Green tech: what is the future of OceanTech?

By Kirsteen Mackay

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Commercialising ocean energy, enhancing ocean sustainability and improving food security are reasons to invest in the exciting world of OceanTech.

Managing the ocean and protecting marine life is a global priority to improve food security, profitability, and cleaner oceans. In this exciting area of investment, several technologies are emerging to help promote ocean sustainability.

OceanTech is a green tech innovation recently pitched by Bank of America as a moonshot investment area worth watching. And it's clear from activity in startups and major players that various trends are converging to create market opportunities in this nascent sector.

What is meant by Ocean Energy?

According to Ocean Energy Europe, our oceans are the world's largest untapped source of renewable energy. By 2050, ocean energy can provide 10% of Europe's current electricity needs and 400k jobs.

The primary types of ocean energy are:

Tidal Stream

Tidal turbines can be fixed to the sea bed or floating. Tidal stream generators draw energy from lateral flow water currents to produce clean, reliable renewable energy.

Wave Energy

Wave energy converters (WECs) capture energy directly from the surface motion of the ocean and sea waves. Wave energy can provide utility-scale power production. It also has applications for remote islands. The energy created depends on the speed, height and frequency of the wave and the water density.

OTEC & SWAC

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) is a marine renewable energy technology that can generate decarbonized electricity 24 hours a day. Capturing the solar energy absorbed by the ocean can help decarbonize tropical areas. It can also produce freshwater by desalination.

Sea Water Air Conditioning (SWAC) can decarbonize heating and cooling systems near the world's coasts. SWAC technology is already in use, and along with reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it cuts energy consumption by 75%.

Tidal Range

Tidal range power plants work like dams. They are built where the tidal range between two bodies of water can be separated to create an artificial tide that flows through plant turbines.

Notable developments in land-based aquaculture

Reasons to believe land-based aquaculture systems are more beneficial than offshore fish farming is driving the sector. It's thought land-based aquaculture can reduce the risk of sea lice infestation and infectious diseases.

As such, several companies are working to develop solutions in this space.

AquaBounty Technologies (NASDAQ: AQB) is a biotechnology company conducting R&D into genetically modified fish. It aims to create products that aim to increase the productivity of aquaculture.

Avivagen (CVE: VIV) is joining forces with AB Vista to expand its global footprint. AB Vista is to become the exclusive distributor for use with poultry, swine, ruminants like cattle, and aquaculture in the United States, Brazil and Thailand. The three leading aquaculture jurisdictions for cold-water fish are Norway, Canada and Chile.

São Paulo-based company JBS (OTCMKTS: JBSAY) is moving into direct seafood production after acquiring acquire Huon Aquaculture Group – the second-largest salmon producer in Australia – for A$425 million (US$313.5 million).

JBS is currently the largest meat processing company in the world.

Gilberto Tomazoni, Global CEO, JBS said:

“This is a strategic acquisition, which marks the entry of JBS into the aquaculture business. We will repeat what we did previously with poultry, pork, and value-added products – to make our portfolio even more complete. Aquaculture will be a new growth platform for our businesses.”

Dutch food and biochemicals company Corbion (AMS: CRBN) enjoyed strong sales growth in Q3. It saw positive momentum in its incubator segment as algae-based omega-3 is seeing increased market receptiveness in the aquaculture market.

Alfa Laval (STO: ALFA) has acquired Norwegian system manufacturer LiftUP, a market leader in removing waste from fish farms. The acquisition is part of Alfa Laval's strategy of building up an attractive aquaculture product portfolio.

Precision Fishing using AI

The commercial fishing industry is a significant polluter and destroyer of ocean life. It is undoubtedly exacerbating the climate change problem, and sustainability issues are rife. But precision fishing using artificial intelligence (AI) poses a potential solution to this immense problem.

According to a 2020 report, global consulting and management firm McKinsey & Company estimates that large-scale fishing companies could reduce their annual operating costs by $11 billion (EUR 9.9 billion) using precision fishing methods and technologies.

Data such as vessel catch totals, GPS location, and fuel consumption patterns could improve efficiency across several aspects of the industry.

Better still, improving efficiencies would naturally lead to higher profits and cleaner oceans.

As technology has drastically improved, the arrival of low-cost sensors, satellite cameras, drones, smartphones and Internet-of-Things devices are all capable of bringing precision fishing solutions to the fore.

