Meet The Founder: Ralf Klis

Introducing Mussel Farm Application, the brainchild of co-founders Ralf Klis and Lucas Tracewski, and one of the AgTech start-ups joining our Sprout Accelerator 2021 Cohort B intake. 

Here we catch up with Ralf to discuss all things Mussel Farming Application - where the idea came from, how their innovative solution actually works and what their plans are for the future.

“The idea came about when I was working on an environmental app for the Marine Farming Association. While we were undertaking research, we had a chat with a few mussel farmers and came to realise there were no existing systems, applications or management tools available on the market for mussel farmers”. 

This sparked the idea for the application, and Ralf spent the next six months conducting interviews and wider market research, uncovering an opportunity to develop a tool designed to support mussel farmers both here in New Zealand and internationally.  

The application is a farm management system that allows farm owners and managers to make informed decisions based on actual data. As mussel farming is all done underwater, and therefore not visible, the solution also aims to solve challenges around mussel growth predictability and uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to create normal human decisions, based on real data.

“There are two main challenges we’re looking to solve. The first is essentially maximizing the profit per meter of each mussel line. There is a lot of waste in terms of the administration and management of the farms, and if we can reduce some of that, then essentially we’ll be increasing farmers profits. 

“The second challenge is around the unpredictability of mussel farming, and the fact that at present there is no real answer to the question of why lines of mussels right next to each other will grow half the number of mussels or mussels that are only half the size”. 

The Mussel Farming Application team consists of Ralf himself, a business owner and solutions architect, co-founder Lucas, a machine learning and artificial intelligence specialist whose focus is on optimising processes through data, and a programmer who helps build the solution. 

While the information available through Mussel Farm Application is available elsewhere, what sets the app apart and makes it innovative is the fact that everything is consolidated into one easy to use platform. 

“Any researcher can collect the data for themselves, but currently if you’re looking for the information, you need to visit numerous sites and collect the data for yourself. Our solution puts all the data into one place”. 

Ralf says that it’s their flexibility as a start-up that gives them a point of difference over other companies doing similar things in the market, and it’s this that will help lead to their success. 

“One of the biggest obstacles for big companies versus start-ups is around flexibility and speed. We genuinely heard from one company that they would be able to solve the problem in a decade, whereas we’re trying to solve it by the end of the year. We meet obstacles literally every week, and we just adjust our direction. We can create a solution, test it with the farmers and if it doesn’t work, we’re back to the drawing board to do it again. It's very fast, incredibly fast in fact”. 

The potential for Mussel Farming Application is huge, with the New Zealand mussel farming industry alone being worth around six hundred million dollars per year, and international markets far exceeding these figures. 

“New Zealand is a very big market, but we're not even close to the likes of France, Spain and Italy, let alone Japan and China who are the biggest shellfish producers in the world. The potential worldwide could be huge for us” says Ralf. 

In the future, the team see there being potential for the solution to be applied to other seafood farming, specially oyster farming but also to the likes of salmon farming, which Ralf says uses similar processes.