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This Viennese startup wants to breed fish in the desert using solar energy.

Sometimes you cannot be astonished in the startup world. While some of them dig into Viennese coworking spaces, the others with the really big idea get on the plane and jet off to Silicon Valley. For example Blue Planet Ecosystems by Thomas Daniele and Paul and Georg Schmitzberger. They want to create nothing less than artificial ecosystems with their startup in order to produce food under extreme conditions.

As crazy as the idea sounds, Blue Planet Ecosystems has already found its supporters. The life science accelerator IndieBio, which supports biotech companies with $ 250,000 and a four-month program, has welcomed the Austrians, and in the extension, the startup is also taking part in the goSiliconValley initiative of WKÖ and the Federal Ministry for Digitization and Business Location part (Trending Topics reported). Even the now well-known Viennese business Angel Christoph Filnkößl (including goUrban, Orderlion, Luke Roberts) is on board.

Automated protein factories

“Marine resources are increasingly being depleted, especially under the difficult conditions of climate change,” says Paul Schmitzberger, CEO of Blue Planet Ecosystems, in an interview with Trending Topics. The devastation caused by climate change would make more and more soil unsuitable for agriculture. “Conventional aquaculture has been able to fill this gap of supply and extremely high demand for a long time, but is also increasingly limited by decreasing fish stocks being processed into fishmeal and fish oil.”

Still, it is green laboratory vessels, in which a perhaps once great solution approaches. We solve the problem by completely recreating aquatic food chains in highly modular systems, ie photo-protein reactors, and thermodynamically optimizing them for desert regions, “says Schmitzberger. To put it simply: Blue Planet Ecosystems wants to design software-controlled tanks in which fish grow in the desert.

And where does the necessary energy come from? Clear answer: “In order to remain economically competitive, we combine biology, energy technology and computer science into a system that uses solar energy,” says Schmitzberger.

Turn sunlight into animal protein

Fish farming in the desert – but why not? Blue Planet Ecosystems should work in three steps: In so-called “Closed Loop Photo Protein Reactors” sunlight is turned into fish. “We are in a sense an energy technology company,” says Schmitzberger. “But instead of using photovoltaic cells to turn sunlight into electricity, we use an aquatic system to turn sun into animal protein.” The three steps from sunlight to fish:

That this is a mega-project with an uncertain outcome is clear. In the same way that it takes a lot of capital to raise the concept. “Yes. We’re talking about manufacturing industry here. That’s why we feel in good hands here in San Francisco, “says Schmitzberger. “At the moment we are optimizing the first two trophic levels (levels in a food chain, note) algae and zooplankton.” It is the third prototype Blue Planet Ecosystems is working on. These zebrafish are bred as a model organism.

Shrimp as the first commercialization step

If the system that Blue Planet has devised works, then there could be really highly automated fish farming where only sand is found today. “The first commercial application is likely to be shrimp, which need a high protein content in the feed,” says Schmitzberger. “However, there are over 500 fish species that are commercially bred. So we have a lot of choices. ”

Of course, software should not be missing from the project. Software components (appropriately named “NeMo”, “Gold Fish” and “FishPi”) are designed to monitor the growth of Plantkon or fish and to automatically adjust the environmental conditions. In the first tests, dead fish (due to the lack of movement) could already be recognized by the technology.

“We are building three units in the shipping container format that will optimize the environmental conditions for each microalgae, zooplankton and fish. This optimization is carried out automatically based on data that we generate analogously and with computer vision and image analysis, “continues Schmitzberger. Now it will be exciting to see when Blue Planet Ecosystems turns sunlight into fish on a grand scale for the first time. Mother Earth needed a few billion years for that.

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