The Sustainable Ocean Alliance and its Ocean Solutions Accelerator take on the problems facing our planet's waters, and the latest cohort of companies in the latter show a fresh slate of issues to address and resources to utilize. From reef rehabilitation to a "Fitbit for fishing boats," they're trying to fix things up in the oceans or at least mitigate the damage we're doing down there.
The accelerator's four week, all-virtual (like all of them these days) program focuses on the unique challenges faced by social good companies in this space.
"Startups in the sector are still struggling to find adequate funding during the early phases of operations," the accelerator's co-founder Craig Dudenhoffer told TechCrunch in an email. "Many of the solutions (especially hardware) are costly to produce and take a heavy upfront cash investment. We found that out of the hundreds of applicants, only a fraction had received substantial investments. We believe more investors need to educate themselves on opportunities in the ocean sector."
The SOA team selected nine companies for this wave, only three of which are U.S.-based. "This year, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw our largest and most diverse applicant pool to date," said Dudenhoffer in the release announcing the companies. "I was particularly encouraged by this year's applicant pool to see the varying types of solutions, as well as an increase in the number of entrepreneurs that are actively building technologies to address the critical challenges that face the ocean."
SOA founder Daniela Fernandez recently noted that their area of operation is especially international, so keeping things virtual actually opens up a lot of possibilities, especially for smaller companies that can't afford to temporarily relocate. "It gives you so many options and makes it far more inclusive," she told me. "Everybody just has more flexibility and tranquility. So I believe we were headed in that direction anyway."
Image Credits: ARC Marine
Here are the nine lucky companies:
AquaAI (Norway): Developed a fishlike autonomous underwater vehicle for unobtrusive observation and inspection.
AKUA (U.S.): Makes super-healthy kelp-based foods, starting with jerky and soon burgers.
ARC Marine (U.K.): Helps protect and rehabilitate reefs with sustainable "Reef Cube" habitat and nursery.
Desolenator (The Netherlands): Solar-powered desalination for communities facing fresh water shortages.
FlyWire (U.S.): Digital catch monitoring for compliance with regulations and connected commerce.
microTERRA (Mexico): Sustainable, aquafarm-grown protein for animal feed.
Oceanworks (U.S.): Marketplace for recycled ocean-sourced plastic.
PlanetCare (Slovenia): Filter for catching microfibers in washing machine drains before they enter the water system.
Trademodo (Canada): New, comprehensive platform for ethical seafood businesses and supply chains.
The companies will get the tender loving care lavished on all the new accelerator's participants, but possibly also a bit of harsh reality as they learn the difficulties of being an ethics-focused company with long-term goals in a capitalist system that demands almost immediate returns. One of the most important steps in building one of these companies seems to be getting over this demoralizing hump and seeing the possibilities in spite of the difficulties.
A demo day is scheduled for November 5, which is good timing because probably nothing else will be happening around then.