Camera born in San Francisco bathtub helps to optimize fish farming

ByDan Ashley and Tim Didion KGO logo
Thursday, September 21, 2023
Camera born in SF bathtub helps to optimize fish farming
Fish farming, one of the largest food industries on the planet, is becoming more sustainable due to San Francisco startup Aquabyte's duel-lens camera.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It takes a lot of paddling to reach the fjords of Norway from a small bathtub on San Francisco's Telegraph Hill. But for Bay Area entrepreneur Bryton Shang, all it took was the thought of artificial intelligence and fish to make him dive right in.

"And one of the ideas I was looking into was fish and fish farming. And so I had a friend of mine tell me about that. And started off with a prototype literally in my apartment bathtub," explains Shang.

He says his background includes helping develop A.I. for cancer detection, and his early experiments with the bathtub fish camera convinced him that similar A.I. technology could also help make one of the largest food industries on the planet more sustainable.

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"The idea being that if you could measure the size and growth of the fish and figure out how much food turned into how much fish, you could use that to optimize the production of the fish farms," he adds.

The result is Aquabyte, a startup with R&D headquartered in a pier on San Francisco's Embarcadero. Executive VP of Engineering Darryl Weatherspoon says their dual-lens camera design works to monitor the fish with amazing precision.

"We allow the farmer to position the camera either horizontally or vertically in the pan to the ideal location. And we use that location to sample fish," says Weatherspoon.

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The work has now taken the team and their technology to commercial fish farms near Bergen, Norway. Besides monitoring growth, they say the camera system is taught to recognize everything from parasites to abnormal changes in how the fish are swimming. And they see the benefits driving a new, healthier era of A.I. driven farming.

"You look at the earth being covered by 70% water, we only produce about 5% of our protein from the oceans. And that represents a tremendous opportunity for us to produce a lot more healthy, sustainable fish," says Shang.

Aquabyte is currently working in five different countries, including Chile, the U.K., Iceland, and the Faroe Islands. Hoping to make a global splash with a technology that started in a humble bathtub on San Francisco's Telegraph Hill.

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