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Nova Scotia startup cracks the shell of traditional seafood industry

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- Belle DeMont

'From catch to plate'

There has been much buzz surrounding Nova Scotia's ocean technology sector. Ocean related industries generate approximately $4.5 billion, or 12.2 per cent of the provincial GDP. These industries are comprised of hundreds of companies, with dozens using innovative technology to come up with new solutions to many of common problems.

In a recent interview, Aleksandr Stabenow, co-founder and chief technology officer of Sedna Technologies, explained how his company has been disrupting the local seafood industry with new technology.

Since its beginnings in 2017, Sedna has been pioneering a new approach to tracking, tracing and monitoring seafood, “from catch to plate.”

From harvester to consumer, Sedna provides applications for everyone in the supply chain. As Stabenow explains:

“As lobster fisherman are building bigger boats to go out farther and longer, the risk is higher, because if one of the pumps goes on one of the live wells, it can starve the lobsters of water.”

Sedna’s sensors monitors temperature and dissolved oxygen and sends that real-time information to the fishermen’s cell phone or onboard computer, notifying them if the dissolved oxygen in the live well starts to drop. In that way, the fishermen become aware of the situation and intervene, before it turns deadly to the catch.

“We’ve had examples of guys who hold 9,000 pounds of lobster and have lost the entire shipment because they didn’t know there was an issue in their live well”

This is not only a substantial financial loss for the fishermen, but a huge waste of product which then are no longer good for consumption. With Sedna’s technology, financial and product loss due to adverse conditions in the live wells will become non-existent.

Digitizing pen and paper transactions

Back on land, food distributors are buying the product directly from fishermen, and according to Stabenow, these transactions have traditionally been recorded with pen and paper directly on the dock.

“How it works is that a fisherman arrives with product, and paper receipts get written up and exchanged between buyer and seller,” said Stabenow. “We’ve digitized that process.”

Sedna’s digitization process involves a simple mobile application with a handheld machine that is submersible in up to 2.5 meters of water. They punch in the weight, punch in the harvester and print off an inkless thermal receipt of the information allowing for the information to be captured faster and in a format that holds up much better than a piece of paper, given the harsh weather conditions of the North Atlantic.

“A lot of technology that has been tried in the North Atlantic fisheries industry hasn’t been durable,” said Stabenow. “So far, no one else has been able to cater the technology specifically to the fisheries industry.”

According to Stabenow, his application has allowed dockside workers to record their daily purchases quicker and more accurately than the traditional method, shaving hours off the process.

When asked about how his company has been disrupting the local seafood industry Stabenow smiles and says, “the main way we’re disrupting the seafood space is we’re bringing technology to an industry that has never really been susceptible to it. The only real technology that’s been brought into the industry before this is legacy systems – accounting software that’s 20 years old. What we’re doing is modernizing the industry with technology and that’s something that people haven’t really been able to do before.”

- Belle DeMont
- Belle DeMont

Getting through to a stubborn market

Now, as many rural Nova Scotians are aware, fishermen can be a stubborn bunch — often set in their ways and steeped in tradition — I asked how Sedna’s products and services have been received by the men and women who make a living battling some of the world’s worst weather conditions.

“It’s been received really well. What sets us apart is we do the groundwork. I’m local, my partner is a fisherman from Cape Breton and we drive down the coast and go door-to-door introducing people to our technology and walking them through it. That’s a large reason why we’ve been able to penetrate the market here in the Maritimes. “

With over 60 clients after one year in market, it’s clear that their approach with the locals has been working.

The subject frequently on people’s mind these days is the environment. As we are experiencing more intense storms, higher sea levels, and extreme temperatures, the sustainability of the seafood industry and the impact it is having on our ecosystems and climate definitely comes into focus. So what impact does Sedna’s technology have on the ability of the seafood industry to meet the challenges of the climate emergency?

“We’re saving time, increasing efficiencies and decreasing waste,” Stabenow replies.

Protecting live product

In addition to ensuring fishermen don’t lose their catch due to inadequate water quality in the live wells on board their boats, Sedna’s technology is also being used for a similar purpose in dockside fish plants — constantly monitoring the water quality of tanks with live product in them.

There are spin-off benefits of the technology as well.
“The refrigeration systems are constantly calibrated for the temperature of the water and because we’re getting a more accurate readings of what the real time temperature of the water is, the company is requiring less energy to maintain its operation,” explains Stabenow. “There are guys who service these tanks and are used to sending a truck to check on the tanks and now they don’t need to, so we’re saving that gas as well, which means less emissions.”

Stabenow is hopeful that his technology will help with the sustainability of the seafood industry, which provides for so much of Nova Scotia's rural economies.

“At a basic level, all the benefits of this technology – saving time, saving energy, saving money — increase the industry’s bottom line right away. Where does that go? Directly into the rural economies of Nova Scotia.”

Spontaneous traveller, Atlantic Canada enthusiast, lover of all things marine.

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