The data collected in this way can be processed via machine learning and artificial intelligence to revolutionize the entire industry.

Two OceanTech companies to watch

Aker Biomarine (FRA: 1PG) is an Aker Group company already making inroads in precision fishing using AI. The company catches and processes Antarctic krill for aquaculture ingredients and consumer food products.

The Norwegian fishing and biotech company uses machine learning to locate krill biomass, significantly reducing the time vessels spend searching at sea.

The software utilizes past and present data from satellite images, algae blooms, weather, water conditions, and actual fish catches to predict where the krill biomass is situated. It believes this will become far more sustainable and accurate with time.

The company also uses AI to optimize vessel engines and factory operations. Aker Biomarine eventually wants to fully automate the process, optimizing fuel efficiency at sea and on land.

AKVA Group ASA

Norwegian company AKVA group ASA (FRA: 3QI) engages in the provision of technology and services to the fish farming industry. It is solving biological challenges within the aquaculture industry.

AKVA Group is also investing in the digitalization of aquaculture. From which it sees three generic trends:

  1. Remote operations via automated feeding and automation are reducing people on-site.

  2. Precision fish farming is about having as specified feeding as possible to avoid heat waste and have as good a feed conversion rate and growth factor as possible.

  3. Combining different systems in a global ecosystem to have more power from big data.

AKVA is confident it can be a leading player in land-based, sea-based and digital aquaculture. Indeed, it is already making inroads. It claims 60% of the global salmon will be on its production system fish stock, and its digital solution AKVAconnect brings hardware and software together. It has also observed an automated feeding solution.

It is keenly involved in caged farming, with marine infrastructure, position feeding, digital and fish health, and lice solutions on the sea-based side.

Private OceanTech companies to watch for IPO.

Norwegian accelerator and Venture Capital firm Katapult Ocean invests in startups having a positive impact on the ocean. Katapult Ocean's network includes significant companies such as ABB, KPB, and Stena AB Group.

It invests $150k in each participating company in exchange for an 8% stake. Its focus is on technologies that positively impact oceans, including the fields of energy, transportation, harvesting, and exponential technology.

Some of the private companies Katapult Ocean has invested in include:

  • Fortuna Cools, a Philippines-based agtech company repurposing coconut waste into biodegradable coolers,

  • Hooked Seafood AB manufactures vegan seafood alternatives.

  • Pinovo AS, operates a dust-free abrasive vacuum blasting for industrial use, helping solve the ocean's plastic problem.

  • Nautix Technologies is digitizing workflows to give ship and shore teams a shared purpose.

  • Oceanium Ltd develops marine-safe, home compostable bio-packaging materials and food and nutrition products from sustainably-farmed seaweed.

  • Algalife specializes in providing and manufacturing fibers and dyeing fabrics.

  • Hydrolift Smart City Ferries AS operates electric ferries using rivers for transportation.

  • Innomar AS is developing fishing traps that can be equipped with sensors for catch monitoring and traceability.

  • ARC Marine Ltd is a sustainable fishing company that rehabilitates damaged marine habitats to create new reef structures.

  • Atlan Space SARL is developing an AI aerial vehicle for monitoring marine ecosystems for environmental threats.

  • Brim Explorer provides ocean excursions without noise or pollution onboard silent hybrid-electric ships.

  • Evoy manufactures marine electric propulsion systems. Its products include inboard, outboard, user interface, battery, range, and charging.

  • Fishency Innovation develops and commercializes a hardware and software solution using AI for the aquaculture industry.

  • Ichthion Limited is a startup developing cutting-edge technologies to restore the ocean environment by removing plastics and synthetic waste before they travel through the entire marine ecosystem.

Furthermore, a new European Investment Fund called Blue Ocean was launched in September. It invests in innovations dedicated to ocean regeneration and has attracted €52 million with the aim to raise €120m.

Its most recent investment is in OptoScale, which sells real-time monitoring equipment for fish farms. OptoScale engages in precision aquaculture, helping fish farmers unlock unprecedented productivity and sustainability gains.

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Renewables
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Energy

Author: Kirsteen Mackay

This article does not provide any financial advice and is not a recommendation to deal in any securities or product. Investments may fall in value and an investor may lose some or all of their investment. Past performance is not an indicator of future performance.