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Our experiences with fishing for ocean ventures

As we all are going about our daily lives, working, playing, sleeping and doing whatever we do in a day. Somewhere, somewhere far from where we are, is a great blue patch of ocean. It is probably located far away from where you currently are reading this blog. This patch of ocean is seriously polluted and it’s life forms are seriously threatened. But even though you might not be close to the ocean I would like to call your serious attention to the opportunities our oceans have to offer. I believe this bold face type shows how serious I am.

Now, even though my seriousness is probably almost palpable (you might even share it), somehow, all joking aside, this patch of ocean (and every other patch out there) is full of plastic floating, which is endangering inhabitants of the sea. The few inhabitants that do survive this plastic apocalypse are then caught in such great numbers that they do not have the time to sufficiently reproduce. And on top of that, we aren’t even utilizing the ocean’s full potential! As an energy source, it could generate electricity through wave power, through the temperature of the water, the salt concentration of the water and even through seaweed! This patch of ocean, placed so far away, has so much to offer us.

That is why Our Oceans Challenge was started. We want to make a change by cooperating  with entrepreneurs and connecting them   with large companies like Heerema, Interface, TNO, World Ocean Council and ECN. We do this to access the resources that they have to make sure that innovative solution are actually realized and real impact is made and are currently looking for ocean start ups and concepts that need these resources to create healthy oceans and sustainable lifestyle.

As a Venture Scout for OOC, I  have been looking for ocean start ups, concepts and innovative ideas for some time now and to my joy I discovered that there are many people out there, with a lot of great ideas. By looking at great sites such as angellist.com, gust.com, by scouring newspaper and magazine articles and of course through contributions from our followers and network, more and more ideas are pouring in every day. There are so many in fact, that we have started focusing on 3 main themes concerning the ocean: Waste, Energy and Food.

What I encountered within these themes was the following. Most solutions in these themes seem to be in different stages of progress (idea, concept, pre-start, start-up). As a first example, waste is a hot topic. Of the three themes, I have found that the highest amount of startups concern themselves with cleaning up the plastic soup in the ocean. This on the one hand is of course great news. There are beach clean ups, pollution research teams, recycling models and many more initiatives that are working to clean up the mess we have made. On the other hand is the realization that the problem is not close to being solved, even though all of these people are making it their life’s work to solve it. The reason for this, in my opinion, is that these initiatives do not have the resources to create impact on a global scale and lack a strong business case. Something that global companies can provide. With Our Oceans Challenge, we hope that inspiring start ups, like possibly Plastic Bank, can reach a global scale by connecting them to corporate partners that do have the skills and resources to build business cases and to scale.

Regarding the theme of energy, one finds a different landscape. There are many initiatives with quite a lot of funding behind it, but none of them seem to be able to generate a steady income. In fact, even the best running ocean energy company still is unable to compete with other energy sources. Now, this isn’t too surprising, as not even solar energy is currently able to beat fossil fuels, but this does show that there still is a lot of work to be done. The difference with the waste oriented start-ups however, is that this sector needs a lot more investment before the technology is really up and running. Making a sea turbine simply isn’t cheap. For us at Our Oceans Challenge however, this is an opportunity. Creating huge structures in the sea is something Heerema is good at. Solving huge problems concerning the ocean is something TNO is (and actually all our partners are) good at. This means that the possible struggles of an interesting start up like Atargis could profit from the support we have to offer.

Finally, lets focus on the theme Food. How can our oceans become a source for sustainable production techniques? As of yet, I have been struggling a little to find a lot of start ups in this area., although I have gotten really hungry looking at the Dutch Weedburger. And I have marveled at a future where Sealeaf is providing us with food sustainably. However, more examples have been hard to find as of yet. The reason for this could be that innovation concerning new fishing techniques does not seem to create new startups, but new technologies for already existing large fishing companies. . So, where should one look for these innovations? Because there must be more opportunities out there. How about new drinks made out of salty ocean water? Or dishes made from newly discovered fishes that can be fished sustainably?

Maybe the latest innovations in food have simply been introduced by chefs in restaurants and therefore did not grow into full fledged startups. Please, readers, if you disagree, let me know! Show me that I have been looking in the wrong places and that the ecosystem of ocean related sustainable food ecosystem is hustlin’ and bustlin’.

So, what is our current status on saving the ocean? Well, there is an ocean of smart ideas out there, but unfortunately, none of them seem to flow past the dry valley of death and create a scalable business. That is why it is Our Oceans Challenge’s mission  to help these ideas with the technical and financial knowledge, the testing and prototyping facilities and the stage for marketing and investment purposes that they need. The first step however, is to gather these ideas, and the many ideas out there that we haven’t found yet in one place on our community platform, where we can start giving our support.

That is why we need our community of ocean champions and experts to support our mission to attract the full eco-system of ocean ventures. Join the discussion, share ideas and follow the latest news while we are building our platform on our Linkedin page. Or if you have a start-up of your own or know someone who does, please share your suggestions with us directly! Send an email to marieke@ouroceanschallenge.com and we will make sure that they get their chance to shine at the launch of our online platform on the 28th of April! However, more on that later, for now let us, in all seriousness, do our best to make the situation for that patch of blue ocean a little better every day.

Posted on March 17, 2014 by Frederik Westerouen van Meeteren

Photo Credits: Frerieke (http://www.flickr.com/photos/frerieke/3848622401/in/photostream/)