“Digital innovation in the aquaculture industry is driven by small start-ups”

Aslak Berge

While industries such as the media, grocery, telecom and banking have come a long way in terms of digitisation, salmon farming is still in its early days, according to a report by the Boston Consulting Group.

“I believe successful innovation has as much to do with as much the management of innovation as technology,” said Dag Sletmo.

Sletmo said he has worked with “F&F”, fish & finance. Today, it is DNB’s seafood department that pays his salary. Previously, he worked at Cermaq and ABG Sundal Collier.

Kodak moment
He bases this on several well-known companies when describing their approach to technology and digitalization.

“Kodak was completely overrun by technology. In fact, Kodak invented digital technology. There was a 25-year-old there who did, but he was told by his bosses that this was no market for and they saw no reason to depart from the well-functioning old strategy.

“Xerox was in another league. They developed the PC mouse and menu-driven systems,” he explained, adding that Apple has since made good use of this technology.

“Schibsted, I think, is Norway’s most successful digital company. It is the only digital company worth more today than it was 10-15 years ago,” he says, pointing to its successes with publications such as VG Nett, Finn.no and online classifieds in France.

He then showed a picture of a hippopotamus.

“Now many of you probably want to know why I am showing you a picture of a hippo,” he said looking out over the assembly consisting largely of technologists during the Tekna autumn conference in Bergen, Norway.

“Highest Income Person’s Income, HIPO. The person who earns the most will decide what is innovation. That’s a problem for all major companies. It is a phenomenon that is very important to work with if one is to keep up with innovation,” he said, pointing out that his own employer, DNB, has grasped this with his own team, for example in the development of the payment service Vipps.

“In big companies, “failure is not an option.” In the other extreme, startups are, and this quote by Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Sletmo refers to Atlantic Sapphire, as a particularly innovative company.

“They have made a bunch of mistakes since they started land-based salmon farming in Denmark. They did try not to make the same mistakes twice.

“The salmon farmers often have very slim organizations. They are concerned about things that can improve their operations – at the latest next quarter. I think that when it comes to digital innovation in the aquaculture industry, it is run by small start-ups,” he said.

He is clear on what he thinks will characterize the winners of the future.

“Not that one produces technology, but the ability to use technology, in a commercially successful way, is the winner of the future. What one wants to gain is what is differentiating. For salmon farmers, it is that you get higher price, lower costs or higher volume,” concluded Sletmo.