PORTLAND, Maine — May 14, 2018 — Last week, a panel of business experts awarded top prize to two aquaculture entrepreneurs at a first-of-its-kind aquaculture business accelerator pitch-off. In addition to bragging rights, Mathew Moretti (Bangs Island Mussels) and Jonathan Turcotte (Glidden Point Oyster Farms) received a cash award of $5,000 and an invitation to the Statewide Top Gun Pitch-Off, where they will compete against other emerging businesses for additional prize money and recognition.
The pitch-off event was the culmination of an intensive 15-week aquaculture business development program, which teaches business fundamentals and provides one-on-one mentoring to promising aquaculture companies. The prototype program, named Aquaculture Top Gun 2018, is a collaborative effort, led by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs (MCE) in partnership with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI), Maine Aquaculture Association, and FocusMaine. The pitch-off event was sponsored by the Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center.
“The organizations that participate and partner with us are crucial in building a community of Maine’s next innovators and entrepreneurs,” said John Pavan, MCE Program Coordinator. “MCE is thrilled to include aquaculture companies among our Top Gun 2018 group of entrepreneurs. Assisting aquaculture companies to scale and grow helps Maine thrive.”
At the pitch-off, each of the 10 graduating aquaculture businesses had five minutes to present a business pitch to a panel of business experts. The panel scored the pitches on presentation, feasibility, scalability, and innovation. Bangs Island Mussels, a family operated mussel farm in Casco Bay specializing in environmentally friendly growing methods, plans to leverage their winnings for infrastructure capital. Glidden Point Oyster Farms is one of Maine’s most storied and recognized oyster farms, with a 30-year history of growing premium oysters on the Damariscotta River. They plan to invest their winnings in marketing.
“It was rewarding to see the entrepreneurs develop polished, compelling pitches that are grounded in the strong foundation of the business principles they learned from our accelerator program,” said Chris Vonderweidt, Aquaculture Program Manager for the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. “There is no question that these businesses are poised for success.”
This aquaculture-specific accelerator program is part of a suite of aquaculture industry growth initiatives that emerged from the nine-month strategic planning process of the FocusMaine Aquaculture Team. The accelerator was designed to create high-quality jobs by equipping small-to-midsized companies with the prerequisite business knowledge needed to establish themselves and grow. Providing $5,000 of business capital to two of these businesses will expedite their growth. Although they didn’t receive a cash prize, the participants all left with an improved understanding of business and entrepreneurial principles.
“Of course, it would have been nice to have $5,000 to invest in my company, but the real prize for me is understanding how to develop and grown my business,” said Dillon Shaw of Dewey’s Shellfish.
Program partners selected business development program participants based on a competitive application and interview process. The full list of participating aquaculture entrepreneurs included:
- Basket Island Oyster Company: Small but growing oyster farm in Casco Bay growing reliable high-quality oysters for high end seafood markets and seed to start-up farms.
- Damariscotta River Distribution: Seafood distributor from Damariscotta River area expanding into emerging foreign markets.
- Dewey’s Shellfish: Mussel farm on the Damariscotta River with a diversified revenue stream that includes low-cost, locally sourced mussel rafts.
- Eros Oyster: High-quality oyster producer for the half-shell supermarket and restaurant market located in Robinhood Cove, Georgetown Maine.
- Hollander & de Koning Mussels: Fifth generation mussel farmers producing “Dutch Style” mussels out of Bar Harbor since 2007.
- Lanes Island Oyster Company is a sustainable sea farm growing fat, happy, and free-range oysters in the cool, clean waters off Lanes Island in Casco Bay.
- Love Point Oysters: Oyster farm in Casco Bay with considerable event planning experience and a vision for creating the first large scale aquaculture festival in the country highlighting Maine’s aquacultured products.
- Sustainable Seafood Sales: Seasoned sales and distribution company expanding product line to include cultured shellfish.
About the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI):
The Gulf of Maine Research Institute pioneers collaborative solutions to global ocean challenges. Located in Portland, ME, GMRI is dedicated to the resilience of the Gulf of Maine ecosystem and the communities that depend on it. For more information, visit www.gmri.org