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Silicon Valley lice counter inventor targets Scotland

Bryton Shang, chief executive of Aquabyte, is looking to Scotland after raising $10m for expansion. Photo: Pal Mugaas Jensen / Kyst.no.
Bryton Shang, chief executive of Aquabyte, is looking to Scotland after raising $10m for expansion. Photo: Pal Mugaas Jensen / Kyst.no.

The Norwegian-American company Aquabyte, which develops systems for automatic lice counting through machine learning, has set its sights on Scotland and Canada after announcing that it has raised $10 million in a financing round to strengthen its growth. 

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The money has come in a so-called A-series financing, led by existing investors such as Costanoa Ventures and New Enterprise Associates, Inc., (NEA), Oslo-based Alliance Venture, the Chile office of Alaya Capital and Struck Capital in addition to other so-called angel investors.

The company, which emerged from the technology community in Silicon Valley, has had such tremendous development since entrepreneur and chief executive Bryton Shang got a good idea at AquaNor 2017 that the company now has about 25 employees.

High accuracy

Through good camera technology and machine learning – so-called artificial intelligence - the company has developed algorithms that allow recognition of the lice on the fish, and which should, with a high degree of accuracy, give the breeders a number on the lice situation in the cage without physically extracting fish for manual counting.

With the new funds, Aquabyte will accelerate product development by doubling its team and expanding into new salmon-producing countries, including Scotland, Canada and Chile.

“We have plans to double the number of employees to about 50,” Shang told Fish Farming Expert’s sister site, Kyst.no.

“This will happen both in Norway and San Fransciso, but also in other markets. We will also expand the product line to include estimating appetite and quality, predicting salmon lice outbreaks and feeding automation.”

Scottish market

How quickly Aquabyte enters other markets will depend on how things are going, but Shang says the company will probably look at the Scottish market towards the end of the year.

Earlier this year Aquabyte launched its system that is now ready for use in Norway.

He said the goal is for revenue of $3 million this year, increasing to $10m in a year or two.

“There are many farmers who are very interested and who we work in close dialogue with. So far, what we have achieved in just two years has exceeded our expectations,” said Shang.

Biomass and health status

The system will also be developed to calculate biomass and health status and could be used to control feeding intensity.

“Biomass calculation will be the next thing we will be working on,” he said.

“To date, 700 terabytes of fish images have been processed and more than two million fish have been scanned. Through the algorithms one can determine the weight of a group of fish within 0.8% of true weight, 95% of the time,” said Shang, who is this week in Norway to visit company employees and customers.

An image from Aquabyte's video about its lice counter, which can be found at www.aquabyte.no.
An image from Aquabyte's video about its lice counter, which can be found at www.aquabyte.no.
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