Modern fishing is monitored for good reason. Traceability and sustainability are not only concerns but legal requirements—from the catching to the handling process. Performing the necessary monitoring and compliance checks is often time-consulting and costly, and the question remains: Who is profiting from this process? At this time, it’s mostly third parties who are not inherently connected to and invested in improving the fishing supply chain.
That’s where FlyWire comes in. Backed by Keyhorse, FlyWire is a digital monitoring platform working with fishers and seafood suppliers to provide at-sea verification of sustainable fishing, translating video-enabled data into actionable insights.
We asked the company’s COO and co-founder, Sarah Alessi, a few questions about her journey, inspirations, and predictions for the future of the fishing industry.
How did you become interested in biology and the fishing industry?
SA: I’m deeply passionate about solving big problems, and highly motivated to improve the health of marine ecosystems. My experience as a marine biologist specialized in species that frequently become fisheries bycatch, such as turtles. Ultimately, I believe it is possible to figure out how to secure a key food supply chain, support communities, and protect the environment by directly serving fishermen and their communities.
What inspired you to co-found a company?
SA: My co-founder, Jacob Isaac-Lowry, and I are on a mission to deliver catch and business insights directly to fishermen, ensure fishermen own their data, and ultimately secure wild-capture fisheries as a critical element of thriving food systems and economies worldwide. FlyWire is built on the principle that digitally monitoring commercial fisheries is not an issue of cost, it is a matter of values—specifically the belief that those closest to the problem are the ones best positioned to solve it. Under FlyWire’s B2B model, fishing companies are the customers, which means that fishermen collect and own their data which are then securely analyzed, stored, and shared with regulators as needed, by FlyWire. Our model provides unique, continuous feedback to fishermen that increases their agency in the management process, improves the accuracy of data used for decision-making, and provides fishermen the tools to improve their operational efficiency directly—further boosting management outcomes.
We believe the more people we can get working on the problems that really matter, the better the global outcome will be for all of us.
Tell us about your team: Who’s on it, and how did you meet?
SA: My co-founder, Jacob Isaac-Lowry, and I met in college at the University of Michigan in 2002. He was studying to be an engineer while I studied to become a biologist. Fast forward to 2014, we were both working in Hawai’i when we decided to launch FlyWire—which combined our mutual passion for solving big problems for people and the environment. We’ve brought together a team of engineers, scientists, and operations experts to deliver seafood companies the data they need wrapped in an exceptional customer experience.
Where do you see the fishing industry headed in the near future?
SA: What’s exciting about the fishing industry as a source of food, is that at this moment, we really do control our own destiny. As more and more people continue to diversify their protein diet beyond red meat, whether for personal health outcomes, to reduce GHG emissions, or distaste for factory farming, seafood continues to be the preferred alternative—specifically wild-caught seafood given the advantages associated with consuming natural foods.
What most people don’t know is that, right now, we have the ability to produce more fish – completely sustainably. In tightly regulated fisheries, like those in the USA, there has been great progress in conservation with meaningful wins for protected species. The reality most of us don’t know is that while these regulations have been well intended, they aren’t precise enough to allow fishermen to optimize practices—which artificially suppresses sustainable domestic food production and increases Americans’ reliance on imported food, often from less regulated fisheries.
For so many people who worry about the future global condition, it is amazing to think we have the opportunity to double the global supply of this ultra-high value protein, worth up to $280B USD, with the infrastructure we already have in place, with less climate impact than human-made alternatives—if only we choose to modernize the production system.
What does success look like to FlyWire Cameras in the short term and long term?
SA: Short-term success means transitioning pilot projects on the West and East coast into open, fleet-wide market opportunities to accelerate our capacity to serve more fishermen. In the long-term, from an impact perspective, success means rebalancing the social and political narrative around commercial fishing so that future public resource management efforts can achieve environmental conservation goals without unreasonably restricting key food production. Jacob and I also hope to set an example to other talented entrepreneurs of how to successfully build a business in a marketspace with aggressive non-profit activity. We believe the more people we can get working on the problems that really matter, the better the global outcome will be for all of us.
Find out more about FlyWire at flywirecameras.com. Are you a startup based in or looking to relocate to Kentucky? Keyhorse’s current quarterly investment cycle is open! Apply now.