Ireland could become "Silicon Valley of Aquatech"

BIM, Ireland's Seafood Development Agency, says Irish aquatech sector turned over €200m last year, and now is poised to "capitalise on global opportunity and investors".
Ireland's aquatech industry was worth €200m in 2022.
Ireland's aquatech industry was worth €200m in 2022.Image: Adobe Stock.

Ireland is fast growing into an aquatech hotspot, with Irish companies specialising in aquaculture technology and innovation bringing in over €200m last year - and there's plenty of opportunity to grow even more.

That was the message given by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), Ireland's Seafood Development Agency, at the conference Aquatech – Ireland’s Global Opportunity, held in Killarney yesterday.

Organised in collaboration with aquaculture accelerator Hatch Blue, the conference brought together a clutch of high-impact blue economy experts to share their expertise with Irish entrepreneurs. Speakers included Kristen Virega, SVP of Indonesian aquatech "unicorn" eFishery, Neil Sims, Founder and CEO of Ocean Era and Jennifer Bushman, Sustainable Aquaculture Strategist and Communicator.

Irish aquatech sector is worth €200m

During the last six years, over €15m has been invested in aquatech businesses, with more than 200 hi-tech jobs created in the sector, according to BIM Chief Executive Caroline Bocquel.

“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," Bocquel said.

“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," she added.

Innovation Studio for Aquatech launch pad for Ireland's blue food "Silicon Valley"

Yesterday's conference also formed part of BIM's Innovation Studio for Aquatech, an intensive two week no-fee programme that BIM says "aims to develop the technological readiness, industry fitness and commercial scalability of emerging aquatech startups".

The Innovation Studio, run in collaboration with Hatch Blue and now in its sixth year of operation, supports projects both in Ireland and elsewhere within the EU that aim to "upscale the region's aquaculture or alt-seafood industries".

Almost 50 projects and companies have successfully completed the programme during this time, with just over €15.1M invested, and over 200 hi-tech jobs created. 

BIM’s Development and Innovation Director Richard Donnelly said that the programme illustrates how Ireland could become the "Silicon Valley" of aquatech.

“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," Donnelly said.

Wayne Murphy, co-founder and Partner at Hatch Blue, said his 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".

“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]," Murphy said.

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