Norwegian engineer Esben Beck has been commercialising his invention through his Oslo-based company since 2014, transforming it from a basement start-up to a cutting-edge technology firm with around 50 permanent staff.
The patented device is now being used in more than 150 salmon pens in Norway, earning the company nearly €10 million in 2018, and is now being extended to other fish farming markets outside the country.
“This invention shows how high-tech from an SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) can help an established industry that is worth billions,” said EPO president António Campinos about Beck’s nomination.
“Beck’s patent application enabled him to raise funding to develop technology which can benefit animal welfare and improve yields in fisheries.”
The device is fully automated and can operate 24/7 without the need for human intervention or handling of the fish.
“A lot of people told us that it would be impossible and that is such a great motivational factor for any inventor,” said Beck in a press release.
Stingray is equipped with stereo cameras and uses artificial intelligence to examine video footage in real-time. Onboard computers scan all recognisable parts of the fish simultaneously and can pinpoint the shade and shape of any sea lice in just seven milliseconds.
The software then models the path of the fish in the water to predict the future location of the targeted sea louse. It then directs movable mirrors to focus the device’s green laser beam on to the individual sea louse, lock it on target and fire short pulses of intense light into the parasite. The green wavelength transmits effectively underwater. The laser burst is deadly for the lice, but it bounces off the shiny fish scales of the salmon.
The winners of the five categories 2019 edition of the EPO's annual innovation prize will be announced at a ceremony in Vienna on 20 June.
Below: Watch a video of how Beck progressed from burning ants with a magnifying glass as a child to developing his novel sea lice solution.