of the Earth's surface
is covered in water
The Earth is mostly made of rock… and water. About 71 percent of the Earth's surface is covered in water, and the oceans hold about 96.5 percent of all of Earth's water. For centuries, humans saw water as an unlimited resource. Garrett Harden’s 1968 essay “The Tragedy of The Commons” predicts today’s global water shortages: “where resources thought unlimited are exploited by individuals… They are inevitably depleted.”
Today, the importance of oceans to human welfare is finally acknowledged. Three-quarters of the planet is covered by oceans, and salt water provides 3 billion people with 1/5 of the overall protein intake, generating an estimated value of goods and services of $3 trillion (cf. FAO Report 2017). The oceans also produce at least half of the world’s oxygen (cf. NOAA - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - 2017 Climate Report), more than worldwide forests, and they have so far the highest impact in countering global warming. Overexploitation and lack of accountability to ocean protection responsibility threaten these benefits.
As a result, new technologies and services - including robotics, big data, and artificial intelligence - are being developed to specifically enable better management of ocean resources, and to ensure their long-term protection. These technology initiatives coined “OceanTech” are recent but will impact the entire maritime sector and ecosystem, ranging from aquaculture, ocean preservation or sea freight. L’Atelier BNP Paribas is studying these OceanTech trends closely, and providing digital strategy recommendations to stakeholders in relevant industries.
Following GreenTech field analysis and research, L’Atelier BNP Paribas Americas is proud to launch its 2018 OceanTech practice. Its goal is to understand and drive concrete action towards a more sustainable relationship between humankind and the oceans. As a first step, L’Atelier BNP Paribas Americas is happy to support, for the 2nd consecutive year, the Sustainable Ocean Alliance and its Oceans accelerator by providing mentoring and coaching to the startups that are part of the program.
innovations in aquaculture
of fish stocks
are fished beyond their sustainable limits
L’Atelier BNP Paribas is focusing on innovation in 2 main areas of the OceanTech ecosystem: 1) commercial fisheries and aquaculture, 2) ocean preservation and resource management.Over the last century, commercial fishing practices have become industrialized and the impact on the fishing stock has been catastrophic. As of today 90% of fish stocks are fished beyond their sustainable limits. With an increasing demand for food coming from a growing worldwide population, marine species extinction is becoming a reality. According to the latest UN FAO figures, between 8% to 25% of global fisheries’ production is discarded every year. One specific consequence of the use of giant nets is the rise of the number of by-catches which is threatening entire species of fish. To solve this issue, the UK-based startup Safetynet has developed a LED device, placed on nets, that enables selective fishing. After several years of research and academic study, they found out that certain species of fish would react positively or negatively to a certain spectrum of light. First live experiments of their technology have shown that bycatch could be reduced by up to 90%.
Innovation is also happening in aquaculture, which is expected to meet the World’s population demand for fish in the future. But this is not without challenges: system affordability, sea water contamination, fish viruses are among various technical issues that need to be solved. To address those challenges in a more affordable, scalable and sustainable way, San-Diego based startup Aquaai, has created a fishlike drone, that leverages computer vision, artificial intelligence, and the internet of things to help manage aquaculture farms and systems more efficiently. Equipped with several cameras and sensors, it can be operated autonomously or remotely, almost 24/7, and collects data of all kinds (live video footage, water temperature or salinity indicators). Artificial intelligence is then used to analyze and present the information in a dashboard that meets the fishery’s operator’s needs. Aquaii technology has a variety of other use cases, including the tracking of illegal fishing or coral reef restoration missions.Part of the AI in OceanTech trend hinges on access and management of quality data. Our research has shown important big data technology applied in ocean preservation efforts and resource management. The startup Saildrone, based in San Francisco, is using floating drones, propelled by solar energy and wind, to collect data from the oceans autonomously. The company is already working with governments, non-profit organizations or corporates, to deploy their fleet of drones around the world. Several data-collection missions are in progress or were completed recently, such as the monitoring of the evolution of the salmon stock ashore Seattle coasts. Another example comes from the non-profit organization Global fishing watch. They use satellites to gather data on the oceans in order to protect marine species and support biodiversity.
Data is also essential to fight water pollution - which is another raison d’etre of OceanTech. According to the World Economic Forum, 8 billion kilograms of plastic every year end their lives in the oceans. That is equivalent to a truck full of plastic trash being dumped in oceans every minute. By 2050, oceans are expected to contain more plastic than fish (by weight). How can we avoid polluting marine life with microplastics? There are two ways to solve this issue: we can prevent it by replacing plastic with a renewable or edible material, and we can also recycle existing plastic so it won’t end up in the ocean. Loliware, the NYC-based startup, is tackling pollution prevention by replacing single-use plastics with hyper-compostable, edible materials derived from seaweed. Its product biodegrades within 80 hours, whereas a plastic straw lasts for a lifetime. In Florida, the startup E6PR has partnered with Saltwater Brewery to develop and commercialize a beer package harmless for marine life. In India, spoons are now edible thanks to the small company Bakey’s.
Efforts to recycle existing plastic pollution are underway around the world as well: There is The Ocean Cleanup Project, startup Ichthion Limited, or the work of researchers from Warwick University, who might have found a way to detect the smaller fraction of microplastics. Japanese scientists have also created a mutant enzyme that is capable of eating plastic.
Others are transforming waste into power. The Plastic Odyssey aims at powering the first boat with plastic waste. This catamaran is expected to leave France in 2020 for a 3-year expedition, to collect, transform and power the boat until the next stop. In another Odyssey, this time solely powered by Hydrogen and renewable energies, Energy Observer, is on a sailing trip around the world: 6 years, 50 countries and 101 stopovers to demonstrate that an alternative is possible.
This short list demonstrates the scope and breadth of solutions that exist and the global effort already underway to save the world’s oceans. L’Atelier BNP Paribas Americas is committed to being part of this movement by understanding key trends and players in the OceanTech ecosystem and recommending concrete actions for greater ocean sustainability through technology.
Benjamin Lesage - Senior Digital Strategy Advisor at L’Atelier BNP Paribas Americas
Alessandro Promutico - CEO at L’Atelier BNP Paribas Americas
L’Atelier BNP Paribas Americas is the Innovation Studio that helps BNP Paribas Group and its clients transform their business by leveraging Silicon Valley Ecosystem.
L’Atelier BNP Paribas, with 40 years of proven expertise in detecting cross-industries disruptive technologies is deemed to have significant impacts on business models and society at large.