ThisFish is digitizing your seafood
This Vancouver-based company is revolutionizing quality in aquaculture.
This is part 2 of our series on BC-based aquatech companies for World Oceans Day. Read part 1: How Plastic Bank went from 0 to 1B bottles recovered
I had planned on asking Eric Enno Tamm where his passion for aquaculture first stemmed before he, kindly enough, shared with me that the overwhelming trade in his family is fishing. I shared the sentiment that perhaps this whole marine thing is in his blood.
“Yeah. Pretty much in the blood,” Tamm humoured me by repeating. “I was born in Tofino and raised in Ucluelet in a commercial fishing family. [Commercial fishing in my] family goes back to the 1920s. Other than the West Coast, our roots actually go back to Newfoundland.” The modern evolution, then, of the Tamm family’s commitment to aquaculture is ThisFish, the Vancouver-based company he is at the helm of as CEO and co-founder. ThisFish's mission is to “improve profitability and sustainability in the seafood industry through digitization, traceability and innovation.” They do this through a software they’ve named Tally, which provides solutions for six pain points that can sometimes be caused by technology adoption: data collection, automation, dashboards, reports, AI and integrations. Essentially, Tally is a one stop software shop for running a successful aquaculture enterprise.
“We’re basically trying to use technology to both drive and improve profitability but also sustainability and the seafood industry. At the heart of our software is really traceability and the ability to, more or less, track materials going through the production process in a seafood factory.” ThisFish, Tamm also told me, was born out of untraditional means compared to your average startup and is over a decade in the making. “We have a bit of a unique genesis. ThisFish actually evolved out of an environmental group here in Vancouver called Ecotrust Canada,” Tamm recalled, referring to the economic group focusing on supporting companies that have an environmental impact. As Tamm puts it, “the mission marries economic development and environmental sustainability.” He worked for Ecotrust in the mid-2000’s before ThisFish spun out of the economic group over a decade later. Tamm spun out with it.
“It was around 2009 that a fisherman, who actually happens to be a cousin of mine from Ucluelet, approached Ecotrust and said ‘I want to develop some traceability on our seafood to help tell the story in the journey of the seafood and build trust with consumers because seafood is one of the most opaque supply chains,'' Tamm recalled. “So that got the whole journey kickstarted. We did some early MVPs and got some very interesting market traction. This eventually led to a spin out in late 2017.”
Fast forward to today and the sheen surrounding ThisFish’s uniqueness has all but worn off. “Even though our genesis—how we came to be—was unique, we're now just a traditional startup in the sense that we have some angel funding and we’re doing the startup trajectory,” he noted. Leading the trajectory is Tamm. “I’m a bit of an unlikely founder,” he humbly told me. But, with ThisFish, his family’s history pairs perfectly with his personal background as managing and overseeing software projects.
I asked Tamm the question that was on my mind, despite its cheesiness: how can we make World Oceans Day, every day?
“I think by being more conscientious consumers, for sure. And I would say, particularly in British Columbia, we have a lot of sustainable products, not just from BC, but from the Pacific Northwest including Alaska and Washington State,” Tamm suggested. “I would just tell people to focus on buying local seafood. Buy it from local fishermen. Look to see whether it's certified. That can be helpful in your decision making, whether something is sustainable or not.” This mindset of improved quality of the seafood we’re eating has obvious connections to Tamm’s family roots. But, a recent award sheds even more light onto how this will materialize for ThisFish.
On May 6th, ThisFish was awarded $150,000 in Innovate BC’s inaugural Aquaculture Innovation Awards. Tamm shared that on the heels of the award, his company will be “basically looking at using computer vision to automatically classify and detect problems with farmed fish fillets. In the processing plant, it’s only when you really cut open a fish that you can see the quality of it. What we will be doing is using computer vision to automatically classify the size of the fillet. It'll automatically determine the color of the flakes, and any defects, blemishes or what's called gaping—when the meat’s kind of spread apart,” Tamm excitedly shared.
This innovation could have a huge impact. “The interesting thing for me is that if we can build a large enough data set, and if we can connect it to actually the data related to the farm, potentially, we could see how the practices on the farm are driving the quality and the fish. It may take a year or two of building up enough of a data set. But ideally, if we can connect the farm data to the factory data, hopefully we can maybe better understand what farm practices are leading to better quality that could help to improve the industry.”
This is part 2 of our series on BC-based aquatech companies for World Oceans Day. Read part 3: Poseidon Ocean Systems wants fish to breathe better