Making it Work

Konree joins EIC accelerator to unlock up to €2.5m in funding

The Galway-based company is focused on eliminating sea lice, which cost the global salmon production industry up to €4 billion annually

Margaret Rae, Konree co-founder: vowed to find a solution to the sea lice problem in salmon farms. Picture: Andrew Downes

Galway start-up Konree Innovation is looking to unlock up to €2.5 million in new funding by joining an accelerator programme run by the European Innovation Council (EIC).

The company, founded in 2021 by Margaret Rae and Michael Flynn, is focused on trying to eliminate sea lice, one of the biggest problems for salmon production. Rae was the director of the Irish Marine Institute from 2015 to 2020.

Konree Innovation

Founded by: Margaret Rae and Michael Flynn in 2021

Staff: 4

Total funding to date: €225,000

Konree is developing an AI-based system that will be able to detect sea lice in the salmon pen and recommend the best termination method.

During her studies for the marine institute, Rae came across sea lice and their impact on the salmon production industry.

“Global salmon production is worth approximately €16 million annually, but the biggest issue is their inability to grow and scale, all due to the sea lice,” she said.

Sea lice are small parasites, only 5-18 mm in size. They cling on to the host fish and feed from its tissue. This leads either to debilitation or death of the salmon.

According to Rae, this costs the global salmon production industry between €3 billion and €4 billion annually.

“Back then I found the sea lice a revolting but fascinating topic, and said to myself: if no one will have found a solution in five years, I will revisit this problem,” Rae said.

As no one had tackled the sea lice in those five years, Rae decided to focus on a solution to the problem. Flynn, her co-founder, previously worked at CathxOcean, a technology company for imaging, measurement and monitoring under the sea.

Sea lice are naturally present in the oceans, said Rae.

“Most farms are based in the ocean water, so the lice population in those areas can increase with the amount of fish,” she said.

Konree’s project focuses on the detection of lice in the pen.

“The AI will be vision-based. Right now we are teaching the AI with pictures of the lice so it will be able to identify it in the pen,” Rae said.

Since the parasite stays on the outside of the fish, it is visible to the camera. Once detected, the Konree’s solution can recommend a treatment to remove the lice. This can range from manually hosing down each fish by hand, to using chemicals or relocating the fish into fresh water for a short time period.

Next to Rae and Flynn, the company now employs two further research and development biologists. The company has attracted €225,000 in new funding to date.

“Enterprise Ireland supported us with €100,000 from their pre-seed start fund. We also took part in their New Frontiers programme to help us get ready for seed investments,” said Rae.

In order to further develop the company, Konree is looking to join the EIC accelerator which could fund the company with up to €2.5 million.

The EIC, an EU body, focuses on green tech companies and requires 30 per cent of the potential €2.5 million to be raised by the applying company.

Konree Innovation has already been accepted on to the preparation programme, known as Synergist EIC, through which it has been granted an additional €50,000 in funding.

“We are looking to raise €1 million in our next funding round to reach our target and we are prepared for talks with investors,” said Rae.

In 2022, Konree Innovation also received the Women Tech EU award, which rewards women-led deep tech companies. The award was tied to €75,000 funding for the company.