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A funded opportunity for female founders to grow blue food businesses

Events Startups Investment +2 more

Conservation International Ventures and Hatch Blue are inviting applications for their third, fully-funded Women in Ocean Food Innovation Studio, which is set to take place in La Paz, México, from 15-26 January 2024.

by Senior editor, The Fish Site
Rob Fletcher thumbnail
Participants in the previous Women in Ocean Food Studio

The last studio took place in Bali in 2022. The forthcoming one will be in La Paz, in Mexico's beautiful Baja California region

Ten places are available for up to two participants from each team, and the studio - which is titled “It's time for more Women in Ocean Food" - aims to help female founders with the development of their businesses. All costs pertaining to accommodation, food and travel will be covered to remove barriers to participation and there is one month left before the application deadline.

Participants will be paired with industry leaders and introduced to dedicated venture philanthropists and impact investors. There is also the potential for companies to attract follow-on investment from Hatch Blue and CI Ventures.

A translation service will be provided, to allow participants to take part in both Spanish and English, and the organizers are inviting applications from Latin American and Caribbean-based female entrepreneurs from across the seafood sector – be they involved in startups or established SMEs. Successful applicants will be given support to build their business models, improve their pitching skills, validate the opportunities in their markets and grow their networks across the blue economy.

“We are seeking women who are building commercially successful businesses that promote the prosperity of our oceans and local food systems. These could include blue food producers, companies that are advancing climate friendly production methods and those providing economic opportunities for coastal communities – especially the women in these communities,” explains Wayne Murphy, co-founder of Hatch Blue, who will be leading the studio.

This Latin American-focused programme comes three years after the inaugural Women in Ocean Food Studio, which took place in 2021. It will be followed by a fourth such event, which will be somewhere in Africa in 2025.

"Following the success of the inaugural studio we are looking forward to working with a cohort of female Latin American entrepreneurs and are excited to engage with some of the most talented and innovative people involved in the region’s blue economy. Aquaculture is booming in Latin America – from the growing seaweed sector, to Brazil’s burgeoning tilapia business, to Ecuador’s remarkable shrimp industry – and we look forward to working with the local blue food community in México’s Baja region and the future female leaders of Latin America who are developing sustainable ways of operating in the seafood sector,” reflects Gracie White, lead of global oceans investments at Conservation International.

The programme in Bali led to a number of tangible gains for the participants. Indeed, one of the attendees was Yolanda Herrera, the CFO and co-founder of Blue Pond Group – a startup that has developed a range of seaweed-based feed supplements that reduce the prevalence of EHP, WFS and EMS in shrimp farming – and Hatch Blue have since invested in her company, including it in their latest accelerator programme.

As Herrera reflects: “The programme gave me insights into the aquaculture industry in Asia and worldwide, a better understanding of the process of raising funding, directions for how to find the best investors for my business and guidance relating to the specific qualities they look for. Training sessions with a range of specialist mentors helped me to improve everything from IP to pitching. Through access to contacts from around the world, Hatch Blue also helped my business and influence grow, and continues to do so with its post-studio support. I would recommend the WIOF studio to any woman with a transformative idea, a small growing business, or a working business ready to scale up.”

Who can apply?

Applicants based in Latin America and the Caribbean who are involved in any of the following fields can apply:

  • Seaweed value chain innovation and improvement.

  • Aquaculture health, genetics, feed, technology.

  • Downstream solutions, such as seafood processing, upcycling seafood waste and cold chain solutions.

  • Conservation technologies, sustainable fisheries or regenerative aquaculture.

The Innovation Studio is sponsored by:

  • Builders Initiative
  • iAlumbra
  • Schmidt Marine
  • Aquaculture Stewardship Council
  • The Beyster Foundation
  • Conservation International

How to apply

The application deadline is 24 November and the application process can be accessed here. Learn more about the programme here.