Oceanfarmr founder, Ewan McAsh

Oceanfarmr founder Ewan McAsh founded the digital platform after a long career as an aquafarmer. Source: provided

A Bateman’s Bay startup dubbed “Google Maps of the ocean” has closed a $1.45 million funding round led by powerhouse global venture capitalist Katapult, placing aqua-tech in the top 1% of applicants in the program of acceleration.

Oceanfarmr, formerly known as SmartOysters, was founded by marine biologist turned oyster farmer Ewan McAsh after two decades in the industry made him realize that fish farmers need much more oversight of their operations.

Its first iteration was a humble app that recorded the status and location of every bag of oysters on McAsh’s farm, but Oceanfarmr has since evolved into a full-fledged digital farm operations system and network that is slashing working hours and increasing profits.

Oceanfarmr now offers smart monitoring systems and geolocation technology that keep tabs on the analysis and mapping of more than 70 worldwide aquatic farms and counts, including mussel, seaweed and oyster operations.

Relieved Oceanfarmr users reported to the team that they now spend up to 50% less time on the water and up to seven hours a week less reporting redundant information.

Meanwhile, the Oceanfarmr team is experiencing tremendous growth with revenue up 874% over the past twelve months, leaving the tech startup three years ahead of its projected trajectory.

“Oceanfarmr was created to revolutionize the aquaculture industry and with this funding we will be able to accelerate our mission,” said McAsh, who is based on the south coast of New South Wales.

“We are already looking ahead and will focus on building traction as we approach an increase in Serie A in the new year.”

Funding for fish farmers

Perhaps the most innovative aspect of Oceanfarmr, however, is that it offers fish farmers access to the same secure financing usually reserved for land-based farmers.

Access to finance has traditionally been a minefield for fish farmers since water-based farmland is not privately owned. This means that the land cannot be used as an asset to secure the loan in question, limiting expansion efforts.

But Oceanfarmr’s ‘Farm to Buy’ scheme is changing that. Since the launch of ‘Farm to Buy in September, Oceanfarmr has received more than $60 million in farm finance applications.

And there’s a lot of fish in the sea. The growth of the industry is projected to increase from its current size of $19 billion to as high as $300 billion globally, with numerous environmental benefits to boot.

“For every US$10 million invested in sustainable aquaculture through Oceanfarmr Farm Finance, the environmental benefits include the capture of approximately 39 tons of nitrogen, 298 tons of carbon and 1,239 gigalitres of filtered water,” said McAsh.

McAsh was thrilled by the whopping $1.45 million raise, particularly as Katapult’s powerful investment placed the Bateman’s Bay startup in the top 1% of 1,900 applicants from 62 countries at the world-renowned global investment firm .

Katapult VC, which invests in impact-oriented early-stage tech startups, has funded 178 startups in 47 countries since 2017. It separates investments into three verticals: ocean, climate and food tech.

The VC also runs nine flagship accelerator programs and three enterprise accelerator programs, while last year it launched the Katapult Foundation with the aim of building a broader network around so-called “impact investing”.

Katapult Ocean CEO Jonas Skattum Svegaarden says he is “delighted” that the Oceanfarmr team is participating in Katapult’s acceleration programme.

“In our mission to build a world where the thriving ocean and economic development can coexist in harmony, we are committed to investing in and helping scale the most impactful ocean technology startups,” said Skattum Svegaarden.

“A huge piece of the puzzle”

So what’s next for Oceanfarmr? McAsh is eyeing expansion into the lucrative U.S. market after already capturing California’s oldest oyster company, Tomales Bay Oysters, which produces 2 million oysters annually and was an early member of Oceanfarmr.

McAsh tells Smart company he’s come a long way since he was a frustrated oyster farmer who believed there had to be a leaner, more efficient way to run a water business.

“Before developing the app I was using my own memory, whiteboards and spreadsheets, which weren’t fast, were prone to errors at times costly, and could be a daunting task at the end of the workday and week,” he says.

“Funding is a huge piece of the puzzle in how we scale up our capabilities to continue serving the aquaculture industry and the people who make it all.”

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