Innovators in B.C. aquaculture are vying for $350,000 in prize money in the first-ever awards event for the burgeoning seafood sector.
The Aquaculture Innovation Awards, hosted by the B.C. government through its Innovate BC program, will be given to projects that encourage sustainable growth, competitiveness and adaptability, while solving challenges faced by B.C. aquaculture — whether finfish, shellfish, seaweed, or any other ocean-based food.
Raghwa Gopal, president and CEO of Innovate BC hopes to see saleable innovations for aquaculture directly, as well as adjacent sectors.
“Rather than being prescriptive we provided open and flexible call to see what innovation could exist. We want this to be market driven.
“The needs and pain points are known, but sometimes you don’t even realize what could be a new and better way to resolve your challenges, until innovation is presented.”
Following a first round of judging, the Top 10 finalists will pitch to attendees of the May 5 virtual event and hear feedback from potential buyers. Two $150,000 prizes will be selected by a panel of judges and a $25,000 fan-favourite award will be voted on by the live audience.
In 2019 the farm-gate value in B.C. aquaculture was worth about $708 million.
Conversations about the sector however is often overshadowed by wild fisheries management, particularly Pacific salmon populations experiencing record-low numbers.
Finn Donnelly, B.C.’s fisheries and aquaculture parliamentary secretary, said the province will continue stepping outside its traditional jurisdiction to work with the federal government on wild stock recovery, but it’s important also to encourage development in aquaculture for its economic and social payoffs.
“There is no question it has been a difficult and challenging year for our B.C. fisheries and aquaculture sectors. The pandemic has showed us just how important it is to invest in B.C. food security and local supply chains,” Donnelly said
“We will continue to work closely with the fisheries and aquaculture industry and ensure their products can continue to be enjoyed safely here at home and around the world.”