Enabling the future of sustainable aquaculture — Buoyant’s Investment in ReelData
Solving Aquaculture’s Scalability Challenge
As the world grows in population to nearly 10 billion people by 2050, and the rising middle class establishes a foothold of consumers who can look beyond basic needs like simple nourishment, a problem begins to emerge in the viability of our food system to grow our protein production methods without overwhelmingly impacting the climate. According to the Good Food Institute, today’s systems of (largely beef) protein production cause roughly half of all food system emissions and, in total, over 15% of overall global greenhouse gas emissions. As the global demand for meat is forecasted to increase 40–100% from 2020–2050, it’s anticipated that meat production methods, if kept consistent, would cause an additional 5–10 gigatonnes of CO2 per year from livestock and related activities — the equivalent of the US annual footprint of carbon emissions.
To combat this rising tide of challenges, alternative protein production methods have increased in both interest and importance as we think about a climate-resilient future of our food system. Among those solutions includes a broad-based migration away from beef to far more sustainable seafood. And although this is certainly a worthwhile movement, as evidenced below of the carbon footprint of some of the major protein sources clearly showing that salmon and chicken greatly outperforms beef), there exists concerns that our overfishing of both wild habitats and ocean net-pen farming has already begun to experience capacity constraints either naturally or through external forces (i.e., regulation banning net pens in Argentina, the US State of Washington, and proposed 40% taxes of the industry in aquaculture-dominant Norway). As a result, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization forecasts a global seafood shortage of 50–80 million tonnes by 2030. So the question then becomes, how do we produce more climate-friendly protein, like salmon, while also reducing the risks associated with climate change?
Land Based Aquaculture represents a unique opportunity to create climate-resilient salmon (and other fin/shellfish) production methods which can be strategically located near consumers to reduce the majority of environmental impacts and emissions currently ‘embedded’ in the existing methods of production. With 80% of salmon harvested salmon coming from Chile, Norway, Canada and Scotland, the freight and shipping emissions associated with transporting salmon around the world can be reduced (or eliminated) while at the same time avoiding many climate-induced perils that ocean pen farming is exposed to and ocean ecosystem impacts that this method of farming causes. To date, land based aquaculture is at a relatively nascent stage of deployment with some of the largest land based producers seeing production volumes at ~2% of the total volume of their largest sea cage competitors due, in part, to a lack of digital tools which bring these large-scale infrastructure projects into the modern era of analytics and optimization. Introducing Buoyant’s investment in ReelData.
Our Investment in ReelData
Among Buoyant’s first research areas was a deep dive on oceans and aquaculture which we believed were both uniquely exposed to climate change induced risks (e.g., algal blooms, sea lice) and well-positioned to deliver significant reductions in carbon emissions both in terms of aquaculture production and marine transportation. As climate change introduces complexities into much of our food production system, we believed that there was a growing need to bridge the gap between legacy methods of unsustainable production with innovative new climate-resilient food systems of the future. After conversations with industry leading market participants, we believe that the industry is ready to ‘level up’ its digital tools and ReelData’s solution, an AI and computer vision-focused software platform that can optimize and automate land based aquaculture farms, is well positioned to enable the next stage of growth for a much-needed industry.
Mathew and the ReelData team have a vision to build a software platform that can drastically improve the sustainability, profitability and scalability of land-based aquaculture leveraging sensors, artificial intelligence and user-friendly interfaces to analyze, optimize and automate their operations. The company’s initial solution for producers, ReelAppetite, allows producers to optimize and automate one of their most significant pain points in the fish production process, feeding, which represents up to >50% of the cost of a land based aquaculture systems operational budget. The team has developed a proprietary feeding system which reduces fish overfeeding by up to 90% while also accelerating growth by up to 15%. This bottom and top-line impact resonates for its industry leading land based aquaculture customers, including Atlantic Sapphire, the Kingfish Company, Salmon Evolution, and others, with a typical 10,000 metric tonne on-growing facility expecting to save an average of $2–3 million dollars each year on fish feed. The team has begun its expansion into adjacent problem areas as previously identified with the recent launch of their ReelBiomass product. We believe that the ReelData product and vision are exactly the digital solutions that the industry needs to catalyze the future of climate friendly protein production methods.
CEO and AI expert, ReelData’s CEO Mathew Zimola
We first learned of ReelData through our research on the aquaculture space in 2020 and connected with Mathew following his proactive outreach to Buoyant. Mathew spent his early career as an oilfield engineer and ultimately decided to reorient his profession around his passions of sustainability and artificial intelligence. With that goal in mind, he went back to graduate school for his Masters in Computer Science and subsequently co-founded ReelData in 2018 following conversations with local global aquaculture industry leaders who consistently named a few key problems with their operations, namely fish feeding, weighing, and health/wellness monitoring. Mathew sought out to leverage his expertise in artificial intelligence to solve these problems, starting with feeding, and he’s since built an amazing team of experts delivering novel solutions for the rapidly growing sector of land based aquaculture.
Welcome to the Buoyant Boat!
Buoyant invests in digital climate solutions including software which enables a sustainable food system, directly aligned with ReelData’s vision for the future of aquaculture. Buoyant is thrilled to support a business which delivers both top-line and bottom line impacts to its customers while accelerating a climate-resilient future of food. Joining us in the round of funding are some of the foremost experts in aquaculture and food systems including S2G Oceans and Seafood Fund and The Nest. We are thrilled to welcome Matt and his team into the Buoyant boat!