P.E.I.-based Sofistofish Technologies, which makes analytics software for lobster fishers, has announced a North American distribution deal with Mackay Marine Canada, which is a division of one of the world's largest maritime electronics companies.
Founded by CTO Kirk Arsenault in late 2021 and now headed up by CEO Ken Driscoll, Sofistofish was inspired by Arsenault’s experiences fishing for lobster himself and wishing for a way to track and analyze his catches, such as by examining which fishing areas were most productive. The initial species for tracking is lobster, with crab, pollock and other species being added in 2023.
Based in North Carolina, Mackay Marine has global operations selling everything from engine room servicing for ships to satellite services for the oil and gas industry. Driscoll said the distribution deal is a huge step forward for his company, and that he sees a global opportunity in providing tracking technology for the inshore fishery.
“The vision of Sofistofish is to see the digital transformation of the in-shore fishery, while simultaneously bettering the lives of the fishers that we serve,” said Driscoll in an interview, referring to fishers that operate close to the shore in modestly sized vessels.
“It serves, at this phase of our product timeline, as essentially a catch management system. So it helps our fishers empower their decision-making to fish smarter.”
Arsenault, who previous ran his own IT company, developed an Excel spreadsheet that eventually evolved into the company’s current software and hardware suite, FishTrak.
“Fishing’s in his bloodline; his dad was a fisher before him,” Driscoll said. “He’s been a deckhand with various crews since he was a kid.
“He was sitting on the washboard with one of his captains, and they said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to know how the average of one trawl could be from one day to the next?'"
Sofistofish Founder Kirk Arsenault shows off his company's software.
Inspired partly by that trawler captain, Sofistofish sells its technology as a service, with customers subscribing to the software and receiving a tablet to mount in their fishing vessel. They input how much fish they catch in a given location, and over time, the system uses that data, along with metrics like the depth of the water and the tide cycle, to help boat operators harvest more fish with less operational cost.
FishTrak is so far used by about 60 lobster fishers in Atlantic Canada, and Driscoll’s team is in the process of readying a version of the technology for crab fishers. Later, they also plan to add more safety-focused features, as well as maintenance- and upkeep-related features like tracking fuel usage.
“We’re at the point where debt financing is coming to a close and we really would love to find that partner who doesn’t just bring the financial piece, but also the expertise in this space of technology-as-a-service,” said Driscoll.
So far, the Sofistofish team includes four people, counting Driscoll and Arsenault, with plans to hire more soon.