Princeton-connected startups using artificial intelligence to tackle society’s big problems

Friday, Dec 11, 2020
Wright Seneres

Targeting vastly different problems, #ForwardThinkers Bryton Shang and Craig Limoli are both using artificial intelligence and machine learning to help build a better future. Both are from the Class of 2012, and both received investments from the Princeton Alumni Entrepreneurs Fund. "Bryton and Craig are two shining examples of the kind of founder that the Alumni Entrepreneurs Fund was created to support. In both cases AEF provided very early seed capital and mentorship which allowed the companies to achieve the milestones necessary to raise their subsequent rounds of capital," said AEF Program Manager Lauren Bender.

Shang is the founder of Aquabyte, a tech startup using machine learning and computer vision to make aquaculture more sustainable. "The technology we’re developing allows fish farmers to better understand how fish grow," said Shang. Through specialized underwater cameras and proprietary software, Aquabyte helps fish farmers track biomass of the fish to optimize their feeding regimens, resulting in better fish yields and reduced waste. The technology is also used to monitor fish pens for sea lice, a major problem in salmon farming and in open water farming. Managing these parasites can account for as much as 25 percent of the cost of running a fish farm. Aquabyte also has technology to uniquely ID each fish at the farm, and Princeton had a chance to visit their operations in Norway last year.

Finding ways to optimize food production has become a necessity amidst the growing need for better global food security. "For us, it’s part of a larger initiative towards food sustainability," said Shang. Aquabyte is located in the Bay Area and has offices in Norway and Chile, both important global aquaculture centers, and recently secured investment towards expanding to more markets around the world. "Through utilizing the latest technology and innovations, the aquaculture industry can continue to grow in a way that is environmentally sustainable while protecting our oceans and natural resources," said Shang.     

Limoli is using optimization in a different way. He is the founder of Wellsheet, a startup using AI to improve clinicians’ workflow. Wellsheet has developed an intelligent add-on to electronic health record systems that surfaces relevant patient and medical data based on a doctor’s specialty and preferences. Their product helps doctors assess risk quickly and execute a data-driven care plan for patients. Less time is spent at the computer looking at the patient’s medical charts, and more time is spent interfacing with the patients themselves. Both patients and doctors prefer this. "Wellsheet was built with clinician’s natural workflow in mind to transform the clinical design and usability of the EHR, reduce time spent in the EHR, and reduce physician burnout," said Limoli.

The Wellsheet product is making an impact quickly. In a recent pilot program with RWJBarnabas Health, Wellsheet reduced the average time physicians spent in the EHR chart by approximately 40 percent, perhaps as much as two hours a day for some doctors. Based on that success, RWJBH, New Jersey’s largest healthcare delivery system, expanded the deployment to seven of their eleven hospitals. Concord Hospital in New Hampshire leveraged Wellsheet’s product to track COVID-19 cases, in addition to reducing physician burnout during overloaded demand during the pandemic. "The health workers at Concord Hospital are truly heroes in this global COVID-19 pandemic, and Wellsheet is humbled that we are part of Concord’s arsenal today as they fight for their patients and the well-being of their clinicians," said Limoli. Like Aquabyte, Wellsheet recently secured new funding for expansion into new markets and extensions of their product.

Fish farms and doctors’ offices are worlds apart, but each has problems that Princeton alumni startup founders like Shang and Limoli are solving with data science and artificial intelligence. "It has been fun to watch both Craig and Bryton grow as entrepreneurs, working to help solve real problems that impact lives. We are pleased that we have been able to use the Princeton network to help them bring these products to market," said Anne-Marie Maman, executive director of the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council and a 1984 alumna.

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Editor's note: The theme for the November edition of Forward Fest was data science and artificial intelligence, part of Princeton's A Year of Forward Thinking. You can watch Forward Fest at forwardthinking.princeton.edu/festival.