The evolution of an oyster farming startup

Oceanfarmr*, the new name for SmartOysters, is looking to apply its technology across the wider aquaculture sector – initially targeting mussel and seaweed producers – and has also launched a new finance tool for farmers.

26 October 2022, at 8:00am
Ewan McAsh headshot
Ewan McAsh is the co-founder and CEO of Oceanfarmr

After creating SmartOysters in 2020, McAsh's aquatech has branched into mussel and seaweed farming

Ewan McAsh, co-founder and CEO of the startup – whose initial product was an app that logged the location and status of every oyster bag on his own farm, in Australia – explains their new direction.

Why the name change?

We started SmartOysters as I was an oyster farmer who was looking for a more intelligent way to record stock inventory and farm operation tasks. Before developing the app I was using my memory, whiteboards and spreadsheets – which weren’t fast, were prone to sometimes costly mistakes and could be an arduous task at the end of the working day and week.

As the app developed and we started to get global attention we had mussel and seaweed farmers approach us looking to maybe use the app but also not sure if it was only for oysters. Thus the change to Oceanfarmr – we have adapted the app and the associated dashboard to suit the different requirements of mussel and seaweed farms.

oyster basket being pulled onto a boat
Oyster farm at Eaglehawk Neck in Tasmania

Oceanfarmr helps producers track stock inventory and farm operation tasks

How's the diversification into mussels going?

Working with ones of UK’s biggest mussel farms we have developed the app further and specifically for mussel farming and an associated dashboard. The team are very busy with this sector now with our business development manager touring the UK and Ireland, talking with interested farmers and sending through more mussel farms to our Australian team to be onboarded.

And can you tell us a bit about your seaweed trials?

Similar to the mussel farms we have been developing the seaweed functionality of the app and the dashboard with our seaweed partners GreenWave. We are excited about the 3D ocean farms – oysters and seaweed or mussels and seaweed – that have been trialling the app, as they have reported how well it is working and giving great feedback for us to fine-tune it to their requirements.

shellfish farmer
Oceanfarmr has started user trials for integrated aquaculture

Oceanfarmr has expanded beyond Australia and is being used in New Zealand, the UK, Dubai, Mexico, Canada and the US

Can you tell us about the launch of your farm finance programme?

Access to financing is the largest barrier to the growth of the regenerative ocean farming sector. We launched our "Farm to Buy" finance programme only a few months ago. It’s unique, there’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world, as it’s specifically tailored for ocean farms. It enables farmers to leverage their expertise and farm data to fund new gear and grow their production. It does not require security, it does not require monthly cash repayments and enables farmers to invest in the newest, most robust farming technology. It is a complete game changer! Since the launch we have had more than $50 million in farm funding applications hit our desks.

Have you managed to extend your reach, geographically, in the last few years?

We have farmers in Australia, New Zealand, USA, UK, Ireland, Dubai, Mexico and Canada.

What other milestones have been achieved since we were last in contact two years ago?

person holding a mobile phone
The Oceanfarmr app interface

McAsh and his team have released a new version of the Oceanfarmr app

As well as the rebrand, which reflects the expansion of functionality to mussels and seaweed, and the finance programme we have released a new and improved version of the app, giving farmers more coverage and much faster processing time out on the water.

How do you still have time for farming and how's that side of things going?

After more than a decade of farming I have successfully handed over my oyster farming operations to my brothers-in-law, who are now using the Oceanfarmr app. In a few short years they have doubled the farm production, are more profitable yet work a lot less than my father and I did. It’s great to see their success. The farm continues to be the testing ground for Oceanfarrmr’s new features and other technology including flip-farm cultivation, wet storage, sensors and satellite technology.

What's next on the agenda?

The famers, including our family, who have signed up to the Farm To Buy programme are very excited about what a game-changer it could be for the industry. So our focus at Oceanfarmr is getting farmers set up to take advantage of this new programme, with mussel and seaweed farms to be added next. And, as this is a global programme, I will be moving to the US and setting up an office and employing staff to assist with our rapid growth.

We're also one of 23 startups that have been accepted into this year’s Katapult accelerator programme, which is a huge opportunity for us to collaborate with some of the best ocean and climate-tech companies from around the world. We've also just launched an equity crowdfunding campaign that is giving our customers the opportunity to become OceanFarmr investors as we really ramp up our tech and finance offerings around the world.

It's been a huge few months, but we're making incredible progress in becoming a leader in the ocean-tech space.

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