Aquaculture startup XpertSea has announced it has raised $10 million in Series A financing to further its mission to make aquaculture more profitable and sustainable. The round was led by Obvious Ventures, Aqua-Spark, and Real Ventures, which previously invested in the company’s seed round in 2015.
By 2050 our planet will be home to 10 billion people, requiring a 70% increase in food production. The aquaculture industry supplies more than half the seafood consumed worldwide and is growing at 6% per year. But the use of outdated technologies like hand-counting of aquatic organisms results in major financial losses and waste, as aquaculture producers overspend by an average of 20% in feed alone, and seafood survival rates can be as low as 50%.
XpertSea bridges this technology gap by helping farms and hatcheries track and manage their aquatic populations with greater speed, accuracy and insight. Using artificial intelligence and computer vision, the XpertSea platform counts and sizes early-stage aquatic organisms such as shrimp larvae and live feed.
We are thrilled to share our latest #investment with you: @XpertSea a Canadian Aquaculture Technology Company that is using data to transform #aquaculture into a modern, efficient and #sustainable source of food for our planet. #impactinvesting #BlueEconomy
— Aqua-Spark (@AquaSparkImpact) April 18, 2018
“My personal background is in marine science and marine biology,” XpertSea co-founder and CEO Valerie Robitaille told MTLinTECH. “I started the company with a mechanical engineer co-founder a few years ago. We developed a first product that was really more of a hardware product, meant for counting and sizing all of the quality parameters of a small aquatic organism. It was supposed to be more of a proof of concept, but when we started working with producers in the field we got so much demand and interest in the concept—people wanted to count all sorts of different organisms, from micro-algae, to sea cucumbers, fish eggs—that’s when we realized there was a very good opportunity.”
In 2015 the company raised a seed round led by Real Ventures, allowing it to develop a new version of the product that was connected and would allow all the data information from the device to be sent to the cloud. The XperCount is a smart IoT device that connects to a portal where customers can access data and analytics from any device, anywhere.
“We developed an interstice that would collect all the data. We knew that would add value to all the information. We could help better manage operations and improve efficiences. We spent about a year developing the new platform, which we launched in 2016.”
“We got some really good traction, especially in Asia and South America in the shrimp industry. And that was enough to prove there was a good market fit. We improved some of the technologies in the platform, especially with machine learning to help us develop applications for different species very very quickly. So we got to a point where we could develop applications for some species in only a few days. From there we raised our Series A that we closed a few weeks ago.”
With the new involvement of Obvious Ventures and Aqua-Spark, XpertSea found the perfect mix of industry-specific insight and traditional technology investment know-how.
“Our goal, since it’s a pretty specific industry, was to find a syndicate of different types of investors. We wanted to have investors that had knowledge and contacts and a network in the industry, which we did with Aqua-Spark. But because it’s so technology based we were also looking for more traditional tech investors, which is when we found Obvious Ventures. They had been looking at aquaculture for a while and they really believed in ExpertSea and what we were doing. So that was a perfect match for us: technology and industry-specific investors together for the next phase of the company.”
Now that the company has proven it has a strong product market fit, especially in the shrimp industry, it will use the newly raised funds to execute its go-to-market strategy.
“We’re going to be deploying resources on the field to ramp up the sales and the traction with the product. But part of it is also to increase our engineering capabilities. So we have several positions open right now in engineering, from web development to research and machine learning to data science. So now that we’ve started to accumulate a lot of data, we want to make sure that we’re able to add the maximum value through the new beta-products we’re going to be testing.”
The Quebec City-based company currently has a team of around 30, but with the new funding and new positions being created—including as part of a fledgling Montreal team—that number will soon go up.
As of 2017, XpertSea’s customers in 48 countries have counted more than 17 billion organisms and uploaded over 100,000 counting sessions to the data portal.