Through a five-year research project, Norway's Tau Tech has developed a technology that reportedly enables sustainable seafood harvesting from the seabed, as the practice of dredging the seabed for bottom-dwelling species is controversial globally and banned in Norway.
Tau Tech raised $34.4m from impact investor Norselab, Hofseth International and industrial profiles in Western Norway to start harvesting Arctic scallops on a commercial scale, using the new technology.
The most widespread catching method for shellfish globally, dredging, is controversial for the potential damages if can cause to the ocean ecosystem, including the release of large amounts of naturally stored carbon from the seafloor. Norway is one of the few countries that prohibits this method to protect seabed fauna. As a result, valuable seafood resources along the Norwegian coast have remained inaccessible for 30 years.
Together with Norwegian independent research institute SINTEF, Tau Tech has developed a seabed-friendly harvesting method. In cooperation with the Institute of Marine Research, the Directorate of Fisheries and other leading marine experts, the company has proven over the past five years that its technology makes it possible to identify, select and sort shells without destroying surrounding vegetation and life. This opens up new, sustainable opportunities for fisheries nationally and internationally by providing access to untapped seafood resources, while also protecting fragile marine ecosystems and preserving invaluable carbon sinks.
"We are very good at capturing species that live in free bodies of water. But on the seabed we encounter a paradox: either the resources remain untapped or they are harvested using destructive methods. Our method opens up for a new and sustainable seafood adventure," said Øystein Tvedt, CEO of Tau Tech.
In 2022, the technology company will reopen commercial Arctic scallops (chlamys islandica) harvesting in Norway, after having been awarded an annual quota of 15,000 tons for the next five years. Arctic scallops are a globally widespread and sought-after species. However, harvesting is mostly done using methods that face increasing scrutiny from academic communities and engaged consumers.
"It has been over 5 years since we knocked on the Directorate of Fisheries' door with the idea of reopening this fishery based on new technology. Since then, we have been through a long process with the authorities. They have tested, approved and patented the technology and the population of Arctic scallops has been remapped in the authorized zones. In addition, Tau Tech is working on adapting the method to other seabed-dwelling species that are currently challenging to harvest without damaging the seabed", adds Tvedt.
The quota allocation was a milestone for Tau Tech, which in a recent growth round attracted a number of high-profile investors, industry players and supporters. Norselab, which specializes in investments in fast-growing companies with a significant contribution to sustainability, led the round together with the seafood group Hofset International. Subsea founder Hans Martin Gravdal and shipowner Andy Farstad were also significant participants in the round.
In addition, other supporters have played a crucial role in
providing funding for the company's ambitious plans. Eksfin, the
Norwegian export credit guarantee agency, and Sparebanken Vest,
Norway's third largest savings bank, provide loans and coverage
of credit risk to help the entrepreneurs realize the project. In
addition, the company has received a larger grant from Innovation
Norway and has been selected for business innovation support from
the Norwegian Research Council.