Maine’s cool, clean ocean waters and its powerful brand make the state a great place for investing in aquaculture, according to panelists discussing startup opportunities in the marine industry.
Fish farming is so efficient that Maine farmers report gross revenues of $100 million to $120 million annually, even though their combined harvest area is about the same size as the Portland International Jetport, said one of the panelists, Paul Dobbins.
Dobbins is president of Ocean Approved, a Portland company that grows kelp, primarily in Casco Bay. He was among several panelists talking this week about opportunities for Maine’s marine industry at the Maine Startup and Create Week, a Portland event showcasing technology and innovation.
Dobbins said 52 percent of seafood consumed by Americans is farm-raised, and nearly all of it comes from overseas. That’s why Maine seafood is considered “local” in markets as far away as California, he said.
“Maine has a fabulous brand, and people are looking for farm-raised seafood from Maine,” Dobbins said. “I can tell you that agriculturalists are selling everything they can produce.”
The other panelists were Ed Robinson, chief business officer of Acadia Harvest, Rob Fuller, CEO of Harbor Technologies, and Jeri Fox, an associate professor at the University of New England. Alan Lishness, chief innovation officer at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, moderated the discussion.
Much of it focused on the importance of attracting “human capital,” a term panelists used to describe talented and experienced employees and board members.
Startup companies need people who will guide the company when it matures, said Acadia Harvest’s Robinson. The three-year-old company develops new technology for raising yellowtail amberjack and black sea bass in land-based, indoor farms.
“Look down the road to what you are going to need,” he said. “Don’t think small. Think big.”