22, 4:00pm CET

Stingray – Lasers are still on

Stingray, still the only company delousing salmon with lasers thanks to an early patent, reported that it experienced tremendous growth in 2018, reportedly ending with a turnover of €10 million ($11 million).

The company still caters mainly to the Norwegian market but has been opening up to customers in Canada, Scotland, and Iceland.

As Stingray has developed its technology to cater to sea lice counting and other diagnostic services, General Manager John Arne Breivik said that it has the unique advantage of time. Despite knowing that there are other companies “breathing down their necks,” he says, the data “snowball” started rolling for them a long time ago.

“We collected a massive amount of data over the years, and now it is huge. The [new] software brings added value, but we also have a core product -- the laser delousing -- that customers are willing to pay for on top of our new services.”

According to Software Manager Espen Borrud, Stingray remains the only tech-oriented solution for delousing that is both non-medical and proactive, citing that traditional skirts and cleanerfish are the only alternatives in this category.

-- Nina Unlay

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Thursday, Aug. 22, 3:30pm CET

Hyperthermics – Turning waste into feed

“It is both an advantage and a disadvantage to be first,” said COO Erlend Haugsbo. “You have to find your market.”

Fermentation technology company Hyperthermics is moving into the seafood industry from the waste industry because it sees potential in the incremental amount of waste coming from salmon farmers in Norway.

Hyperthermics biotechnology utilizes volcanic matter that can break down biomass up to 12 times faster than biomass would break down in nature. For fish waste, which they have tested in their plant in Norway, the process can be as quick as less than 24 hours. The waste is then turned into high-quality feed for shrimp or lumpfish.

There are currently trials going on and the company has been testing different kinds of salmon waste from various companies.

“There are alternatives, but we are the one of the few that can turn waste into protein. Some use insects, but that is a process that can take days.”

Although it would be possible to replicate with other species, Haugsbo said the company is putting the focus on salmon, citing that there is a lot of waste in Norway that has to be dealt with.

-- Nina Unlay

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Thursday, Aug. 22, 2:00pm CET

AquaGen – Speed is key

Norwegian genetics company AquaGen has been in the aquaculture game since the 1970s. According to Communication Manager Anne Vik Mariussen, fish farmers are looking to genetics companies to keep their fish growing quickly. The company supplies eggs for salmon, rainbow trout, and lumpfish species.

“Growth speed and lice resistance are two main concerns,” Mariussen said. “Shortened time means less time to attract sea lice.”

Another concern is availability. “Farmers want the assurance that you have the capacity to deliver all year round, because they want to restock as many as four times a year.”

-- Nina Unlay

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Thursday, Aug. 22, 1:00pm CET

SpectraLice – “A bad statistical foundation”

SpectraLice first developed the technology they now use in automatic lice counting as seabed mapping for the oil and gas industry. However, the company’s next step took it into seafood.

“Manual sea lice counting needs to be done up to 10 times a week, for companies with thousands of fish. That is a bad statistical foundation,” said CEO Oddborn Rodsten.

The application of lice counting made sense for their hyperspectral cameras, which identifies all spectrums of visible light, and which Rodsten identifies as one of their competitive advantages.

Although the space in AI and machine learning for aquaculture is crowding, Rodsten said there are still key factors for success and ways to maintain the advantage.

“The hardware has to be good and easily operated. Unique, in some way. And it needs to perform better over time.”

SpectraLice was a finalist for AquaNor’s Innovation Award. The company is running a pilot with Leroy Group and is hoping to launch commercially in 2019.

-- Nina Unlay

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Tuesday, Aug. 20, 5:21pm CET

Quality still main priority

Swedish processing equipment company Alfa Laval has been in the fish oil and fishmeal business for a long time. Over this time, however, the company's drive for innovation still comes from the same motivation -- a demand for high quality raw material.

“A trend we see from processing is that companies want more products fit for human consumption, not just feed,” said Epsen Paulsen Tyrihjell, regional business manager. He cites an example of current equipment that has increased the value of protein water by splitting it with enzymes.

“Customers are still looking for ways to maximize raw material,” said Adina Usiewicz, marketing and communications project manager for the group.

-- Nina Unlay

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Tuesday, Aug. 20, 4:20pm CET

Is machine learning the new trend?

Based in Silicon Valley, Aquabyte has over 60 engineers in both San Francisco and Bergen, Norway, working on training machines to count sea lice.

This photo-based approach relies on an algorithm that requires a lot of testing, but which would make the counting process faster over time. A spokesperson also reported that the company is looking into algorithms for biomass estimation and for detecting fish defects.

