Manolin - Using Big Data as a tool for disease-control in the aquaculture industry
This April, HATCH kicked off its first cohort and welcomed eight aquaculture startups to Bergen for a three-month accelerator program. One of these startups is Manolin, creating a digital health management platform to accelerate the resource sharing between aquaculture farms. In this interview with HATCH, Tony Chen, Co-Founder and CEO of Manolin, talks about how machine learning and big data can be implemented to provide the aquaculture industry with real-time insights that can help treat, manage, and prevent health outbreaks, as well as letting us know why Marineholmen can be considered the Silicon Valley of aquaculture.
Tony graduated college with a degree in computer science from MIT. He has spent the last four years working as a management consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton, focusing his work around helping government agencies develop better cloud and digital solutions. Outside of work, Tony have always had a great love of the water, first from fishing with his dad as a kid, to becoming a competitive swimmer through his college years.
Manolin is a health analytics company for aquaculture. The idea behind the company was born when Tony and John Costantino (his co-founder) worked with oyster farms in the Chesapeake bay, recognizing the need that farmers have to better understand the health of their crop. Upon further research, they quickly learned that health in aquaculture is an even larger issue, where unpredictability affects farmers worldwide, and decided to look into the problem. The team consists of Tony together with CTO, John Costantino, and is incorporated in both the US and Norway, with their headquarters currently located in Bergen at the BTO offices. Manolin is currently funded through HATCH and are looking to raise a seed round after the accelerator program.
How does your technology work?
We’re a big data company looking to build tools that will help the industry better understand how health issues are progressing throughout the coast line. We’re utilizing geo-spatial analytics and machine learning to monitor the industry and provide our customers with the data needed to make the necessary cost-savings and time-sensitive decisions for their operation.
What are your products?
Currently, we offer a dashboard that enables our customers to keep track of sea lice related activities near their farm.
“Through our platform, farmers can keep track of sea lice submission, treatment information, and receive notifications whenever new activity is detected.”
How will your technology help reduce the amount of sea lice in salmon production?
From our perspective, information transfer regarding lice needs to flow extremely quickly in order to coordinate the most effective response to an outbreak. Our technology is aimed at exactly that, informing our customers as soon as possible when activity has been detected so that they can prepare a plan of action. The faster the industry is able to respond, the more manageable the issue becomes.
How do you imagine digitalization will affect aquaculture in the future?
I believe that it will be the differentiator that sets one company apart from another. When you look at large companies over the last century, companies that have viewed software engineering as an advantage has proven to do be able to better than their competitors. For example, you could argue that only a small handful of computer manufacturers (Apple and Microsoft/Lenovo) viewed software a competitive edge rather than necessary evil. I believe the same will happen in other industries as well, and digitalization will bring aquaculture into the future.
How market-ready would you say your products are?
We already have a product in the market, and we’ve been able to onboard 15% of all active salmon farms in Norway onto the platform. Over the next few months, we’re going to continue building new solutions and adding to our existing product.
Do you think your technology is disrupting the aquaculture industry? Are you trying to replace existing products?
Absolutely. We are not trying to replace any existing product, but rather introduce new tools to accelerate the work that is already happening.
“As we think about our vision, the role that we hope to play in the industry should disrupt the way the entire system operates. We want to see health become an even more important component in the way the industry operates, and disruption is going to be needed to make that happen.”
What is Manolin’s market?
Our target market right now is Norway, but we see ourselves growing globally across all of aquaculture.
How much did you know about aquaculture before entering the industry?
Not much! We learned a lot working with oyster farmers in the United States, but it has been a lot of learning.
Do you see yourself working together with other startups in the cohort?
Definitely! We share the same vision regarding the direction that aquaculture needs to grow in the future, and we understand that aquaculture is very complex. Our ability to impact that future will require us to not only to just ways to work together, but activity look to make it happen.
Do you also see yourself working together with Norwegian-based aquaculture companies outside of the cohort?
Of course, again we believe that our vision of aquaculture requires a lot collaboration, so we’re really excited to work with more companies.
What is it like to be a part of HATCHs accelerator startup program?
“It’s like being a part of a sports team, where the companies are the players, and Hatch is the coach. At the end of the day we are measured individually, but the coach has a responsibility to try and make the entire team as successful as possible. Overall a great experience!”
Would you consider Marineholmen in Bergen as the “Silicon Valley of aquaculture”?
For us working with salmon, I think that’s the best way to describe it.
“When you look at what people say are the most important parts of being in Silicon Valley, it usually boils down to being in an ecosystem where resources and advisors are easily accessible. Bergen is the exact same when you look at having the right access into the aquaculture industry.”
In one sentence, what do you have to achieve in order to become a Billion-Dollar Company?
In order to become a billion-dollar company, we need to become the company that owns the largest dataset regarding the environmental health of our oceans.