Aquaculture tech start-up Umitron snags US$2m funding for Peru project

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By Milthon Lujan

UMITRON secures US$2 million project funding from the Inter-American Development Bank to deliver IoT and AI feeding technology to drive growth of sustainable aquaculture in Lake Titicaca, Peru.

UMITRON PTE. LTD. (Location: Singapore, Co-founder/ Managing director Masahiko Yamada, hereinafter UMITRON) in cooperation with Abaco (Cooperativa de Ahorro y Crédito) and its subsidiary Piscis (Piscifactorias de los Andes) has been approved for US$2 million project funding to improve aquaculture productivity in Lake Titicaca, Peru. IDB Lab, the Inter-American Development Bank Group’s (IDB) innovation laboratory is funding the project with hopes of improving the local trout farming industry’s economic and environmental sustainability.

Lake Titicaca farmers raise rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) for sales to both a robust domestic market and to developing international markets. Salmonids are currently one of the most valuable and popular aquaculture species with worldwide production increasing ten-fold over the past thirty years. The local Peruvian industry is growing, with 100,000 tons of production in 2016 projected to grow to 221,000 tons of production by 2030. This follows the trend of a growing aquaculture industry in Latin America and the Caribbean, where The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that fish production through aquaculture will grow from 2.7 million tons in 2016 to 4.0 million tons in 2030. UMITRON’s partner Piscis is one of the largest trout farmers in Peru, they are also vertically integrated, operating two trout processing facilities that create high-value products for export to Asian, North-American, and European markets. Piscis has ambitious growth plans and is looking for opportunities to utilize technology to improve their operations.

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UMITRON’s AI powered feeding technology has the potential to improve Lake Titicaca trout farmers operations in a number of ways. Firstly, it reduces the need for farmers to visit each individual cage every day for feeding and observation. Instead fish can be remotely monitored and fed, reducing the need to be in the boat on dangerous, windy days. The automated feeder also has the capability to reduce overfeeding and improve overall feed use efficiency. This benefits both the farmer’s bottom line, and the environment’s health by reducing the chances of conditions that lead to harmful algae blooms. Ultimately, the use of UMITRON’s products has the potential to both grow the local Lake Titicaca economy while simultaneously decreasing farmer’s environmental footprint.

“Through our daily operation, we 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. Finding solutions requires borderless collaboration between the public and private sector. We’re delighted to start this project with IDB and Abaco/Piscis to create a successful model for future growth. We hope this technology driven collaboration encourages sustainable aquaculture and contributes to both the local economy and global issues.” said Masahiko Yamada, Managing Director of UMITRON.

IDB Lab’s grant resources will be used by UMITRON and Piscis to test and calibrate UMITRON’s AI powered feeding technology. Additionally, funds will be used to both train local producers to increase their familiarity with UMITRON’s products, and to develop a plan for scaling up UMITRON’s solution to reach other farmers in the Lake Titicaca region. The end goal is to implement real-time data-driven aquaculture feeding technology for farmers in both Peru and eventually all of Latin America. This project is the first step in UMITRON’s long term plans to support and develop technology for Latin American aquaculture producers. Through impact investment, UMITRON is looking for similar public-private partnerships where they can assist aquaculture producers to increase their ability to deliver high-quality, sustainably grown products in both Latin America and abroad.

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