The Deep-tech startup that delivers optimization solutions to the aquaculture industry has raised somewhat less than NOK 15 million (EUR 1.5 million) after earlier, raising the corresponding amount from the Norwegian Research Council, Innovation Norway, and NTNU Discovery.
Since its inception in 2014, Bergen-based Optimeering Aqua has developed software that helps salmon farmers optimize their production. The company already has products in the market, and the new funds will be used to further strengthen sales, development, and further global expansion in Scotland, Canada, and Chile.
Long R&D phase
Optimeering Aqua was created with the idea of making use of numerical optimization to help aquaculture companies make better use of their existing resources and to make better decisions based on their large, varied data sources. The four founders, Erlend Torgnes, Gavin Bell, Magnus Hausken and Karan Kathuria, all with a background in industrial economics and optimization, had for several years before forming the company worked on similar issues in the power industry.
– For a hydropower plant, it is important to dispatch the water in the reservoir optimally in terms of price and volume. In aquaculture, it is about producing and dispatching to the market biomass. Mathematically, the problems have many similarities, but also some major differences, and we have used the time since 2014 to build a deep understanding and a true-to-reality model of salmon farming production in Norway and other aquaculture nations, Erlend Torgnes says.
Shortly after the foundation of sister company Optimeering in the autumn of 2013, the founders made a phone call to their former professor Asgeir Tomasgard at NTNU, who also had the idea of using optimization technology in aquaculture. Shortly thereafter, they founded Optimeering Aqua together to develop a SaaS solution that meets the aquaculture farmers’ challenges related to utilizing resources better, and to handle the rapid changes in biological production.
From old-school technology through AI hype to solid value
Numerical optimization or operations research as it is traditionally has been called is a well-established field that also often go under the umbrella term AI.
– Operations research, just like AI and machine learning, is a fairly old technology, which with the development of computing speed has gained a new renaissance and relevance. When we started doing this in 2013/2014, there were few in the industry that was very interested in this, and many who were skeptical about a “PC making decisions for them.” Much has happened since then, and now there is hardly a startup that does not claim to do AI, Erlend Torgnes points out.
Torgnes gladly admits there is much hype around the concept of artificial intelligence and digitization.
– For us that have been working with this for almost ten years, it is great that the area attracts attention. At the same time, we also see that the industry is flooded with promises of what artificial intelligence can deliver. We have probably received good help from the hype, but at the same time, it can be a challenge if a trend becomes a hype in that it does not provide the tangible results that are promised which again creates a challenge for anyone who is perceived to deliver something similar to the trendy field. However, it is really fun to be part of the group of companies that take the AI hype forward to deliver tangible results, which in our case are good and realistic production plans that allow aquaculture planners to explore the scenarios in seconds rather than days and thus fundamentally changing how planning is done.