Case Studies in the Blue Economy

Aquaculture, Marine Data, and Blue Accelerators

The third panel of the IPBN's Blue Economy Conference held on World Maritime Day was a collection of three case studies, introduced by Mario Gago, IPBN Board Member and Co-Founder & Software Engineer at Pink Room. 

The presentations began with Samuel Collins, Project Director of the Blue Bio Value Accelerator by the Portugal-based Oceano Azul Foundation which is working exclusively to promote a healthy and productive ocean for the progress of human development through an ocean literacy program for today’s youth developed with the department of education, implementing marine protected areas, and injecting ocean literacy to world leaders and decision-makers through their “Rise Up” call to action for ocean ambition. Aside from this, Oceano Azul, in cooperation with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, has created the Blue Bio Value acceleration program to work with startups and existing entrepreneurs aiming to decouple economic growth from the degradation of natural resources and to bring them to market. This program centers around blue biotech and marine resource projects. 

Collins mentioned a project in the bivalve sustainable aquaculture industry that not only creates food, but also takes the shells, heavy in calcium carbonate, and grinds them into a powder form to create cement and cast as azulejos (tiles). This is one of many startups that the Blue Bio Program has helped scale up through the program that has been promoting investment and blue ideas since 2018 to about 15 startups annually, 70% of which have since expanded into the market. “We aim to grow and capacitate and invest in ideas as powerful as the ocean. It’s 70% of our planet, so there’s a lot of potential there…COVID-19 has shown us that our economies are not by any means independent of nature and the planetary system, and I think perhaps that we have been naive in our linear economic models…it shows us that when nature fails, so do the systems that we rely upon.” Collins finished on an optimistic note, assuring attendees that with projects like those involved in the Blue Bio Value accelerator, we will see a change in the right direction.  

Next was Jorge Dias, General Manager of Sparos, who spoke on his company’s work in nutrition in aquaculture. Dias presented Sparos as a science and technology-driven company dedicated to the development and tailoring of the aquaculture market, created as a startup of the Center of Marine Sciences (CCMAR) of the University of Algarve to bridge the gap between industry and academia. Sparos created a pilot-scale facility to manufacture aquafeeds, which has been a powerful tool for product development and testing, linking nutrition with technology and testing, and bringing in young talent studying in a wide range of fields to innovate and drive the company, and their solutions, forward. Their main areas of focus are in industrial research and development, nutrition trials with fish and shrimp, experimental aquafeeds, and the manufacturing of the Sparos hatchery feeds and biomedicine products.

Dias said, “As we have probably realized, for us, scientific knowledge is a key point for us to grow…so we are all deeply involved in all that relates to the European aquaculture platform…and several industrial research programs in academia.” Dias concluded by showing a video about the company’s research and innovative products, highlighting the capacity of the company and its growth since it was founded in 2018.  As their tagline suggests, Sparos is indeed “tailoring your feeds” in aquaculture, and actively promoting room for growth along with the sector as a whole.

Concluding the case studies was a video presentation by Charlotte O’Kelly, the Managing Director of TechWorks Marine, a marine data company based in Ireland that employs a multidisciplinary team with a focus on real-time data buoys, marine data platform integrations, and more. O’Kelly laid out TechWork’s development pathway since their foundation in 2005 with a monitoring system built to warn farmers to take preventative action on their fish stocks. Since then, they have created data buoy networks, satellite data, marine renewable energy,  water treatment, mini-buoys, and more. Moving forward, their agenda includes developing a closer relationship with the Portuguese port authority and with coastal EU water quality managers using their latest mini-buoy system technology, and expanding into the Middle East.

O’Kelly told attendees, “We provide a fully integrated end-to-end data service. From the design, development, and deployment of integrated data platforms, based on our core TechWorks Marine black box technology— our data logger which we design and make in-house…for real-time transmission of high-quality marine data…sent back to a live data portal called CoastEye…through which our clients can actively monitor and manage their offshore data buoy networks…and overlay Earth observation [from satellites].” This data is intended for use by ports and harbors, and offshore wind, wave, and tidal site developers, according to O'Kelly in her presentation.

The panels wrapped up with a short discussion and Q&A session on the topics of fundraising for accelerators, the Algarve as a place for business within the aquaculture sector, Portugal as a leading country for the blue economy sector, and more.