Lice laser inventor up for European award

THE creator of the Stingray sea lice laser has been named as a finalist in the European Inventor of the Year award.

Norwegian Ebsen Beck, who has had no formal training, is one of 15 on a shortlist selected by the European Patent Office to go forward to the contest in Vienna on June 20. He is also just one of three contesting the small and medium business section.

The Stingray is a submersible robot that tracks its surroundings and emits a powerful green laser beam in the direction of its target.

On-board computers use stereoscopic cameras and image recognition software to scan nearby fish and pinpoint sea lice on their bodies in just seven milliseconds.

The Stingray then locks its laser beam on to the parasite and fires a short pulse of intense green light. The 532-nanometer-wavelength laser is lethal to the sea lice but reflects off the salmon’s shiny scales.

The Stingray can operate around the clock, killing tens of thousands of sea lice each day, claims its manufacturer, Stingray Marine Solutions.

The company, through which Beck patented and commercialised the technology, has created 50 new jobs in Norway and posted an annual turnover of nearly €10 million in 2018.

Beck started his career as a basement entrepreneur in a small town north of the Arctic Circle. He abandoned university to set up his own company and shifted to the fish farming sector to save it from the financial crisis.

After patenting the technology behind the Stingray, Beck invested his time and savings into initial prototypes and raised more than €4 million to launch the product.

His technology is now used in more than 150 salmon farming pens in Norway and the company said it has potential to expand both nationally and abroad.

The 2019 finalists in the European awards come from 12 countries and their inventions cover a range of fields including eco-packaging, rechargeable batteries, genetics, agricultural technology, video coding, cancer diagnosis, electron microscopy, advanced driver assistance systems and plastic recycling.

European Patent Office president Antonio Campinos said: ‘These inventors are tackling some of society’s most pressing challenges head on.

‘From fighting cancer to reducing plastic waste, the contribution of our finalists is spearheading a drive towards a better future.

‘The European patent system not only supports inventors like our finalists, but also benefits society as a whole.’

Picture: Stingray creator Ebsen Beck