The key to precise salmon measurement

Norwegian startup OptoScale uses laser lights to accurately measure the weight of fish

A fish farming facility.

Photo courtesy of SalMar
SalMar farming facility, a fish farming company that OptoScale has worked closely with.

Rasmus Falck
Oslo, Norway

Norway’s long and jagged coastline surrounded by cold, fresh seawater provides excellent conditions for aquaculture activities. The country is the world’s leading producer of Atlantic salmon and the second largest seafood exporter in the world. Since the advent of commercial salmon farming around 1970, the aquaculture industry has grown to become an industry of major importance.

Recently the board of the Nor-Fishing Foundation decided to give the 2017 Innovation Award for the best project in the aquaculture industry to a Norwegian or foreign company or individual because they have less access to financial support than the large research institutions. The board hopes that this will stimulate more innovation in the commercial sector as well.

One of the finalists this year is OptoScale, a Norwegian company focusing on accurate biomass measuring—a necessity for both profitability and sustainability in aquaculture. The startup is nominated for the Innovation Award for its work on laser lights, advanced algorithms, and a simple but brilliant idea for measuring the weight of salmon more accurately.

OptoScale sets itself apart from the crowd due to the way their technology can distinguish individual fish from the population in the cage. The company, like many others working with biomass measurement, uses a stereo camera—two cameras that have slightly different fields of view. By having these two pictures of the fish, one gets a better depth of vision and of the circumference of the fish. In addition, the company uses a laser beam that is sent out in a striped pattern instead of the traditional LED light. This provides much more information than the traditional lighting since the curves of the light stripes change with the fish’s circumference.

According to OptoScale’s CEO and Co-Founder Sven Kolstø, precision in measuring has great advantages. He also emphasizes that the fish farmer SalMar has been an outstanding partner and central in the development. Since the data OptoScale generates is not actually useful before being interpreted by users on the fish farm, the startup worked closely with fish farmers when developing the software.

With working prototypes in the sea and three systems in production, OptoScale has now changed their focus to work on programming and the algorithms for interpreting the pictures, creating 3D models, and presenting the data in the online portal. The goal is to be able to estimate the weight of 1,000 fish per day by the end of 2017, compared to the 100 they measure today.

Innovation and R&D in the fields of environment, technology, biology, and resource management are of the greatest importance for the seafood industry in Norway as well as internationally. This is perhaps especially true for the aquaculture industry, which in many ways is still in its infancy.

OptoScale has received several awards. SalMar, Innovation Norway, and the Research Council of Norway have been very important for the company’s development.

Rasmus Falck is a strong innovation and entrepreneurship advocate. The author of “What do the best do better” and “The board of directors as a resource in SME,” he received his masters degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He currently lives in Oslo, Norway.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 22, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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