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Building momentum in Ireland’s aquatech sector

22 February 2022, at 11:46am

Applications are now open for the fourth BIM / Hatch Aquatech Innovation Studio, which is due to take place in Kerry, Dublin and Bergen during July.

Hatch and BIM are seeking applications for this year's Irish innovation studio

The innovation studio is an equity-free programme to develop commercial scalability, technological readiness and industry fit for projects that aim to increase the sustainability of aquaculture – whether in Ireland or further afield.

Successful applicants will have the opportunity to connect with a global network of aquaculture industry experts to validate their ideas, understand key market insights, learn to pitch for investment and effectively interact with customers.

Since the launch of the initiative by Hatch, the company that’s behind the world’s first aquaculture accelerator programme, and Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland's Seafood Development Agency, the innovation studios have helped to foster a notable uptick in the number and revenues of the country’s aquaculture entrepreneurs.

Indeed, the 37 startups that have been through the programmes in the last four years now employ over 120 people and have raised over $13 million to date.

This year’s in-person programme has a brand-new format, with participants spending 2-3 days a week over the course of July, in Kerry, Dublin and Bergen.

“As well as a chance to meet and learn from aquaculture industry experts, potential investors and business development gurus, participants will have the opportunity to travel to Bergen to visit farms, expand their international networks and experience life in one of largest aquaculture ecosystems in the world,” explains Wayne Murphy, co-founder and managing partner at Hatch.

The grand finale – a community day in which applicants can network with previous participants, politicians and potential investors – will take place in Dublin and will demonstrate the support available to and from the growing army of the region’s aquaculture entrepreneurs.

“Ireland is fast emerging as an innovation and new technology hub for a pioneering generation of aquaculture entrepreneurs. We want to develop and harness this potential. This has been the focus of the Innovation Studios BIM has been running in conjunction with Hatch since 2019,” notes Richard Donnelly, BIM’s innovation and development manager.

“The overall objective is to create Ireland as a global centre for aquaculture innovation and to an environment for companies to develop and thrive in this sector. This is in line with the Government’s Food Vision 2030,” adds Jim O’Toole, CEO of BIM.

The studio comes hot on the heels of the establishment of a €60 million fund to help foster the development of Ireland’s aquaculture sector, showing broad political support for the industry.

“The development of an Ireland aquaculture fund will send a clear message to the Irish aquaculture and global community of Ireland’s clear intent and ambition to grow the industry in Ireland,” said Charlie McConalogue, Ireland’s Minister of Agriculture and the Marine, at last year’s event.

And, while this funding might be targeting primary producers, the minister noted that innovation was essential to underpin the growth of the aquaculture sector.

“The opportunities offered by new technologies and by aquatec moreover advisor for sustaining growth in Ireland’s seafood industry and for coastal communities in the coming years. This is enabling the next phase of innovation for the industry and for future generations,” he explained

“I'm confident Ireland has the potential to be the Silicon Valley for aquatech. I’m confident Ireland has the potential to be the place where startups with ideas for aquatech can enter easily and where these startups can grow quickly. I'm confident because it's already happening,” the minister added.

How to apply

There are up to 10 places available for the studio and applications are sought from startups, tech innovators and academics who are keen to commercialise their research. Applicants must be focused on developing their business in Ireland or targeting the Irish aquaculture market but do not need to be based in Ireland.

Click here to apply for the 2022 BIM / Hatch Aquatech Innovation Studio.

Senior editor at The Fish Site

Rob Fletcher has been writing about aquaculture since 2007, as editor of Fish Farmer, Fish Farming Expert and The Fish Site. He has an MA in history from the University of Edinburgh and an MSc in sustainable aquaculture from the University of St Andrews. He currently lives and works in Scotland.

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