Engineering, scientific and aquaculture entrepreneurs gathered for the annual Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) Aquatech Community Day at Dogpatch Labs in Dublin’s CHQ Building yesterday, July 26.
The event, now in its fifth year, is the culmination of a month-long Innovation Studio where ten business start-ups from different disciplines took part in an intensive programme to help fast-track their business ideas for commercial viability in the Irish and global aquaculture industry.
To date 46 start-ups have participated in BIM’s Innovation Studio, supported by the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund and run in partnership with global aquaculture accelerator Hatch. To date, the initiative has seen more than €13million invested and g130+ new jobs generated in aquatech in Ireland.
Sound technology that monitors oyster welfare and sensor technology for nitrates
Lee Hunter, a young Donegal oyster farmer was among the start-ups taking part in this year’s programme. His business, The Oyster Pitch, uses sound technology to monitor oyster welfare and to reduce mortality.
Another 2022 Innovation Studio participant included Aquamontrix, a continuous real-time sensor technology to monitor nitrate and nitrite levels in sea water.
Pictured from left to right, Lee Hunter, Founder and CEO, The Oyster Pitch, Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM and Tanja Hoel, Director at Hatch Innovation Services.
Fostering aquaculture discipline and attracting other skillsets
Giving the opening address at the event, BIM CEO Jim O’Toole spoke about food security and the long-term strategy to develop and foster local aquaculture talent. This involves attracting other crucial disciplines like engineering, analytics and finance to help them develop Irish aquaculture businesses with a global reach.
“Investing in aquatech is specifically targeted in the Government’s Food Vision 2030 strategy and is something BIM is intent on delivering. Our ambition is to position Ireland as a global centre for aquaculture innovation and to support companies to grow and develop in this sector in collaboration with other agencies.”
Wayne Murphy, Co-founder and Managing Partner at Hatch, referred to the risk-taking intrinsic to entrepreneurship and central to the continued innovation and growth within aquatech in Ireland and globally. He referred to the initial approach Hatch made some 5 years earlier with BIM and how the State seafood development agency had been supportive from the outset.
“Aquatech has entrepreneurship at its core – and entrepreneurship is about risk-taking. BIM were enthusiastic partners when Hatch first approached the agency. 5 years on and 46 start-up businesses from a wide range of disciplines have taken the risk, creating more than 130 jobs.”
During a panel discussion with Teresa Morrissey, Irish Farmers Association (IFA) Aquaculture, Carsten Krome, Founder & Partner, Hatch, Martin Dempsey, Founder and CEO, Sealac Ltd. and Richard Donnelly, Shellfish and Salmon Manager, BIM, Richard Donnelly drew parallels with the IFSC’s ability to spur investment and innovation following its established three decades earlier.
“It is just 35 years since the IFSC was established. It is remarkable to consider how its establishment was truly visionary at the time, and how many other sectors followed in its path. The aquatech sector in Ireland has the potential to achieve this same effect.”
The global aquaculture industry is the fastest growing food sector today. Its value exceeds €280 billion. The Irish aquaculture industry is currently valued at €175 million with primary production ( fin-fish and shellfish farming) at its core.
Pictured from left to right, Colm Lynch, Chief Operating Officer, Aquamontrix, Jim O’Toole, CEO BIM, John McGrath, Sales Director, Aquamontrix and Tanja Hoel, Director at Hatch Innovation Services.