Viable Gear is a mission-driven early stage startup working on materials R&D and product design. Led by founder Katie Weiler, the company seeks to reduce petroleum-based plastics in the ocean by using seaweed to make a plastic replacement for the fishing and aquaculture industries.
We caught up with Katie recently as part of our Female Founders series, to find out more about her company’s approach and her personal journey as a pioneer in seaweed-based bioplastics and the fight to reduce “ghost gear” in the ocean.
What’s your company’s mission and vision?
“Viable Gear provides product solutions to food growth and harvesting in the ocean by using seaweed to replace traditional petroleum-based plastics. We are seeking to clean up our food systems by reducing toxic plastics that affect the collective health of our blue planet.”
What inspires you in your work?
“The ocean. Being a Maine-based company that is using seaweed it is not coincidence, in that we are tied strongly to the ocean.”
“The idea to tackle ghost gear – plastic pollution from the fishing industry – is because we are so closely related to the health of our oceans and the livelihoods that rely on a healthy ocean.”
“We believe that we can help reduce plastic pollution in our oceans by using a renewable resource to make fishing gear in a more environmentally responsible manner and that will perform similarly to existing products. To achieve this, we are bringing together experts in business, materials science, aquaculture, and fishing.”
“I’m talking with as many people as possible working in the fishing and aquaculture industry to learn more about what gear they currently use, in which ways, and how it could be improved.”
What’s unique about your company?
“Viable Gear is tackling the plastics problem from the side of plastics that are made to go directly into the ocean. We’re using seaweed as the material input instead of petroleum-based products or land-grown crops.”
“Seaweed doesn’t rely on resources like fresh water and fertilizers to grow, making it a renewable resource that we are proud to be using and creating demand for.”
What opportunities do you see for the aquaculture and seafood industries in the coming years?
“Shellfish aquaculture produces the most sustainable protein on our planet and I think people are really catching on to consuming more seafood in general and shellfish in their diet as a sustainable protein.”
“The ocean farmers that I talk to are really excited about innovation and growing a sustainable and clean product that people are excited to eat, whether it’s out in a restaurant or at home in their kitchen.”
“I only see growth for this industry, and we need to get help to the people who want to get leases or grow their leased space in the water so we have the opportunity to really grow aquaculture instead of making ocean farmers wait years to actually get in the water to start growing and selling.”