"O Captain! My Captain!" IoT Hero Phil Cruver is more than a savvy entrepreneur. He is a passionate pioneer working to use Internet of Things technology to meet the growing demand for shellfish, create jobs, and reduce our nation’s $11 billion seafood deficit, all while preserving a healthy ocean. I had the opportunity to interview him on his amazing, responsible project.
So, Phil, tell me a bit about yourself.
I am currently the founder and CEO of Catalina Sea Ranch, which holds the first and only aquaculture permit for farming the vast seas in U.S. Federal waters.
I believe a “Blue Revolution” is essential for feeding future generations. Jacque Cousteau presciently stated decades ago: “With Earth’s burgeoning human populations to feed, we must turn to the sea with a new understanding and new technology. We need to farm it as we farm the land.”
Another luminary, Nobel Laureate Peter Drucker stated: “Aquaculture, not the Internet, represents the most promising investment opportunity of the 21st Century.” These quotes put into perspective the potential for an Ocean Internet of Things™ platform supporting sustainable aquaculture as the “Next Big Thing” for sustaining an exploding global population.
As an entrepreneur with six startups, and an outlier, I have a unique perspective on the in the traditional seafood industry. An Ocean Internet of Things will rapidly transform the $135 billion dollar global aquaculture industry. Smart, connected products will unleash a disruptive new era of competition opening a major global market opportunity.
I know your company is at the forefront of “marine big data” and “oceanic IoT.” Can you share details about your project?
Catalina Sea Ranch’s 100-acre aquaculture facility is located on the edge of about 26,000 acres (40 square miles) of U.S. Federal waters on the San Pedro Shelf. This is the broadest mainland continental shelf segment offshore California. The legs of three offshore oil platforms, located two miles away, are blanketed with shellfish naturally thriving on rich and abundant phytoplankton.
I became interested in the potential for an Ocean Internet of Things platform to exceed the expectations of regulators with unassailable analytics from massive amounts of data showing no negative impact from our offshore operation. This would allow us to accelerate the timetable for scaling our sustainable shellfish ranch in a responsible way that would be in the interest of our country.
Imagine a massive sensor array allowing us to remotely take the environmental pulse of our ranch with continuous, real-time measurements of depth, temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, and measuring phytoplankton biomass. We are partnering with leading IoT companies that are designing and developing innovative technologies for the first Ocean Internet of Things platform.
We were also proactive to develop a program for monitoring our ranch operations with leading institutions specializing in marine ecology and spatial planning. Our Ocean Internet of Things platform will provide science-based data for evaluating any environmental or social impacts. This will help policy makers decide how to allocate offshore waters for economic and societal benefits not conflicting with or perturbing marine life and ocean ecology. It will also provide a platform to showcase science-based solutions and best practices for advancing sustainable offshore aquaculture. This would help America assume a leadership role in this fastest growing global food production industry.
Through our conversation, I know this is not just another IoT project. Can you share your mission?
The United States Exclusive Economic Zone (EZZ), extending between 3 and 200 nautical miles from shore is the largest of any nation covering 4.5 million square miles. Studies show that less than 0.01% of the U.S. EEZ could produce up to 1.33 billion pounds or more of additional seafood.
Like petroleum, achieving self-sufficiency and security is required to sustainably and reliably meet America’s growing demand for seafood in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. Imports will increasingly become more vulnerable to supply disruption attributed to global geopolitical tensions and major demographic trends. This dire and vulnerable situation suggests that seafood shortages should be elevated to a national security issue by our government.
Climate change dictates that offshore aquaculture will become the next agriculture, particularly for regions confronted with water shortages and possessing ideal coastal conditions. California is the exemplar. As the world’s fifth largest supplier of food commodities with the strongest ocean economy in America, it has the potential to augment its land-based agriculture success with offshore aquaculture for increasing both economic prosperity and food security.
Studies have shown that a small percentage of state and federal waters within the Southern California Bight could generate a multibillion-dollar offshore aquaculture industry. With proper planning employing data from an Ocean Internet of Things platform, California could emulate New Zealand, which has the goal to triple the value of aquaculture production to $1 billion by 2025 and in a sustainable way that preserves its pristine environment.
Offshore aquaculture in Southern California has the potential to put a dent in our nation’s escalating $11 billion plus seafood deficit. Mollusk shellfish - mussels, scallops, oysters, and clams - are among the most lucrative and sustainable fisheries in the United States valued over $1 billion. The global export market for frozen shellfish exports to Asia is enormous. Consider that the two largest ports in America are located less than 10 miles away from 40 square miles of ocean space on the San Pedro Shelf that are ideal for sustainable shellfish ranching.
I know you’ve been involved in other startups. What advice do you have for IoT entrepreneurs?
First and foremost, don’t run out of cash!
Startups take more time and financial forecasts are merely models, which typically understate capital requirements and implementation time. Plan for the worst, hope for the best, and (using today’s VC vernacular) strive for a “moonshot” for your company to become a “unicorn.” Pioneers catching the crest of the IoT wave have an unprecedented opportunity to scale their startups to outrageous valuations.
IoT platforms, aggregating large data sets derived from wireless embedded sensor networks and processed with probability mathematics for predictive analytics, are having a transformative impact. When combined with the power of cloud computing, a technological tsunami of epic proportions promising to usher in a new paradigm for forecasting future trends and predicting outcomes across a broad swath of industries.
Early adopters will boost their commercial productivity by introducing intelligence into products for predictive, data-driven decisions based on empirical science rather than intuition. Analytics for anticipating industry trends will offer radical opportunities for companies to rethink their core businesses and competitive edge. Incumbents reluctant to cannibalize their legacy technologies will allow disruptive new entrants to capture their customers.
In Catalina Sea Ranch’s case, we recognized that our company was uniquely positioned to exploit the erupting IoT phenomenon for the ocean sector, which is currently non-existent, has huge growth potential, and is ripe for innovation. With our “First Mover Advantage” it could become both a growth play for creating a multi-billion metadata driven marine industry and a defensive strategy for producing barriers to entry for the emerging offshore aquaculture industry.
It’s a big question, but in your opinion, what does the future of IoT look like?
It’s difficult to fathom the magnitude of these recent staggering IoT forecasts:
If the above predictions are accurate, our oceans will soon be swimming in sensors and the analysts drowning in data.
If the data can be harnessed, aggregated and fused into coherent information systems providing valuable knowledge, an Ocean Internet of Things platform could provide scientific evidence for solving threats like ocean acidification the "evil twin" of climate change. It could provide governmental agencies, the scientific community, and research institutions with a better understanding of the ocean – the final frontier on our planet.
Furthermore, employing massive amounts of inexpensive miniaturized sensors embedded into wireless networks, an Ocean Internet of Things™ platform has the potential to be disruptive and game changing for the global maritime industry. Those companies capable of harnessing and translating the data into insightful information for making intelligent decisions will have a competitive advantage.
Moreover, an Ocean Internet of Things platform would provide scientific evidence for planners to consider various uses of the ocean for better decisions and more responsible policies. In the near future this would enable taking the environmental pulse of an area in the ocean to understand the short and long-term trends, anticipate problems and devise mitigation measures for the immediate implementation of corrective actions. This would lead to sound regulations based upon solid science for the advancement of sustainable offshore aquaculture and responsible marine spatial planning.
I live on the West coast of Ireland nearly went to work for Jac C some moons ago I agree with all you say about food