It was estimated at one point that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson ate upwards of 821 pounds of cod per year. He’s certainly an outlier, but as global demands for seafood increase, fish farms are rising to meet that challenge, with the aquaculture market projected to reach $219.42 billion by 2022. Already, half the seafood eaten in the U.S. is farmed, and a startup called Aquabyte is using machine learning and computer vision to make those farms more efficient and productive.
Using cameras mounted in fish farm pens, Aquabyte’s software monitors data such as the fishes’ biomass, feed consumption and sea lice counts. Armed with this data, fish farmers can better understand their inventory, optimize the feed process and maintain regulatory compliance to reduce harmful impact on the surrounding environment.
Aquabyte takes the data from the pen cameras and applies it to models developed by fish nutritionists to determine the optimal amount of feed to distribute, which is a percentage of the fishes’ size. Aquabyte’s software can better detect the biomass of the fish in pens, and can also “watch” the pellets fall through the water to determine how much of them the fish are eating.
Using its software, Aquabyte claims that farmers can save money by not overfeeding, and also promises to eliminate over and underselling by giving them a better sense of how many fish they will actually produce for sale.
Aquabyte’s computer vision and machine learning can also yield a positive impact on the local environments of fish farms. One of the ways it does this is through quantifying sea lice, which can be a destructive force in the close quarters of a fish farm. Not only can they destroy a farmer’s inventory, but sea lice can get out and attach themselves onto passing wild fish, eventually killing the native fish populations. This problem has gotten so bad that Norway has enacted regulations forcing farms to control the number of sea lice in their pens or face heavy penalties.
Traditionally, sea lice quantification is done manually by netting fish out of the water and counting the lice by hand. Aquabyte’s software, however, can automate this process to keep fish farms within regulatory compliance, without requiring anyone to hand-count sea lice.
Aquabyte was founded just under a year ago and has offices in San Francisco and Bergen, Norway, where its software is currently running on a few fish farms. (Between this and Hatch, Bergen is becoming a hotbed of aquaculture tech.)
Aquabyte is targeting salmon farming in Norway to start, and the company just raised a $3.5 million seed funding round last week. They will use the money to hire out a team of software engineers in San Francisco as it works to bring the commercial version of its software platform to market.
Future versions of the software will work in other parts of the world and with other fish such as trout, sea bass, and hopefully–assuming The Rock’s appetites don’t diminish–cod.