Aquaculture startups – Taking it one step further
Marineholmen in Bergen houses a variety of entrepreneurs, all with different stories to tell. Some of these stories are especially unique, and two entrepreneurs who have chosen to cross continents to reach their goals are Ingmar Høgøy in Molofeed and Bryton Shang in Aquabyte.
The local entrepreneur with years of hands-on experience
Ingmar Høgøy is a Norwegian chemist with more than 40 years of experience in the aquaculture industry, placing his first trout in a pond as a 10-year-old boy. Since then, Ingmar has worked with aquaculture and areas related to the industry in many variants, both in breeding, research, and processing and sales. However, Ingmar has not chosen the traditional way into the Norwegian salmon industry but has turned his eyes towards other areas of the world, focusing on global challenges within the aquaculture industry.
Ingmar’s latest area of interest is the start-feeding of marine fish and shrimp species. Many of the marine juveniles rely on living feed, which is a limited resource on a global scale. During the juveniles’ first 30-60 days Artemia is currently the most widely used living feed, with a global production of 3,500 tons per year. This is in accordance with the total allowed production volume per year on a global scale. The restricted amount of available artemia makes it a challenge to realize a substantial production of promising marine species, a problem Ingmar aims to solve. With his startup Molofeed AS (earlier known as Minipro AS), Ingmar has developed a technology to produce microcapsules of formulated feed that can replace artemia during start-feeding. In 2016, Ingmar won an Angel-challenge, raised private capital, and is today close to completing his first pilot production facility at Eidsvåg in Bergen. Given that there is a global market for start-feed of various fish- and shrimp species, Molofeed’s market will grow concurrently with the global aquaculture market.
Designed in Silicon Valley - Made in Norway
Bryton Shang is a graduate of Princeton University with a great deal of experience as an entrepreneur. Bryton grew up in the small town of Ithaca, upstate New York, and moved to New Jersey to study at Princeton University at the age of 17. Soon after graduating #1 in operations research and financial engineering in three years, Bryton became a trader in New York, building complex algorithms for stock trading. Within the following few years Bryton started his own investment firm, Nikao Investments, and it didn’t take long until he was involved in the start-up-scene in Silicon Valley. Bryton has since then led several other venture-backed startups, building deep learning algorithms to diagnose cancer as the CTO of the biotechnology firm, HistoWiz, and co-founding the brand licensing platform, iQ License.
When involved in HistoWiz Bryton got the idea of using computer vision technology in other areas than diagnosing cancer. Bryton and his companions considered several industries but growing up with a family friend who was also a professor in aquaculture at Cornell University, Bryton decided on aquaculture and founded the startup company, Aquabyte. Aquabyte applies machine learning and computer vision to a camera system to give Norwegian fish farmers information about sea lice counting, biomass estimation and how to optimize feeding. Initially focusing on fish farms in the U.S. but quickly realizing that many fish farms in the U.S. are few and far between, Bryton went to AquaNor in Trondheim in August 2017 and immediately saw the potential in the Norwegian salmon market. After visiting many fish farms alongside the Norwegian coastline, Aquabyte decided on Bergen and Marineholmen as its Norwegian location while still maintaining their technology base in Silicon Valley.
“It’s great up here! A lot of companies are working with aquaculture in Norway, which is something you don’t really find in the U.S. Also, as a startup in the U.S. you have to make it on your own for a bit, but here they provide a lot more support.” - Bryton Shang
Two roads to Rome
The two entrepreneurs have a quite different approach to the aquaculture market. Ingmar has mainly used a bottom-up approach by applying his aquaculture expertise to develop technologies customized to the industry. Bryton has on the other hand applied more of a top-down approach, adapting already existing software technology to the salmon industry. These two approaches to aquaculture innovations are both important if the industry is to overcome its long-term challenges, and there is an increasing trend of smaller startups attempting to grasp market share.
“I am absolutely convinced that it’s the small startups and the small innovative companies that will lead to innovations in the aquaculture industry. The big companies should furthermore function as a customer and premise provider, helping the smaller companies by putting their innovations into use.” - Ingmar Høgøy
Considering the stable “global niche market” of start-feeding and Ingmar’s extensive network in the aquaculture industry, Molofeed is not dependent on extensive branding to gain market share. In comparison to the more anonymous Molofeed, Aquabyte is a rapidly growing team with a very visible marketing strategy. If you type in “Aquabyte” on Google you get over 850 000 search results, in which an interview with Forbes is on the top list.
Both Ingmar and Bryton are unique entrepreneurs compared to their peers. Ingmar has chosen to apply his Norwegian aquaculture expertise on exotic species far outside Norway’s borders, while Bryton are taking a leap from Silicon Valley to Norway in order to apply machine learning to the Norwegian salmon industry. Looking to other continents and having the guts to do something most entrepreneurs wouldn’t, unifies them and makes them successful entrepreneurs taking it one step further as aquaculture innovators.
Author: Marianne Wethe Koch