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UGent spin-off boosts aquaculture yield through microbiome analysis

Thursday, July 1, 2021

A new UGent spin-off, KYTOS, offers specialized health and management advice to shrimp, fish and plant farmers. The technology reduces disease outbreaks and mortality by monitoring the microbiome and detecting changes quickly, in order to take appropriate actions.  

Bacteria or microorganisms live all around us, including on and in our bodies. They play an essential role in almost all biochemical processes – without them, life on earth would not even be possible. At the same time, they can do a lot of damage. Take aquaculture, for instance, where diseases can cause mass mortality in animals. Or hydroculture, where bacteria can quickly damage entire crops. The intensification of agriculture and aquaculture is accompanied by an increased risk of such disease outbreaks. Therefore, getting these under control, protecting and strengthening plants and animals and thus boosting the harvest are absolute priorities. KYTOS meets this need by monitoring the microbiome of the water. Also, the new technology can predict changes in this microbiome. Users of the technology have the opportunity to control their system and prevent disease and mortality.

“Through a unique blend of data science and technology, we have developed a platform that quickly analyzes the microbiome of fluids and detects distortions in key health parameters,” said Ruben Props, co-founder and CEO of KYTOS. “This way, our customers can act in time, improve animal and plant health and increase their production”. Frederiek-Maarten Kerckhof, co-founder and COO of KYTOS added, “our approach is entirely focused on providing our customers with personalized, actionable insights on water and product use for sustainable aquaculture and precision agriculture.”

“Like most farmers, we are aware that each microbiome is unique and therefore requires a tailored definition of its microbiome health,” explained Marc Indigne, growth manager of KYTOS. “Some shrimp ponds primarily require tight control of (micro)algae, while other ponds on the same farm need control of bacterial health aspects.” KYTOS algorithms will continue to improve as access to data from more ecosystems increases. As a result, the company will be able to make tailored predictive health assessments for each ecosystem.

KYTOS will also roll out other applications in the coming years. “KYTOS’ technology can also be applied in drinking and process water production, where it is essential that microbial water quality is ensured at all times,” stated UGent professor Nico Boon, co-founder of KYTOS. “Water quality monitoring offers opportunities for shorter follow-up of cooling water and drinking water, for example, and help ensure the final quality when reusing wastewater. In addition, the technology can also be used within research and development in the fermentation sector.”

KYTOS is a spin-off of Ghent University, a university known for the coaching it offers to young entrepreneurs. “Through the Industrial Research Fund, UGent is strongly committed to funding and strategic advice for startups,” said Margriet Drouillon, business developer of the IRF consortium BLUEGent. “BLUEGent provided KYTOS with financial and business coaching. In addition, from our network, the connection could be made to several new partners for use cases.”

Read more about KYTOS’ applications in aquaculture in their latest article in Hatchery Feed & Management Magazine.

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