The ocean provides a wealth of often unseen knowledge for industry segments like energy, fishing, tourism and weather prediction. But ocean analytics is reaching new depth—or is it heights?—with Raleigh-based Fathom Science. The startup delivers tailored, interactive marine environment maps, reports and data to help clients save money and time.
Fathom Science, recently recognized by NC TECH as one of the year’s 10 “Startups To Watch,” is the brainchild of three NC State staff members. Fathom Science President Ruoying He, who is also the director of the Ocean Observing and Modeling Group at NC State and a Goodnight Innovation Distinguished Professor, built the technology with his NC State research coworkers and (now Co-Founders) Jennifer Warrillow and Joseph Zambon starting in 2017.
Warrillow said that He has kept the team on the cutting-edge of science in how to develop innovative and unique tools.
“All of that knowledge is really applicable,” Warrillow said. “It’s useful for research science, but it’s also very applicable in the real world to anybody who works with the ocean.”
The Fathom Science technology uses computer and numerical modeling to generate information about the ocean environment in four dimensions—x, y, z and time. The model takes in information from real-world observations, incorporates physics and fluid dynamics and puts out information on the ocean’s properties and atmosphere.
“We end up with this huge pile of data every day that describes the ocean that day,” Warrillow said. “Actually we can go to a smaller time scale than day, and we can look in the past, and we can look in the future and make predictions, and we can describe how it is today.”
Different sectors might want different parts of the information in different ways, and the bootstrapped Fathom Science is proving its value to clients.
One of Fathom Science’s products on the market now is called FishCast, a subscription-based service where members receive ocean information with maps that allow fishermen to find fish more efficiently, saving both time and gasoline.
In this way and for other industries, the founding team of Fathom Science hopes to use their model data to attack different global problems and encourage green energy, like offshore wind energy or hydro-kinetic energy. Severe-weather forecasting is also possible.
“I find it pretty useful to look at what our greater impact would be,” said Zambon, another of the co-founders, “as far as actually using all this data that we’ve been producing and sort of distilling it down into a usable feature for our different stakeholders. Hopefully, the impact that we would have would be to make the planet greener and more sustainable.”
Fathom Science came together at the perfect time in which availability of cloud-based computing was high, saving huge startup costs, Zambon said.
Moving forward, Warrillow said they expect increased growth, adding new and larger customers.
“I think that’s why we started when we did,” Warrillow said. “It was the convergence of the technology that’s like this infrastructure of the technology, plus the development of the models and information that we can run, plus the right group of people coming together and the right time in Ruoying’s career. And it just all worked.”