August 6th, 2018 by Paul
Innovation Award finalists: Sago Solutions
Innovation Award 2018: Sago Solutions AS from Stord in Sunnhordaland has been nominated for its newly developed system for line fishing, especially suitable for use in fishery for toothfish in the Southern Ocean. For the first time, this new system is presented at this year’s Nor-Fishing.
Whales who feed on the fish on line during line hauling are a major problem that threatens the sustainability in parts of the industry. In particular, the sperm whale and killer whales can in some cases take a large part of the catch.
Like a buffet for the whale
- We are in close contact with both the fishing fleet and the research community, which reports that up to three quarters of the catch disappear in some vulnerable areas. This is a serious challenge in itself, and it brings with it many other problems,” says entrepreneur Ingunn Elise Sørvik.
Patagonian toothfish is a popular food fish, which is described as a cross between halibut and monkfish. It can be up to 2 meters long and can weigh up to 160 kilos. The toothfish can be up to 50 years old.
In addition to the financial losses, this also generates environmental challenges. By feeding on the line, whales get access to large amounts of food without active hunting. Toothfish is not part of the killer whale’s natural menu, as they live at different depths.
– The fishing fleets also use, of course, longer time to land the quotas. When such a large part of the catch disappears, it is a challenge to keep the fishing sustainable. Longer sea time results in more emissions, and it is necessary to extract larger quantities of fish in order to achieve the original quota, concludes co-founder Linn Solveig Sørvik.
The “berry picker” that protects the catch
Sago Extreme is a larger aluminium structure that protects the fish on the line. Each Sago Extreme goes a certain distance on the rope before it meets a stop and follows the rope up to the surface. It is then lifted on board by means of a crane.
– The aluminium structure is attached to the line, so when starting the haul, the rope is lifted from the seabed, and the Sago Extreme will move as a zipline where the catch goes through and becomes detached from the hook and collected already along the bottom.
– Some have previously described the principle as a berry picker. We are currently working on an animation film to show how the equipment works in practice. This will be ready in time for Nor-Fishing, the Sørvik sisters add.
By-catch and undersized fish escape through custom openings in the structure and the Sago Extreme can be dimensioned to different fisheries.
– The problem is known in the industry, and different approaches have been tried in the past, but whales are intelligent animals and it has not been possible to find a permanent solution. It is important for practically oriented fishermen that the solution actually works during fishing, and Sago Extreme does, the entrepreneurs explain.
Tough conditions and big depths
The problem with big prey using the line as a buffet is also known from other fisheries, like the Greenland halibut fishery in Vesterålen in Northern Norway. This is one of the locations where Sago Extreme has been tested.
– It has proven to work properly. It was a great relief to us the first time we got some good video footage from test runs – the Sago Extreme slipped well along the seabed. The fish was brought in and preserved as desired. In the autumn, it is ready for full-scale testing in the Southern Ocean, they say.
Under such extreme conditions as in the Southern Ocean, it is important to have workable solutions and extensive experience and knowledge about the bottom conditions. Sago Extreme has been developed with the help of Western-style innovation and perseverance.
One of the challenges for the innovators has been to recreate a real-life situation during testing in Norway, as well as finding camera equipment capable of documenting what’s going on in the deep.
– The challenge is that deepwater line fishing in the Southern Ocean takes place in rough conditions and at 1200-2000 meters of sea depth, which makes testing and documentation difficult. There are very few good video shots from these depths.
– Through the test phases of Sago Extreme here in Norway, we have used different camera systems. In the end, we found a solution that gave us good recordings, but it limited the testing to take place at only a few hundred meters’ depth, explains Linn Solveig.
A family business
Sago Solutions is a family business where the two sisters now both work full time.
It was their father, Omar Sørvik, who saw the need for a physical barrier to protect the catch against the whale. While working as a fisherman in the Southern Ocean, he experienced the problems with whales eating from the line.
– We have the advantage that the solution was made by our father, who has 40 years’ experience as a fisherman and chief advisor on fishing boats in different parts of the world. His experience enabled us to take into account many contingencies and interactions with other systems on board.
Omar designed the solution in 2008 and got it patented the following year.
– Because he was so busy, the solution was put aside until we discovered that he was still paying for the patent rights. At that time we thought that we should develop it further. We had heard about Sago Extreme for several years and knew that Dad would not patent it unless there was something special about it.
Sago Solutions started in 2016 as a research project with support from Innovation Norway. The two sisters have quite different backgrounds; Linn Solveig has a long experience from the shipbuilding industry and is a trained industrial planner and technical engineer, while Ingunn Elise has a background from marketing and administration.
– It is a privilege to work with the family in this way. With a father who has extensive fishing skills and a mother who is an accountant, this combination has proven to work perfectly for us. In addition, we have two other siblings who are busy in their own jobs, but who have contributed to the project as needed.
– We are all part of a creative team and are motivated by working with a potential solution to an important problem. The development of Sago Extreme has also opened up new opportunities, and we work in parallel with a solution on board that could provide a completely different working situation for the line fleet, ” say the sisters.
Looking forward to Nor-Fishing
– We are incredibly proud to be one of three nominees for the Innovation Award and we will view this as a stamp of quality on the work done so far. We are in good company with two other skilled and innovative companies.
The Sørvik Sisters have been at the Nor-Fishing fair once before, two years ago. And this year, they present their innovation for the first time to the entire fishing industry.
– We are looking forward to the fair and meeting other companies in the same industry. We have had a lot of good cooperation during the development of Sago Extreme and will in particular draw attention to the incubator Atheno at Stord. We also had no chance of this without Innovation Norway backing us.
The innovators say that this year they will be sharing a stand with Fiskevegn, another good and central partner, who will be the distributor of Sago Extreme in the future. Producer of the system is BFG at Måløy and the objective is that the catch system will soon be found on the market.
– It is incredibly important for us as a small entrepreneurial company to be noticed. We find that positive feedback in connection with the Innovation Award has already been important to us. By taking the initiative to establish this Award, Nor-Fishing is building a research and innovation culture that will be crucial in the future, they conclude.
The Innovation Award is presented in the conference tent by Minister of Fisheries Per Sandberg during the first day of Nor-Fishing, Tuesday 21 August.
Sago Solution can be found at stand T-187.