ReelData, the Halifax company that makes artificial intelligence for land-based aquaculture, has raised a US$8 million (C$10.7 million) Series A funding round as it looks to commercialize its second product offering next quarter.
ReelData’s first product was an AI system for determining how much fish farmers should feed their animals and thereby reducing waste, dubbed ReelAppetite. Its second will be software for tracking biomass — estimating the weight of fish, essentially — called ReelBiomass.
“Our industry is a new one,” said CEO Mathew Zimola of land-based aquaculture. “The tank is kind of a black box.
“It’s really hard to understand what’s happening under the water. So what we are doing is we’re using artificial intelligence to feed fish and weigh fish, which allows farmers to increase their production because fish are growing faster.”
The Series A was led by Buoyant Ventures, also Chicago-based, with billionaire Lukas Walton’s Nest Family Office also investing and S2G re-upping its stake. Walton, whose grandfather founded Walmart, has garnered himself a reputation for investing in sustainable food companies.
“Our plans are to scale and bring our solution to as many farms as possible,” said Zimola. “We’re not a cheap company to purchase software off of, and we have a backlog of people that want the software we’re developing, which we’re making more and more scaleable.”
Those plans mirror the growth of land-based aquaculture as a whole. Zimola said that by some estimates, the industry globally could grow from 40,000 metric tonnes of annual production to more than 2 million this decade.
ReelData also plans to eventually sell software for tracking the overall health and wellbeing of fish, including monitoring their stress levels and identifying when they reach sexual maturity.
And eventually, Zimola expects to combine ReelAppetite and ReelBiomass into a single, unified platform.
“When we fuse these two products together — how much you feed fish depends how much they weigh how much they weigh depends how much you fed them — we create now a platform that is greater than the sum of the parts,” he said.
As of January, ReelData has about 40 employees after doubling its head count for the second year in a row. Zimola plans to continue hiring, but at a more sedate pace, with his team reaching 45 or 50 people by the end of the year.
“The team is, at its core, really built out,” said Zimola. “All the procedures are in place. Software and AI has been built and is being built. The core teams around that are strong.”
So far, ReelAppetite is used by fish farms in the United States and Europe, including Norway, which is an international leader in aquaculture and one of the world’s largest seafood exporters.
And ReelData is in the process of shipping two cameras each to the U.S. and Denmark for testing to finalize the hardware and software suite that Zimola plans to commercialize in the second quarter.