I-AM specialises in versatile, intelligent mobile robotic platforms and subsystems
Please welcome our newest North Sea Farmer: I-AM Innovation Center B.V. Based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, I-AM is a start-up that develops and sells versatile, intelligent robotic mobile platforms and subsystems designed to address (environmental) challenges and enhance your innovative ideas. For example, autonomous vessels that process data from offshore seaweed farms.
Can you tell us about I-AM Innovation Center?
‘We are a Dutch company, and as the founders of the I-AM Innovation Center, we have an extensive background in conducting applied research at TNO. While our initial focus was primarily on 'innovation', we felt a strong urge to make a tangible impact. Our expertise lies in mobility – understanding and optimizing the ways we move from point A to B.
We recognized our potential to make a difference in the sector, given the inherent need for mobility there, whether it's manned or unmanned. The maritime sector, in particular, presents its unique challenges
In 2017, we developed technology for a dutch autonomous electric vessel manufacturer that collects floating plastics before they reach the oceans. We realized that to truly make an impact and bring successful innovations to the market, we must immerse ourselves in the real-world working conditions. Being closer to the applications and understanding the problems faced is crucial. For the past three years, we've shifted our focus. While we still provide technology for others, our emphasis has increasingly been on problem-based development and services.’
What are your most interesting developments/projects at the moment?
‘We are leading a European project focused on smart farming in the broadest sense, encompassing both onshore and offshore practices. Specifically, for offshore seaweed farms that utilize lines, we are concentrating on automating and enhancing their monitoring capabilities.
Autonomous vessels go offshore, automatically find the farm, start to stay next to the lines, and with an underwater and above water camera we can determine the yield of seaweed, the biodiversity or whatever you want to measure. So you can send processed data back to the mainland without having to watch hours and hours of footage. We can currently operate 11 kilometres offshore, and we plan to extend this range in the future.’
Why do you want to join North Sea Farmers?
‘We have a strong international network. We collaborate with Ocean Farmr, a prominent firm in Australia and many others. As for our efforts related to the challenges posed by the free-floating brown seaweeds, specifically S. natans and S. fluitans, we are in discussions with stakeholders in the Caribbean who are addressing this specific marine concern. So we are talking to all the stakeholders around the world, but what we are missing is the close connection: what is going on in our own backyard? How can we get really close and listen to the real needs of the seaweed farmers right now and what problems can we solve with our technology? At the end of the day, our goal is to create a positive impact by helping farmers increase their profitability.
Global communities, including the EU and the Netherlands, are striving to make seaweed cultivation more cost-effective. Despite advancements, technology hasn't fully addressed this goal yet. The farmers don't have all the means. We have the means, but we lack the connection to the farmers. So what we would like to do is to develop, one on one, the technology that farmers require to be able to upscale. While we have established connections with several North Sea farmers, being integrated into a network where all farmers unite would simplify collaboration and communication.
How do you see the potential of seaweed?
‘The potential of seaweed is immense, though it is not yet fully realized in the North Sea due to the high costs of cultivation compared to regions like Asia. These financial challenges in the North Sea underscore the urgent need for innovative solutions to make seaweed farming more viable and competitive.
Beyond the financial aspect, seaweed's versatility is where its true potential lies. As we reach the limits of available space for agriculture on land, seaweed emerges as a sustainable and promising alternative. It can be utilized in various industries, ranging from food and feed to biofuels and bioplastics. Additionally, seaweed farming contributes to environmental sustainability by extracting excess nutrients and CO2 from the water, creating a win-win scenario that addresses both agricultural limitations and ecological concerns.’
What's your ambition with I-AM?
‘We want this company to have an impact on the environment, economy and ultimately society. We want to be a preferred supplier of technology for environmental issues. We want to make sure that we have secured our position in the sea as a service provider based on technology that has impact.’
What can other North Sea farmers approach you for?
‘We offer expertise in automation, monitoring, and fuel reduction solutions. We aim to provide smarter, more efficient, and cost-effective solutions. For those seeking knowledge on different sensors or understanding distance management, we're here to assist'.