2020-06-17

Former South Shore students buoying fisheries tech company

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Aleksandr Stabenow of LaHave graduated from Park View High School in 2008 and went on to co-found a seafood tech company that, so far, has more than 100 customers in Canada, the U.S., New Zealand and Australia.</p>
  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Sedna has adapted technology to create a small, wireless sensory ball that can easily travel with fish in holding tanks as they are transferred from location to location.</p>

A former Bridgewater high school student along with his former classmates and others in the area are buoying a growing fisheries and aquaculture technology company now based in Dartmouth.

Aleksandr Stabenow of LaHave, who graduated from Park View High School in 2008, is the co-founder and chief technical officer of Sedna Technologies.

"I am proud to be from the South Shore and would love to be able to acknowledge the people and educators who guided and pushed me along the way," Stabenow told LighthouseNOW in an email.

The company he helped found in his LaHave home touts seafood supply chain software "made easy."

It has seven full-time employees, including Shaemus MacDonald, chief executive officer and Stabenow's older brother, Kerrigan, who also attended Park View. Its technical lead, Moira Frier, lives in Cherry Hill. Another Park View graduate, Charlemagne Tremblay of Chester, is Sedna's research engineer.

The company has earned the attention of governments, gaining funding from Innovocorp, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

As with for other companies, business slowed down during the COVID-19 pandemic, however Sedna currently has more than 100 customers, 70 per cent of which are on Canada's East Coast, with the rest in the U.S., New Zealand and Australia.

"And we're putting a lot of focus into Europe right now." There are "huge applications" for the aquaculture industry there," Stabenow reports.

From Park View, Stabenow went on to graduate with a degree in business administration from St Francis Xavier University in Antigonish. Following university, he travelled to Guatemala, where he worked with the Campesino Committee of the Highlands, an organization that aims to defend the rights of workers on large coffee, sugar and cotton plantations. He assisted a team responsible for the procurement, production, and global exporting of organic coffee, organic honey and macadamia nuts, and was responsible for researching new methods of financing for local development projects.

Upon returning to Canada, a year or so later, Stabenow focused on developing and implementing digital solutions to automate core business functions at companies in both Canada and the U.S., including a cannibas company. But it was always in the back of his mind to return to Nova Scotia to do the same in his home province, and in 2018 he did so.

"I'm very passionate about where I grew up. I have a lot of respect for the community."

He teamed up with Shaemus MacDonald, a university friend with a masters degree in aquatic resource management who is a commercial fisherman. They discussed how technology could improve the seafood supply chain, and co-founded Sedna. MacDonald became the company's chief executive officer.

According to Stabenow, historically Nova Scotia's fishing industry has focused on quantity rather than quality. "Delivery, volume. I think that's where the industry kind of was."

Stabenow believed the insights that he gained in the cannibas industry could be applied to the fisheries and aquaculture, such as tracking the quality of the product with sensors.

Stabenow notes that some harvesters are out in Southwest Nova Scotia for up to three days at a time, accummulating up to 9,000 pounds (4,082 kilograms) of live lobster. "That can be $90,000 worth of product for them."

And while they have systems in their boats to air-ate and pump water to make sure oxygen is flowing, Sedna has developed sensors to go in the live wells to alert the harvesters when there's an issue with water quality.

"There's lots of examples where harvesters have lost a good portion of their shipment because something went wrong and they weren't notified," says Stabenow.

In addition to water quality monitoring, Sedna says its technology is able to track inventory volumes, purchases, such as fuel, bait and other supplies, as well as sales. It helps eliminates a lot of paperwork, and is able to reconcile accounts and pay harvesters directly into heir bank accounts.

According to Stabenow, the pandemic has served notice that Sedna's technology is essential. "Because companies were having less people go into the plants and manage things, the sensors are automating that process." At the same time, the former Park View student is hopeful the fisheries industry is starting to pick up again and the trajectory for moving forward is there.

Before too long, he suggests, "we'll be back on track to expanding at an accelerated rate."

Thank you for printing this article from lighthousenow.ca. Subscribe today for access to all articles, including our archives!