Mowi: 4.0 digitalization, automation to transform value chain

Through its conviction that new technologies offer much clearer scale advantages in the seawater grow-out phase of salmon production, Mowi plans to complete the roll-out of smart farming technologies throughout Farming Norway, its largest farming unit, by 2025.

The Bergen, Norway-headquartered Atlantic salmon company has developed its own Mowi 4.0 strategy, which will seek to leverage new technologies brought by the fourth industrial revolution and used within agriculture to make the business more efficient. The company is looking to digitalize and automate the value chain at every step, “from feed to plate,” Mowi CEO Ivan Vindheim said at the 2021 edition of its annual Capital Markets Day (CMD).

“In Norway, we are testing three applications as we speak. Through such technologies as advanced imaging and intelligent sensors, we will conduct the real-time monitoring of biomass, digital lice counting, and autonomous feeding,” Vindheim said.

Mowi believes that this “tsunami of data,” combined with machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), will enable it to grow fish much more efficiently than today, while reducing its environmental impact, according to Vindheim.

Improvements are also expected in terms of fish quality and production costs.

By constantly tracking fish behavior and fish health as well as monitoring seawater, Mowi can be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to acting on biological issues, Vindheim said.

“The 4.0 technologies will offer much clearer scale advantages in the seawater phase from what we have seen to date. Bearing in mind that even after 50 years, we are still feeding our fish manually, though with a camera and a mouse click,” Vindheim said. “We believe that feeding may be the most important component in our value chain and will be 100 percent autonomous in the future. Efficient intelligence and machine learning will outcompete the craftsmanship. This obviously offers opportunities, particularly for large players like Mowi. Therefore, in order to secure the desired progress on this, we have set the target for Mowi Farming Norway – our largest farming entity – to be fully digitalized by 2025.”

Vindheim said that the company is also confident that digitalization and automation offer “huge opportunities” at its more than 30 factories around the world. Among these opportunities is the increased automation of manual processing work, as well as advanced available scanning technology, which further opens up the company’s scope for much more efficient production and more sophisticated product differentiation than it currently has.

Blockchain solutions will also be used for selected customers.

Mowi’s 4.0 strategy was one of four objectives outlined at the CMD to strengthen the company’s position over the next four years. The three others were: growth throughout the value chain, with particular focus on Mowi Farming; further cost savings across the group; and greater sustainability.

Despite delivering record high volumes in 2020, with the harvest of some 440,000 metric tons (MT) of salmon – equivalent to a global market share of approximately 20 percent – it was acknowledged that Mowi Farming’s volume growth has been lagging behind the industry over the past few years.

This, Vindheim said, is “not satisfactory,” and will be addressed through various growth initiatives, including increased investment in post-smolt. Moving forward, with the right measures in place, it is expected that Mowi Farming can achieve organic growth that takes it in excess of 500,000 MT, using existing license capacity. Additionally, the business segment will pursue growth through acquisitions.

As a business segment, Mowi Farming will work across three main pillars of volume, costs, and sustainability. These are all equally important, Vindheim said.

The CEO also highlighted that the favorable long-term demand outlook is one of the key foundations of the salmon farming industry, and that the megatrends driving this demand are stronger than ever – fueled by health trends, a growing need for more low-carbon footprint diets, and salmon’s wide market appeal.

As such, Mowi expects the continued strong growth in demand for Atlantic salmon to exceed the supply growth over the next five years.

“So far, neither Mowi nor the industry have been able to keep pace with the demand growth. We also believe that this will be the case in the coming years,” Vindheim said. “Salmon is a scientifically proven natural superfood. It is also versatile and appeals to people of all ages with its highly appetizing taste, look, texture and color. In the coming years, I see countless opportunities for Mowi and we are working on many important initiatives that will further develop the company and bring it into the future.”

This will include continued efforts to try and de-commoditize the salmon category through its long-term MOWI branding strategy.

Photo courtesy of Mowi


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