The evolution of an oyster farming startup

Ewan McAsh is the co-founder and CEO of Oceanfarmr

After creating SmartOysters in 2020, McAsh’s aquatech branched out into mussel and seaweed farming

Ewan McAsh, co-founder and CEO of the startup – whose initial product was an app that logged the location and status of every bag of oysters on his own farm in Australia – explains their new direction.

Why has the name changed?

We started SmartOysters because I was an oyster farmer looking for a smarter way to record stock inventory and farm operation tasks. Before developing the app, I used my memory, whiteboards and spreadsheets – which were not fast, were prone to sometimes costly errors and could be a daunting task at the end of the day and the working week.

As the app grew and we started to get worldwide attention, mussel and algae growers contacted us about maybe using the app, but they didn’t know either more if it was only for oysters. Hence the switch to Oceanfarmr – we have tailored the app and associated dashboard to meet the different requirements of mussel and seaweed farms.

basket of oysters pulled on a boat
Oyster farm at Eaglehawk Neck in Tasmania

Oceanfarmr helps growers track stock inventory and farm operation tasks

How is the diversification in the mussels going?

Working with one of the UK’s largest mussel farms, we have developed the app more specifically for mussel farming and an associated dashboard. The team are very busy with this sector now with our Business Development Manager visiting the UK and Ireland, talking to interested farmers and sending more mussel farms to our Australian team for onboarding.

And can you tell us a bit about your experiments with algae?

As with mussel farms, we developed the algae functionality of the app and dashboard with our algae partners GreenWave. We’re excited about the 3D Ocean Farms – oysters and seaweed or mussels and seaweed – that have tested the app, reporting how well it works and giving us great feedback to tailor it to their needs.

shellfish farmer
Oceanfarmr started user trials for integrated aquaculture

Oceanfarmr has expanded beyond Australia and is used in New Zealand, UK, Dubai, Mexico, Canada and the US.

Can you tell us about the launch of your agricultural financing program?

Access to finance is the biggest barrier to growing the regenerative ocean agriculture sector. We launched our “Farm to Buy” financing program only a few months ago. It is unique, there is nothing like it anywhere else in the world, as it is specially designed for ocean farms. It allows farmers to leverage their agricultural expertise and data to finance new machinery and increase production. It does not require security, it does not require monthly cash repayments, and it allows farmers to invest in the latest and most robust agricultural technology. It’s a complete game changer! Since launch, we’ve received over $50 million in agricultural funding applications.

Have you managed to expand your reach, geographically, over the past few years?

We have farmers in Australia, New Zealand, USA, UK, Dubai, Mexico and Canada.

What other steps have been taken since our last contact two years ago?

person holding a cell phone
The Oceanfarmr app interface

McAsh and his team have released a new version of the Oceanfarmr app

Along with the rebranding, which reflects the expansion of functionality to mussels and seaweed, and the funding program, we have released a new and improved version of the app, giving farmers greater coverage and much faster processing time. faster on the water.

How do you still have time for agriculture and how is that going?

After more than a decade of farming, I managed to pass on my oyster farms to my brothers-in-law, who now use the Oceanfarmr app. In a few years, they have doubled agricultural production, are more profitable but work much less than my father and me. It’s great to see their success. The farm continues to be the testing ground for new features of Oceanfarrmr and other technologies, including rotating farm cultivation, wet storage, sensors and satellite technology.

What’s next on the agenda?

Farmers, including our family, who have signed up for the Farm To Buy program are very excited about what this could be a game changer for the industry. Our goal at Oceanfarmr is therefore to prepare farmers to take advantage of this new program, with mussel and seaweed farms to be added next. And, since this is a global program, I will be moving to the United States and setting up an office and employing staff to help with our rapid growth.

We are also one of 23 startups that have been accepted into this year’s Katapult Accelerator Program, which is a huge opportunity for us to collaborate with some of the best ocean and climate tech companies around the world. We’ve also just launched a crowdfunding campaign that gives our customers the opportunity to become OceanFarmr investors as we really grow our technology and financial offerings around the world.

It’s been a huge few months, but we’re making incredible progress towards becoming a leader in ocean technology.

*Oceanfarmr is part of Hatch’s investment portfolio, but The Fish Site retains editorial independence.

Rob Flecher

Editor-in-Chief at The Fish Site

Rob Fletcher has been writing about aquaculture since 2007, as editor of fish farmer, Fish farming specialist and The fish website. He holds an MA in History from the University of Edinburgh and an MA in Sustainable Aquaculture from the University of St Andrews. He currently lives and works in Scotland.