– An ecosystem for startups in the seafood industry gives value and boosts entrepreneurship, says Nina Stangeland, Managing Director in NCE Seafood Innovation. She is enthusiastic about new businesses starting up and contributing innovative solutions to the industry.

Tarald Kleppa Øvrebø next to ShrimpVision’s aquaculture system for shrimps. Photo: Invest in Bergen

This article was first published in our annual report 2019.

Seafood startups boost the implementation of new technology in the industry
ShrimpVision AS is bridging Norwegian aquaculture technology and tropical shrimps, while Marine Technology Innovations AS have new, sustainable solutions to reduce biofouling. Startups can provide new solutions in the aquaculture industry. The two companies are both results of NCE Seafood Innovation’s mission to build an ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship in the industry. – These are like vitamin injections to the business, as they bring new thoughts about technology and business models and speeds up the pace of innovation in an industry. They also represent a high growth rate and implementation of new technology, as small companies are shown to commercialize innovation effectively, says Stangeland.

Natural biocides
Marine Technology Innovation AS is one of the exciting newcomers in the cluster, working to solve a growing problem for the aquaculture industry: Biofouling. – We are trying to reduce marine growth in a more sustainable way. Today’s solution is to use copper, which is not sustainable for the environment, says Arnt-Gunther Dietel. Together with co-founder Raymond Rogne, he is working hard to find natural antifouling for aquafarms and other installations.

– Our main concept is to combat marine growth, and we believe this is the only way to attain a long term sustainable production, says Rogne. Copper-based antifouling raises concern because of pollution, and the industry needs sustainable alternatives. To assess different natural components MTI has built an accelerator where they can speed up natural growth by adding light, temperature, and nutrition. – One or two weeks in the accelerator equals half a year in the sea, Rogne explains.

Queuing up to cooperate
With this powerful tool, they can test a great number of substances and have so far particularly good results against hydroids, that grow into fiber structures, making them very difficult to remove. Being part of the NCE Seafood Innovation is part of MTI’s core strategy:

– I cannot emphasize enough how much faster we reach our goal by being part of NCE Seafood Innovation. It has helped us enormously with competence, says Dietel. Their initiative has also been warmly embraced by the industry.

Arnt-Gunther Dietel (right) speed dating executives and investors at the Seafood Innovation Day.

Combining tropics and Norwegian know-how
ShrimpVision represents a different approach to innovation and entrepreneurship by taking existing technology on recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) and using it in a new market: Production of fresh tropical shrimps on land in Norway. ShrimpVision has just recently become a member of the Cluster, but the history behind the company shows that they are a true product of the different Cluster initiatives. Two of the founders, Tarald Kleppa Øvrebø and Sjur Øyen, are both students in the University of Bergen’s integrated master’s program on seafood and aquaculture. The program was established as an initiative from the NCE Seafood Innovation together with cluster partners, and Øvrebø and Øyen are some of the first students to finish their degree. The thought behind the initiative was to make a program tailormade for fulfilling the industry’s need for future competence of new employees. – Our company is a true child of the different initiatives of the NCE Seafood Innovation, says Øyen. Their idea is to produce large, tropical shrimps near the market, exploiting waste heat from the local industry. Internationally, vannamei shrimp production is around 4.1 million tons a year, while salmon is 1.3 million tons. But the shrimp industry is most often based on primitive production methods in open, land-based ponds. It has a reputation for not being sustainable: The ponds contribute to deforestation of mangrove in many areas.

Building ecosystem of entrepreneurship
ShrimpVision will produce shrimps in a sustainable way, but a good business case is even more important. – We are starting up with shrimp farming because it is the best business case right now. In aquaculture production is intensifying, which can lead to more problems. Therefore, Norwegian technology and resource management can become an export industry, says Øyen. Nina Stangeland is satisfied that the cluster attracts people and companies with new ideas. – In the NCE Seafood Innovation we believe that the entrepreneurs have a better possibility for success and faster commercialization if we help them to identify and point in the direction of different players that can contribute with competence, network, and capital, says Stangeland.