Aquatech company Bluegrove has been awarded a €3.5m grant and investment package to support the development and commercialization of its Welfare Shield technology.
“The European Innovation Council’s decision to support technological advances that combat stress and disease in farmed fish is proof of their commitment to animal welfare,” said Bendik S. Søvegjarto, CEO, Bluegrove.
Bluegrove competed with over 800 companies from 30 European countries for support from Brussels.
“This is a European Championship in innovation, and it is impressive what Bluegrove has achieved. The company offers a solution to major challenges that can be effectively transferred across national borders”, said Håkon Haugli, CEO of Innovation Norway, who has supported Bluegrove’s application.
The technology will be used to help reduce mortality rates and improve the health and welfare of farmed fish. Early detection of welfare challenges reduces risks of disease outbreaks and thus health treatment costs, while simultaneously promoting healthy fish growth.
“With our technology, farmers can observe fish behavior in ways that were never possible, hence they gain knowledge and insight that helps them improve efficiency,” said Søvegjarto.
Farmers who understand the fish in their cages can already feed on demand, which means less feed is wasted and utilization of growth potential. This cuts both feed costs and feed waste onto the seabed, which in turn reduces the environmental impact of aquaculture.
The development of the new welfare solution enables farmers to also take preventive actions that lead to reduced mortality rates and improved fish growth, which ultimately boosts farms’ productivity and sustainability.
Welcome engagement by Brussels
Brussels’ support package is made up of a €2.5m grant and a €1m planned investment.
The package was arranged with the support of Innovation Norway, a government agency that funded a grant to write the application.
“Both fish farmers and investors in aquaculture will be reassured by Brussels’ active engagement with and increasing support for aquaculture’s efforts to become a sustainable animal-centered industry that treats the animals it rears with respect,” said Søvegjarto.
“By using cutting edge technology to improve our understanding of bioprocesses that occur in aquaculture, the industry will be able to produce more seafood in ways that are ethically sound, productive and environmentally friendly.”
“With hundreds of thousands of fish in a cage, it is impossible for a human operator to monitor all the individuals, let alone find changes in behavioral patterns. With our digital technology and deep learning mechanism, we are able to understand what the fish are telling us, enabling farmers to act upon deep insights,” said Søvegjarto.
Bluegrove’s hardware platform for feeding is already being used by three of the four largest salmon farmers in the world, and installed in cages along the entire coast of Norway, as well as in Chile. The same sensors that are currently used to optimize feeding will – through new machine learning analysis in Welfare Shield – be used to measure stress levels and early detection of disease outbreaks, by observing changes in swimming patterns combined with objective appetite-measurements.
Whenever these changes in behavior appear, the solution will notice them and warn the farm operator, allowing the instigation of mitigation measures to prevent a risk from becoming a huge problem.
“This will reduce mortality and improve the health and welfare of salmon in the cages, as well as ensure good and healthy growth in balance with nature. This is good for the industry, consumers, the environment and of course for the fish,” said Søvegjarto.
Sustainable and efficient aquaculture
Aquaculture is an increasingly important part of the global food system, which will have to meet an anticipated 59 % growth in demand for food, and a 73 % rise in demand for high-quality animal protein as food, as the global population grows from about eight to almost 10 billion people by 2050.