SWEN Capital Partners' Blue Ocean impact fund makes first investment in OptoScale
Norwegian start-up OptoScale has raised EUR4.1 million in a financing round led by SWEN Capital Partners, a specialist in unlisted sustainable investment, with additional participation from the Norwegian fund Skagerak Maturo.
OptoScale's ambition is to use data to improve the real-time monitoring of fish farms and the sustainability of farming conditions in the sector. With this funding, the start-up intends to accelerate the deployment of its technology and continue its expansion in the markets where it is already present, Norway, Scotland and Canada, as well as establishing itself in Iceland, Chile and Australia.
Founded in 2015 by Sven Jørund Kolstø, OptoScale is a pioneering player in data collection and analysis for fish farmers, a market which is estimated to grow from about USD10 million today to USD400 million by 2030.
The data collected by the sensors and software developed by OptoScale - which includes real-time assessment of the precise average weight of fish as well as the detection of possible early diseases or animal welfare problems such as injuries, deformities and lice - helps producers to optimise the production cycle. The production cycle lasts 18 months and includes fish growth, feed use and treatments.
Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, OptoScale's technology allows producers to screen nearly 200,000 fish per day, compared to about 50 to 100 fish with more traditional methods. An underwater camera is immersed in each pen and transmits daily measurements in real time, with an estimated accuracy of 97 per cent. With this information, fish farmers can improve the feed conversion ratio and avoid overfeeding, which is generally estimated by the industry to be around 10-15 per cent. Accurate feeding can reduce water pollution and also result in lower greenhouse gas emissions, which would be equivalent to removing the average pollution of 100,000 cars per year.
"Fish farming is a growing market," says Christian Lim, co-managing director of SWEN Capital Partners' Blue Ocean fund, which is the lead investor in the deal. "But to explore its potential, the industry needs to significantly improve its productivity while addressing environmental issues. OptoScale has developed a technology that is essential to achieve both of these objectives."
"We are proud of this first transaction, which is at the core of the Blue Ocean Fund's strategy: investing in innovative solutions to generate both a systemic impact and competitive returns, with the ambition of transforming high-growth, job-creating markets such as aquaculture," adds Jérôme Delmas, Managing Director of SWEN Capital Partners.
"The aquaculture sector is relatively young and therefore open to innovation," says Sven Jørund Kolstø, Managing Director of OptoScale. "Previously, farmers had to use boats to manually assess a small sample of fish once a week or month. Not only is this method tedious and stressful for the fish, it is also quite inaccurate. OptoScale is well positioned to gain market share and aims to have 2,000 units installed at customer sites by 2027. We intend to achieve this by doubling our current workforce to 40 people by 2024. Several positions are already available."