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Giving the edge to the aquaculture industry

Portuguese software startup Sensaway* recently landed EEA funding, which could not only help the company develop its software, but also improve the European aquaculture sector – both in Portugal and further afield.

8 July 2022, at 8:00am

The company’s founders, Andre Abreu and Afonso Ferreira, explain more.

Afonso Ferreira and Andre Abreu
Afonso Ferreira (L) and Andre Abreu (R), founders of Sensaway

Sensaway has developed the data-driven BlueEdge platform © Sensaway

How has Sensaway developed since we last spoke, in 2020?

Sensaway has continued to improve its BlueEdge platform together with Natura Fish, a company capable of producing up to 500 tonnes of sea bass and sea bream in 19 hectares of ponds in the Algarve. This is where we piloted the first version.

Our platform now unifies almost all data produced by the company. We collect information produced by the company’s automation system (SCADA) – like sensor data, equipment usage, equipment failure – and data from other sources like sales, purchases, fish size samples, feeding and more. Natura Fish now uses our platform and app daily, as a management tool that allows all employees to have the information they need without any delay. BlueEdge gives management information on which ponds are close to maximum oxygen capacity, gives information on cost per batch, margin in each sale and much more.

It’s been great to see the farmers’ reaction to having access to new information and safeguards.

sea bream ponds
The Natura Fish farm site

The farm produces up to 500 tonnes of sea bass and sea bream in 19 hectares of ponds in the Algarve © Sensaway

What have you learned from the farmers?

Farm managers have the ability to look through the data and have an intuition when something is not working as it should. The problem is that they cannot spend the whole day looking at a screen. With our platform, we can ensure that the right person will be alerted before something goes wrong.

As an example, as the biomass of a pond increases, aerators and oxygen valves will have to be turned on for longer periods to maintain adequate dissolved oxygen levels. Having access to the equipment data allows us to continuously monitor the aerators and valves’ “on/off” time to provide information on how close each pond is to its maximum capacity. Having access to biological information, we can then show metrics like oxygen consumption per kg of biomass to help management detect systemic efficiency problems with a specific pond.

As we implement BlueEdge in different fish farms and integrate all different types of data sources, we will able to provide key insights on the status of any given farm.

mobile phone screen
Sensaway's BlueEdge platform on mobile

The new funding will allow Sensaway to develop a predictive monitoring and management platform for RAS © Sensaway

Can you give me a brief overview of your recent EEA-funded project and how you hope to use the experience to develop the company/BlueEdge?

The EEA-funded project is called BlueRAS and aims to develop and test machine learning capabilities that – combined with BlueEdge – results in a predictive monitoring and management platform for RAS that can integrate and process all relevant production data. The main innovations will be the ability to combine production and biological data to produce predictive alarms, provide insights on the current state of the production cycle and aid managers’ decision-making process.

The experience will provide valuable cases studies, which is essential when presenting the solution to potential clients.

Who are the key partners in the project?

The key partners are RasLab and Hatch. RasLab represents the end-user of our technology and their facilities are where it will be implemented and demonstrated. They will provide support in integrating the platform into their system, provide essential user feedback and be responsible for registering all events that need to be categorised and labelled for the development of the machine learning algorithms.

Andre Abreu and Afonso Ferreira
Andre Abreu and Afonso Ferreira

Sensaway has partnered with RasLab and Hatch to develop their platform © Sensaway

Meanwhile Hatch will be responsible for assessing the market, improving and detailing the business plan, planning and defining the commercialisation strategy, implementing the communications plan and creating the necessary engagements with potential clients and investors.

Where will the trials be taking place and what are your top priorities?

The BlueEdge platform will be installed at RasLab, in Bergen, and their data will allow us to customise the platform for their facility and develop machine learning algorithms to optimise processes and their interaction with their production systems.

A top priority will be to show them the flexibility of the platform in terms of customising how data is shown and how we can facilitate and optimise data analysis. Another top priority will be to find relevant metrics to quantify how our platform reduces operational risks (such as mortality and reduced fish growth) and how it adds value to the fish farm's operation. This is important for future engagement with potential clients and investors.

We also aim to show that our platform can help increase transparency for investors. Especially in RAS, with high CAPEX demands, our platform will ease investors' minds by keeping them in the loop on how the company is doing, if it’s meeting its targets, and they’ll have this information directly through BlueEdge, in real-time.

Finally, we want to start collaborating with RAS equipment providers so they can add BlueEdge to their existing offerings.

Afonso Ferreira and Andre Abreu
Afonso Ferreira and Andre Abreu

Ferreira and Abreu want Sensaway to help Portugal's aquaculture sector meet its potential © Sensaway

What do you see as the most promising areas for the country to improve/expand its aquaculture sector?

Several companies are expanding and looking to increase their production output. The bottleneck will be finding experienced staff. With this in mind, the adoption of technologies such as BlueEdge, that can integrate all sorts of data for farmers, can help the successful sustainable expansion of the Portuguese aquaculture sector.

How do you see Sensaway developing in the coming years?

We see BlueEdge as being a must-have for companies that produce fish in high densities, allowing managers to mitigate problems before they have consequences and greatly reduce the risk of fish mortality or sup-optimal growth.

We are aiming to be present in both RAS and flow-through systems, as BlueEdge is scalable and adaptable to the needs of any fish farm. Every feature of the platform is modular, and each client uses and sees only what is relevant to them.

BlueEdge platform on laptop and mobile
Sensaway's BlueEdge platform

Sensaway says that BlueEdge is scalable and adaptable to the needs of any fish farm © Sensaway

We see Sensaway not only as a software technology provider but also as a working partner to help our customers achieve the sustainable growth of each farm.

*Sensaway is part of Hatch’s investment portfolio, but The Fish Site retains editorial independence.