OnDeck Fisheries AI is angling to revolutionize the fisheries monitoring industry with its software

The Vancouver startup is on board to run a paid pilot in the U.S. in January 2023

Alexander Dungate got hooked onto fishing at a very young age. “My first introduction to it was with my great uncle John, who was a lifetime fisherman and Captain,” he remembers of his time growing up on Vancouver Island. “I could barely stand and hold the reel in my hands, and we would catch fish together. I loved it.”  

Although Dungate was always interested in the industry, the issue of dwindling fish stocks around the world was always in the back of his mind. He identifies the misreporting of catch as a major tide behind sinking fisheries, which he learned more about in his last year of studying biology and computer science at UBC when a professor exposed him to the monitoring practices employed by fisheries today.  

“There are cameras installed for the duration of the fishing trip, and then back on shore some poor soul sits at a computer and watches the video, 2,000+ hours of video, and manually counts all the fish that went over the deck,” he says. “It’s a rate-limiting step stopping us from sustainably managing our fisheries.” 

OnDeck Fisheries AI demoOnDeck Fisheries AI demo

Dungate chomped at the bit to automate that process. Together with Matthew Leighton and Sepand Dyanatkar, Dungate built an installable AI-powered tracking model that can count and identify what’s being caught at sea in real-time. They launched OnDeck Fisheries AI in Vancouver this April, and the startup is already closing the year with several awards in the net, including having won entrepreneurship@UBC’s 2022 Venture Showcase in the Sneak-a-Peek category. It also reeled in first place in Canada’s Ocean Idea Challenge and Canada’s Ocean Startup Challenge.

Having tested a minimum viable product with Archipelago Marine Research in Victoria, the company is now on the precipice of running a paid pilot in the US in January. For Dungate, the reward has been seeing big players in the industry react to OnDeck’s technology.

“The feedback has overwhelmingly been, How soon can I buy this?” he says. “And we’ve only been around for one year. So even 10 years down the line we’re excited for OnDeck to be known as the company that truly revolutionized the fisheries monitoring industry and made it possible to sustainably manage fisheries for generations to come.”