How to reduce by-catch?

Dan Watson Co-Founder and CEO of SafetyNet Technologies wants to help fix the issue of overfishing. Dan felt frustrated by how slowly progress was being made on improving overfishing and protecting marine life. “I think all entrepreneurs see something in the world that they can’t tolerate, and decide to try and fix it themselves, rather than wait for someone else to start.” He used his skills as a recently graduated mechanical engineer to develop a very smart way for fishermen to avoid catching the wrong fish.  

Coming up in this Circular Story

  • Precision fishing and reducing ‘bycatch’.

  • How the best ideas always develop once you get started.

  • Working with a ‘Hardware as a Service.’

  • How Safetynet Technologies can change the fishing industry.

Over 20% of the world relies on fish as their primary protein source.

Global diets are moving toward greater fish consumption due to the health benefits it presents. We have to find ways to ensure the sustainability of fish stocks, and ‘precision fishing’ is a great solution. Around 16m tonnes of fish caught in oceans is wasted annually. If fishing crews only catch the fish they want to catch and can manage to avoid the rest, they have a potential profit increase of up to 20%. 

More importantly, by reducing ‘bycatch’ – the capture of unmarketable, endangered and undesirable fish species means marine life is protected for future generations. The oceans contain a delicate balance of biodiversity and disruptions to this can be disastrous for the entire planet. 

Watch SafetyNet’s Circular Story here!

Ideas that might change the world

“I was on the Isle of Skye with my parents, having graduated the week before. It was a sunny, humid day, and the whole island felt like being in Jurassic Park. I was happy because I’d passed my degree, and we were having lunch at a lovely pub. We were talking about what I wanted to do next, and my parents brought up the fact that it’s not very often that people have ideas that might change the world for the better, and not everyone gets the chance to work on something they love. It finally hit me how lucky I was to have this focus in my life, and I decided to keep working on the SafetyNet project, even though at that time I wasn’t able to financially support myself through it. After that, it gradually became a bigger and even more exciting part of my life, and I started building prototypes in my spare time at hack-spaces and anywhere I could find tools and materials. It was super exciting to be the driving force behind the project, particularly when other people were enthusiastic enough to get involved and help out.”

Precision Fishing

SafetyNet Technologies designs and builds technologies that help bring about their vision of ‘Precision Fishing’. Their first product, Pisces, is a light-emitting device that is fitted into existing fishing gear. Pisces uses fish reactions to different colours of light to attract and repel them from fishing nets, meaning fishing crews can select what they catch, based on species, age, and even gender.  This method is based on the fact that different fish species will behave in certain ways depending on the colour and wavelength of light they are shown. Selecting the catch in this way has enabled fishing crews to massively reduce bycatch – capture of unmarketable or endangered fish and other ocean creatures – by up to 90% in some fisheries. 

Hardware as a Service Model

“The hardware-as-a-service model benefits from being circular, as we are able to deploy our devices to more than one customer over the course of their lifetimes, rather than making new devices for every new customer.”

Pisces is supplied through a Hardware-as-a-Service model, so SafetyNet Technologies sends a kit of Pisces lights to a fishing crew, then supports them to deploy and maintain the devices correctly over a two-year service contract. At the end of the contract, the Pisces hardware is returned to SafetyNet Technologies, where it is quality checked, and either redeployed to a new customer or disassembled for recycling/upcycling. The intention is that no parts are unnecessarily wasted, and fishing crews are incentivised (discounts, loyalty points) to return the hardware back to the company at the end of the contract, rather than dispose of it. 

An open and collaborative company

SafetyNet Technologies is an open and collaborative company. They regularly work with academic and scientific partners, and co-founded a ‘UN FAO-ICES’ a working group focused on ‘Light as a Bycatch Reduction Tool’. They supply Pisces devices to their project partners, and also collaborate with governments and NGOs all over the world (Indonesia, USA, Ecuador, Malaysia, Denmark, France, Spain, Portugal, Peru) to help them address bycatch issues in their own fisheries, moving them towards sustainable production. They work with large-scale industrial fisheries, such as the Alaskan pollock fleet, and small-scale fisheries, such as gillnetters in rural Indonesia.

