Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

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Fish 2.0: A Week of Insight and Growth

by Nikki Kroushl March 31, 2017

Fish 2.0 pitching begins
Jesse Bradley/UNCW

In odd-numbered years, the Packard Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and other key investors sponsor Fish 2.0—a global pitch competition and investor networking event that pairs investors with entrepreneurs in the sustainable seafood sector. As its website explains, Fish gives investors a chance to diversify their portfolios with sustainable technologies and techniques in the industries, and it gives entrepreneurs a chance to build their businesses and seek investor funding. It’s the perfect matchmaker.

But before the magic happens at the national pitch competition at Stanford University, different cities around the U.S. and around the world host regional workshops—opportunities for fishery/hatchery owners and other entrepreneurs to get their oysters in a row before the main event. Diane Durance, Director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and a Fish 2.0 semifinalist herself in 2013, knew that Wilmington was the perfect place for one of these workshops. By early 2017, it was official: UNCW, the CIE, MARBIONC, MBCOI, NC IDEA, Innovate SENC, CREST Research Park, and the Center for Marine Science would be working together to sponsor one of the workshops.

So from March 15th to 17th, 2017, the UNCW Center for Marine Science hosted the South Atlantic and Gulf Coast Shellfish/Crustacean Workshop, an event open to entrepreneurs in the shellfish industry from eleven states in the southeast and Washington, D.C. Most of the event was closed to the public as the entrepreneurs worked intensively to create and polish pitches, learn to communicate effectively about their businesses, and implement advice on how to succeed in the Fish 2.0 main competition.

The best event, though, was open to the press: the mock pitch presentation, where participants tried out their pitches on a small crowd over lunch.

John Costantino’s Manolin offers a new software that changes the way aquaculture farmers keep track of their stock, while Kathryn Drzewiecki of Gaskiya Diagnostics discusses business-saving diagnostic tests that help aqua farmers stop diseases fast. Dr. Anthony Dellinger pioneers Kepley BioSystems’s OrganoBait, a sustainable solution for crab- and lobster-catching businesses, while Gabe Dough of Shure Foods Inc. discusses a new way of processing that can make the most of crab meat, and Lisa Hong of ARBIOM pitches a line of recycled bioproducts that includes fish feed. Tom Cannon of Soundside Oyster Farm, Deborah Keller of OysterMom LLC, Niels Lindquist of Sandbar Oyster Company, Conor MacNair of Masonboro Reserve Oyster Co., John Riesbeck and Cathrine Barrett of Canterbury Oyster Company, Leo Bombay of Panay Marine Ventures, and Donald McMahon of Pensacolaa Bay Oyster Co. all present different means of making their oyster farms sustainable, efficient, and current. Jim Zeh of SKOPA has developed a seaweed product that substitutes easily for egg yolks or butter in food.

The range of ventures we saw that Friday from driven minds isn’t just fascinating—it’s brilliant. And many of the entrepreneurs who presented will keep polishing their pitches and go on to Stanford University on November 7th and 8th.

In an interview with the Greater Wilmington Business Journal, Lindquist—also an NC IDEA Seed Grant Recipient—said, “[The workshop] gave me a better understanding of the investor side of the equation: what motivates them, what turns them off, and their limitations… I also understand how to tailor a pitch to different investors.”

Diane Durance added in a university press release, “I experienced firsthand how important it is to get your venture in front of investors who are knowledgeable and interested in your field. Fish 2.0 is the organization making that possible for entrepreneurs in aquaculture and sustainable fisheries… As a sponsor in 2017, UNCW is supporting the work being done by Fish 2.0 and offering this important opportunity to entrepreneurs throughout our region.”

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