With technology that can efficiently harvest shellfish and other seafood from the seabed without damaging the surroundings, Ava Ocean is aiming to change a global industry and make it more sustainable. Innovation Norway is contributing advice and funding.
Scraping the seabed to gather shellfish has been illegal in Norway since 1992 when this method of trawling for Iceland scallops led to a complete collapse of stocks in the Barents Sea.
Some 30 years later, and the Norwegian authorities have started to permit the harvesting of this scallop delicacy again thanks to new technology developed by a company in Ålesund, Ava Ocean, formerly TAU Tech.
Writing seafood history in 2022
In autumn 2022, an 85-metre long shell harvester, a converted offshore service vessel, set course for the Barents Sea and entered the history books as the first vessel to carry such harvesting technology on board. The vessel has been fitted out with its own factory and has a crew of 24.
The seabed is full of species of seafood that are not exploited as the tasty healthy raw materials they are. The Ålesund company’s innovative technology can gently and selectively gather such seafood and has the potential to change an entire global industry. Seabed scraping is currently the most widespread harvesting method, and it severely damages vulnerable marine ecosystems.
A sustainable alternative to seabed scraping
“The opportunities are enormous because, until now, there have not been any real alternatives. Large-scale seabed scraping is still common in most countries except Norway and Iceland. Here in Norway, the shellfish is an unexploited resource because of the ban on seabed scraping,” explains Øystein Tvedt, CEO at Ava Ocean.
Customer adviser Kari-Anne Lade Gjørvad at Innovation Norway Møre og Romsdal, praises the entrepreneurs’ enthusiasm and drive to develop a new, sustainable method that will gently harvest the resource from the seabed at scale.
“A successful solution may revolutionise fisheries around the world and ensure the full exploitation of raw materials and resources without destroying the habitats on the seabed,” she points out.
Impossible without Innovation Norway
“The fact is that it would not have been possible for us to get where we are today without getting support from Innovation Norway along the way. We have met a group of people who have cheered us on, as well as the solutions we have developed, and have helped us financially and with expertise to realise our plans,” says Tvedt.
“Working with supporters who believe in what we are trying to achieve as much as we do is incredibly motivating for a start-up,” he adds.
Ava Ocean received a start-up grant in 2016 and has since then received a total of NOK 18 million from Innovation Norway to realise the first pilot system for gentle shellfish fishing. Our advisers became involved in the project early on and helped define the development process.
“They have been with us all the way. We had a good dialogue and received good advice from Innovation Norway for two years before we actually applied for support,” says Tvedt.
As well as innovation support and advice, the company benefited from the funding cooperation between Innovation Norway and Export Finance Norway.
“The fact that we have received loan funding from Export Finance Norway and the local bank Sparebanken Vest has been a major strength for the project,” says Tvedt.