The company also collaborates on a wide range of R&D projects, all focused on using light to change fish behaviour. This work has ranged from aquaculture to electricity production.

And SafetyNet Technologies is a staunchly profit-with-purpose company. Solving global problems offers huge value to a wide range of stakeholders, and businesses like theirs wouldn’t survive without being underpinned by a sustainable business model – including reasonable profits which repay investor trust. No other sector expects companies to supply services or products without a return on investment, whether that investment is financial or hard work. Dan says “We need to move away from drawing a line between profit and purpose when, in the end, purpose-driven businesses are solving problems that represent genuine business and societal needs.”

“Things change state but are never wasted – Nothing would be wasted, including people’s dreams and potential.” 

The ideal Circular Economy is one where things change state but are never wasted. Systems are in place to ensure that supply doesn’t outstrip demand, and in the rare cases it does, systems can be tweaked and the excess used productively. For instance, food doesn’t go into landfills but is used to produce energy or compost, products at end-of-life are repaired, reused, or recycled into other things that have been identified as necessary for society to thrive. Policy supports and rewards sustainable and responsible production, building a context where excess production is hard or unprofitable. Investors follow-suit as sustainable business cases yield reliable and decent returns.

Collaboration within the ecosystem

“We meet many companies that are doing great innovations to help save the climate. One example is the Swedish Climeon who makes electricity from waste heat – in maritime environments. They exploit the temperature difference between hot and cold water to generate clean electricity. We complement each other very well.  Because when the vessels no longer have any waste heat and can’t warm the ship, it can instead use the energy from their onboard restaurants, using Lepido.
We also partner up with investors who believe in saving the climate and of course that is crucial for us until we can carry our own costs. Thirdly we partner up with professionals in order to get a fully automated production.”

Circular Quote
of the day:

“We need to move away from drawing a line between profit and purpose when, in the end, purpose-driven businesses are solving problems that represent genuine business and societal needs.”

Dan Watson
Founder Safetynet Technologies

What would you do with a €1.000,- budget to stimulate the circular economy?

“I’d pay the children of influential policy-makers £50 each to go home and bug their parents and tell them all the cool solutions that are out in the world that aren’t being supported until they changed the laws. Education is the best chance we have for lasting and sustainable change.”

Any personal adjustments for a better future?

“I eat a mainly plant-based diet, and I buy way fewer physical objects than I used to (to the point where it fills me with dread if I have to buy something). When I do buy things, I save up to buy things that will last, and do a lot of research into what I’m buying. I know what goes into making products and the best way to avoid filling the world with junk is to make genuinely useful products that last and can be repaired, rather than constantly making new versions of things that break.” 

If you could have a gigantic billboard with anything on it what would it say and why?

“Don’t wait for someone else to do it.”

What are you personally most proud of today?

“Building a phenomenal team of committed, talented, supportive, kind, excellent people at SafetyNet. It’s a privilege to be able to call them my colleagues, and I’m delighted by all the wonderful things that they do. To be born into the circumstances that allowed me to build this company, without having to worry about whether I could eat, sleep, wash, be healthy, be educated and go about my life easily, is unbelievable good fortune for which I will be eternally grateful.”

My 11 experts tips for other enterpreneurs:

I have 11 pieces that I always end my presentations/mentoring sessions with (I’m collecting more as I go). They’re all important, but C,J & K are super important:

  • Raise your luck surface area (network, communicate your ideas);

  • Be confident, not arrogant;

  • Admit when you don’t know something;

  • How Safetynet Technologies can change the fishing industry;

  • Believe in your ideas, but back them up with facts;

  • Find a co-founder, or a team to work with;

  • Figure out how to explain what you’re doing in a concise, understandable way;

  • Figure out what you do and what you like about it;

  • Work as if what you’re doing is real;

  • Put yourself in the mind of your user (where possible);

  • Ask for help!

  • Take care of yourself. Without you to drive it forward, your idea is going nowhere.

‘We believe stories will inspire all to
rethink the way we live, love, travel, work and do business.’
Ellekari & Mariëlle
Founders of Circular Stories

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