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Ireland’s  €200m Aquatech industry can capitalise on global opportunity and investors

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) Aquatech conference in Killarney told Ireland has potential to become “Silicon Valley of Aquatech”  industry

 Ireland’s growing expertise in the developing aquatech sector means it has the potential to become a global leader in the field, with Irish aquatech companies turning over €200m last year, a conference in Killarney heard today.

Over €15m has been invested in aquatech businesses in the last six years, and more than 200 hi-tech jobs created in the sector, according to Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

Aquatech is any technology or innovation driving sustainable seafood farming, and it can be applied progressively  to the breeding, raising, and harvesting of fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants.

Today’s conference, entitled “Aquatech – Ireland’s Global Opportunity”,  is in the Brehon Hotel in Kerry, and participants include the Senior Vice President of the world’s first aquatech unicorn company, E-fishery; a US sustainable seafood expert; a global off-shore aquaculture pioneer, along with a host of Irish aquatech entrepreneurs, and representatives from the Irish Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF).

 BIM chief executive Caroline Bocquel said: “We have over 60 companies working in aquatech here, and the sector is  worth about €200m. Hatch Blue, who we work closely with, is  major aquatech-focused venture capital firm based in Cork, which has already made Irish-based aquaculture investments.

“We’re starting to see some very significant investments and some brilliant ideas – for example, the use of AI to monitor and provide early warnings on the health of aquaculture fish stocks.”

Innovation Studio

The conference is also a highlight of the Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) Innovation Studio, an intensive two week no-fee programme that aims to develop the technological readiness, industry fitness and commercial scalability of emerging aquatech startups. Funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) and now in its sixth  year, the initiative seeks out projects in Ireland and other European countries that aim to upscale the region’s aquaculture or alt-seafood industries.

To date, the total investment attracted is close to 50 projects and companies that have completed the Innovation Studio over the past 6 years – including 2023 –  is €15.1M, with over 200 hi-tech jobs created. Several companies involved in this year’s Innovation Studio attended a delegation to Southeast Asia earlier this year with Hatch to grow their network and learn more about their potential market.  The delegation has secured potential business opportunities on foot of this.

The Innovation Studio supports the ambitious goals set out in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s Food Vision 2030 Strategy, namely to ‘promote Ireland as a knowledge base for aquaculture technology and research and attract external investment into the sector’.

Huge potential for Ireland

 BIM’s Development and Innovation Director Richard Donnelly chairs today’s panel discussion on the global opportunity for aquatech. He said that Ireland has the potential to become the “Silicon Valley” of aquatech, due to a number of factors.

“BIM is in the unique position of having extensive knowledge of the global aquaculture sector because of our links with so many projects in other countries, and we are ideally positioned to evaluate and look at growth opportunities in aquaculture innovation.

“The creativity, skills and scalable businesses that have emerged from the Innovation Studio in recent years – aligned to the investment these start-ups [mainly] have been able to attract –  shows huge potential, and a nucleus of Irish companies are already growing and expanding their market. Their businesses are based on innovative sustainable solutions for the aquaculture sector.”

 Wayne Murphy, co-founder and Partner at Hatch Blue, said the company’s initial objective six years ago with BIM was to build a pipeline of Irish based investable aquatech companies that could develop scalable, smart technologies for the growing global aquaculture market:

“Since then, almost 50 companies have participated in the initiative, with many successfully going on to raise capital and build sustainable technology solutions for what is now the fastest growing food sector in the world. This conference represents a key milestone as to the progress the sector has made in Ireland, also reflecting the ambition it has to go out there and compete on the global aquaculture stage now worth more than $300bn – according to market forecasts.”

“I am excited about Ireland’s future prospects as more and more investment capital pours into the sector seeking carbon neutral smart technology solutions to enable the increased production of more sustainably sourced Blue Food [farmed seafood].”

 Inaugural BIM Aquatech Business of the Year

The conference will also see the announcement of the winner of the   inaugural BIM Aquatech Business of the Year.  Three Irish aquatech companies who are deploying cutting-edge technology to drive sustainable seafood farming have been announced as finalists. These include Aquamonitrix in Co. Carlow, Aqualicence in Co. Wicklow, and Konree Innovation in Co. Galway.