UMITRON: Making a splash in the growing fish-farming industry

With a S$15.2 million investment, a project in Peru and a new computerised fish- feeding device already in the bag, the sky is the limit for UMITRON as it strives to solve environmental issues in aquaculture using technology.

Local startup UMITRON may only be two years old, but the aquaculture tech firm is no small fish in a sea of tech titans.

Armed with a mission to establish sustainable aquaculture practices through technology, the startup has not had a day of rest since winning third place at last year’s deep tech international pitching competition SLINGSHOT@SWITCH, powered by Startup SG.

Local aquatech startup UMITRON, second runner-up of SLINGSHOT@SWITCH 2018, plans to use their S$100,000 grant from Startup SG to explore further product development and global scalability of their solutions.

It recently launched UMITRON CELL – an automated feeding machine that can be used to monitor and feed fish remotely.

This device can be easily controlled via a smartphone or desktop computer, reducing the need for farmers to visit individual fish cages for daily feeding and observation. Farmers can also avoid the dangers of being out at sea during bad weather conditions.

In addition, the automated feeder helps to curb overfeeding of fish – this lowers the risk of environmental pollution and harmful algae blooms that could damage the marine ecosystem.

The first batch of UMITRON CELL devices have already been tested in the Japanese town of Ainan. The production of more devices for its Japanese clients is well underway, said UMITRON’s managing director Masahiko Yamada.

Mr Yamada hopes to introduce UMITRON CELL to more countries in the region in the next few months. “The fight to reduce environmental pollution in our oceans requires a global effort and we want to spread our product to as many countries as possible,” he said.

UMITRON recently launched UMITRON CELL (above), an automated feeding machine that can be used to monitor and feed fish remotely.

Apart from the launch of the new feeding device, the firm recently secured a S$15.2 million investment to lead the development of sustainable aquaculture using technology such as artificial intelligence.

UMITRON also joined hands with project partner Abaco and its subsidiary Piscis to boost aquaculture productivity in Lake Titicaca, Peru. The project received US$2 million (S$2.7 million) in funding from US-based Inter-American Development Bank and is set to launch this summer.

Piscis is one of the largest trout farmers in Peru, operating two trout-processing facilities that deliver high-value products for export to Asian, North American and European markets.

Rainbow trout is commonly farmed in Lake Titicaca and exported to international markets where demand for the fish is robust. This species of trout is one of the most valuable and popular aquaculture species, and worldwide production has increased ten-fold over the past 30 years.

The automated feeding device UMITRON CELL has the potential to beef up the local trout farming industry by ramping up efficiency in day-to-day operations – all while preserving environmental sustainability, said Mr Yamada.

Mr Yamada believes Peru is worth the investment, as the country’s aquaculture industry is projected to double its fish production from a current 100,000 tons by 2030.

This is in line with the growing aquaculture industry in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that fish production through aquaculture will swell from 2.7 million tons in 2016 to 4.0 million tons in 2030.

UMITRON is collaborating on a project to boost aquaculture productivity in Lake Titicaca, Peru, where rainbow trout is commonly farmed and exported to international markets.

This new project in Peru is the first step in UMITRON’s long-term plans to support and develop more technology for Latin American aquaculture producers. The startup is actively searching for similar partnerships where they can assist aquaculture producers, said Mr Yamada.

Such large-scale achievements are certainly commendable for a two-year-old firm, and Mr Yamada commented that the “highly supportive and vibrant” startup ecosystem in Singapore plays a big part in grooming startups.

For instance, as a result of taking part in Enterprise Singapore’s SLINGSHOT@SWITCH, UMITRON gained good exposure to investors, corporates, industry leaders and potential leads.

And as their prize for emerging second runner-up in last year’s competition, the startup was awarded a S$100,000 grant from Startup SG. Mr Yamada plans to use the grant to explore further product development and global scalability of UMITRON’s solutions.

“Throughout our daily operation, we still see challenges in aquaculture from various perspectives such as the level of technology, the stability and safety of the food supply, and the long term economic and environmental sustainability of farms,” said Mr Yamada.

“Finding solutions requires borderless collaboration between the public and private sector.”