The software is currently being trialed by Bremnes Seashore, and is set to launch commercially in Norway this year before hitting the global market.

-- Nina Unlay

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Tuesday, Aug. 20, 3:12pm CET

The trend of digitization

“Digitization is more than just taking information and putting it on a cloud,” said PatoGen CEO Jorn Ulheim, regarding the trend toward digitization in aquaculture. “Look at the Netflix’s and Airbnb’s of the world-- for something to be truly digital, it has to be innovative, disruptive, and scalable. It doesn’t need to be rocket science.”

There are many startups and tech companies vying for digital innovation, Ulheim said, but scalability in particular has been a key factor of PatoGen’s strategy.

Norwegian biotechnology and fish health company PatoGen built itself on laboratory testing, but is now also growing its IT department. Their newly launched platform, PatoGen Life, aims to assist salmon farmers, lower sea lice levels, and facilitate planning. It utilizes official public data to make intelligent predictions.

Aside from PatoGen Life, the company is also launching a histology service, a new tool to prevent mortalities.

“There is a big drive coming from public concern for fish welfare,” said Ulheim. “Aquaculture depends on public resources... in a way, it is a social contract. Companies like ours are well-placed to focus on those concerns and developing tools to help serve that purpose.”

Revenues for PatoGen in 2018 were NOK 86.3 million ($9.6 million/ €8.6 million) and EBIT at NOK 9.2 million ($1 million/ €921,800).

-- Nina Unlay

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Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2:53pm CET

Down the tubes

Akva Group has some enviable results with its tubenet systems -- essentially a "cage within a cage" installations that force salmon below what it calls the "sea lice belt."

Its most recent trial, at Eide Fjordbruk farms in Western Norway, showed a 90 percent reduction in sea lice, results that Akva now hopes will convert companies on the fence about the technology.

The tubenet system essentially creates a freshwater funnel inside the netpen, both allowing for a sea lice free zone for treatment as well as pushing salmon lower into the water. Sea lice tend to be active in the first 10 meters of the water column.

Sea lice take a massive toll on the salmon farming sector, and companies are scrambling for solutions, Akva Export Sales Manager Tom Hatleskog said.

Akva first began testing its tubenets in 2014 in conjunction with the Institute of Marine Research and Bremnes Seashore. Encouraged by those results, Akva began taking the concept to salmon farming companies in Norway. Mowi is among the other companies using the technology.

The next installation is forthcoming, and the company thinks the Eide Fjordbruk results will give it the ammunition it needs to convert others, Akva's Helen Helland said.

Site performance will differ, of course, and outside of Norway lower site depths mean tubenets would reduce the biomass in the pen.

Still, the cost of sea lice can far outweigh the lower biomass, and already interest has been shown in Scotland for the technology.

--Drew Cherry

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Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2:27pm CET

New Norwegian venture acquires Tasmanian firm

Norwegian aquaculture technology company Scale AQ announced the acquisition of Panlogica, a Tasmanian company known for their fish farming optimization program, Neptune.

"We had similar customers, but they have the Neptune software that complements our portfolio," said Tore Laastad, Communication Manager.

"There are new drivers for aquaculture, land-based and sea-based, which includes the maturing of technology."

Scale AQ was recently set up through the merger of Norwegian firms Steinsvik, Aqualine, and AquaOptima.

The company is targeting sales of NOK 1.9 billion in 2019.

-- IntraFish Media

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Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2:20pm CET

Offshore aquaculture booming in Asia

"Offshore farming is becoming a stronger concept, although cost-effective and viable technology solutions are a recent development," said Ola Kvalheim, former CEO of Morenot and investment manager of Morenot parent, FSN Capital.

"There is a strong interest, particularly from China and other Asian countries, where there are investors and the circumstances to support it."

The company recently finished a net analysis for the Arctic Offshore Farming Project of Norway Royal Salmon and is set to deliver nets by the end of the year.

It currently supplies to Salmar's Ocean Farming site and has a third deal in the works.

Kvalheim says that sustainability and tech solutions are essential to get the support that aquaculture needs from the general public and government bodies.

-- Nina Unlay

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Tuesday, Aug. 20, 10:41am CET

Welcome to AquaNor

Welcome to this year's on-the-spot IntraFish coverage of AquaNor, where all aquaculture stakeholders meet in the halls of Trondheim's Spektrum! Make sure to also stay on top of Editor-in-Chief Drew Cherry and Business Reporter Nina Unlay's twitter feeds for more stories.

--IntraFish Media

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