Aquaculture accelerator moves to Ireland for second program

Hatch, the world’s first aquaculture accelerator, is seeking applicants for its second 12-week program, which aims to develop and scale talented and disruptive aquaculture startups. 

This year’s program is set to take place in Cork, Ireland, from 18 September to 6 December, and applicants have until 24 August to apply with their ideas at

Program Director Wayne Murphy told SeafoodSource that following a successful first round in Bergen earlier this year, he became excited about moving the program to his native country, before taking it to Singapore in Spring 2019 then back to Bergen later in 2019.

“Ireland's hidden potential for aqua-farming is enormous and the government's support to attract innovation in the space is massive,” Murphy said.

Murphy explained that he was looking to take teams of two people from eight companies through the three-month program, during which they are likely to move their business potential forward by 12 to 18 months. He hopes to fill half of the available slots with Irish applicants. 

Sustainability is high on the agenda and there is a focus on recruiting companies that will have a positive impact on aquaculture, Murphy said.

“In Bergen, we had eight start-ups from seven countries, which went through 30 mentor sessions, met 40 investors from 17 different countries, and got investor-ready in 90 days. Two of the companies came away with six-figure investments, and a very clear idea of where they were headed in the aquaculture world. All of the companies were delighted with the development experience, unparalleled international networking, and business and investment opportunities they gained,” he said. 

The program is not easy and takes dedication and grit, according to Murphy, but his extensive experience working on other accelerator programs has shown him that it works.

"To get results, we offer a 'chamber of pain' during which we take people way out of their comfort zone, then help them rebuild their ideas in a more structured way, with a 'go-to-market' strategy that is commercially attractive," Murphy said. "We are in the business of building businesses."

Companies chosen for the new program will benefit from master classes and one-on-one discussions with mentors in finance, aquaculture nutrition, research, marketing, legal aspects, business planning, exit strategies, technology and traceability, with additional workshops depending on the needs of the cohort. They will also be introduced to a large network of potential investors and businesses willing to help, all of which helps to speed the business development process along.

"Part of what we do is to encourage an exchange of knowledge between the cohort, as well as giving them exposure to some of the biggest names in the industry. The effect this has on young companies is significant," Murphy said. "Given that many of our applicants are only in their twenties or early thirties, having left university brimming with ideas and wanting to build something exciting, our aim is to help them avoid making typical mistakes and thereby re-risk any investment."

Murphy said he is passionate about getting companies to tell their story and to interest and excite others about what they are doing.

"Communication is an essential skill if a business or idea is to make an impact on the world," he said.

In addition to the benefits gained from participating in the program, companies receive EUR 25,000 (USD 28,500) in cash. In return for the whole package, Hatch, which was founded by Alimentos Ventures, an aquaculture-specific venture capital fund in 2017, takes an eight percent equity stake. 

At the end of the program, each company makes a presentation to a selected audience of investors, corporate partners and press, and also has the opportunity to pitch to Hatch’s follow-on fund, which typically invests between EUR 100,000 to 1 million (USD 114,000 to 1.14 million) in those showing high potential.

Free office space is available for participants for up to nine months post-program, with Hatch continuing to play a hands-on role assisting participants to navigate the minefield of raising financial backing, sorting out business propositions, arranging agreements with shareholders and investors, and finding customers.

“We are right in the middle of the application phase and have some interesting start-ups in the pipeline, but if anyone is involved in an aquaculture start-up anywhere in the world and is looking to take it further, we would be very keen to hear from them," Murphy said. 

Photo courtesy of Hatch


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