NOAA grant awards funding boost to nine fisheries, aquaculture start-ups

Published on
August 17, 2020

NOAA recently announced its picks to receive part of USD 3.1 million (EUR 2.6 million) in grant funding as part of its Small Business Innovation Research Program.

The program, which closed its application process in December 2019, grants funding to small businesses that are working on technological innovations targeting either aquaculture, recreational, or commercial fisheries, weather service improvement and evolution, next generation NOAA platforms, and next-generation observation and modelling systems. In the latest announcements, six aquaculture companies and three commercial fisheries related companies received a combined total of USD 1.34 million (EUR 1.12 million).

“Small businesses across our nation are catalysts for technology innovation, which can produce products and services that support NOAA’s mission while directly benefiting the public and growing the American economy,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in the release announcing the grant recipients.

The SBIR program has existed since 1982, when it was created through the Small Business Innovation Development Act – which implemented the program, according to Deputy Director of NOAA’s Technology Partnerships Officer Derek Parks, “across multiple agencies, including NOAA.”

“NOAA's SBIR Program is seeking highly innovative products with excellent commercial potential. All SBIR proposals must directly benefit the NOAA mission, but should also be responsive to the greater market demands in order to be successful,” Parks told SeafoodSource. “Also, SBIR is America's seed fund. The goal is truly to enable small- and medium-sized enterprises to successfully engage in the development of highly innovative technologies that will support the NOAA mission.  As part of the NOAA competition, the technologies must have a high potential for commercial adoption in order to be funded.”

The SBIR Program awards grants in a three-phase process, with phase I including the initial selection of businesses. Those businesses selected receive a grant – in this case totaling roughly USD 150,000 (EUR 126,000) for each company – to "support exploration of the technical merit or feasibility of an idea or technology.”

Following the first phase, Phase II will grant additional funding – up to USD 500,000 (EUR 421,000) for a 24-month period of performance to “expand Phase I results.”

“During this time, the R&D work is performed and the developer evaluates commercialization potential,” NOAA’s SBIR Program overview states. “Only Phase I award winners are considered for Phase II.”

The final phase, Phase III, is when the innovation moves into the marketplace. At that point, the SBIR Program provides no additional funding.

Getting into the first phase is no small task. Small businesses applying to receive the grant have to meet a number of criteria, which are each weighted differently on a point basis. The technology that the business is proposing is evaluated, in addition to the business’s record of commercializing research and its qualifications and staff.

"As NOAA continues to strengthen its commitment to protecting life and property, we are increasingly reliant on the expertise and agility of the private sector,” acting NOAA Administrator Neil Jacobs said. “Through collaboration with these small businesses, Americans will benefit with increased forecast accuracy and better management of our natural resources."

The six aquaculture companies that gained funding were:

  • AA Plasma LLC of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for its tech that uses a “non-equilibrium short-pulsed discharge for removal of antibiotics and pathogens from water used in aquaculture facilities.”
  • CD3 General Benefit Corporation of St. Paul, Minnesota, for its “continuous electronic DNA monitoring for early detection of aquaculture diseases.”
  • Ward Aquafarms, LLC, of North Falmouth, Massachusetts, for its “shellfish grading system and integrated data management platform.”
  • Pacific Hybreed, Inc., of Bainbridge Island, Washington, for its technology for “identifying genetic markers of resistance in oysters for Pacific oyster mortality syndrome.”
  • Lynntech, Inc., of College Station, Texas, for its “rapid, simple diagnostic tool for pathogens in marine aquaculture.”
  • Shellfish Solutions of Castine, Maine, for its “tide-to-table traceability and marketing system for shellfish aquaculture.”

The three recreational and commercial fisheries companies selected to receive grant funding were:

  • Creare LLC. Of Hanover, New Hampshire, for its “low cost ocean temperature profiling sensor.”
  • SafetyPect Inc., of Los Angeles, California, for its “technology for rapid detection of fish species and quality in the marketplace.”
  • CVision AI, Inc., of Medford Massachusetts, for its technology that provides automated fish fillet identification.

A full abstract of each business gives a larger picture of some of the technological advancements each one is aiming to bring to the marketplace. For example, CB3’s project, “Continuous eDNA Monitoring for Early Detection of Aquaculture Diseases,” which intends to create a biomonitoring system that, according to the company’s abstract, “function as robustly and easily as a smoke-alarm, i.e. autonomous, reliable, infield monitoring technologies capable of disseminating data in a straightforward way and in real-time to a broad range of personnel and decision-makers.

Each company selected in phase I will now compete to be included in phase II. According to Parks, at NOAA typically 65 percent of projects make it on to phase II. 

“We are excited about this year’s awardees, many who are harnessing the power of unmanned systems, artificial intelligence, genomics, machine-learning and public engagement to develop products and services that support NOAA’s mission and may also have great potential as commercial products,” NOAA Technology Partnerships Office’s Director Kelly Wright said.

Photo courtesy of NOAA Sea Grant Fellow Chris Katalinas

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