The announcement of the finalists comes after a seven-week-long campaign that saw 215 applications from 45 countries. The Ocean Impact PitchFest is a format by the Ocean Impact Organisation (OIO). With $150,000 in cash prizes and $150,000 of additional products and support from OIO and their partners, startups and entrepreneurs were encouraged to apply for the chance to accelerate their ocean impact and help to improve the health of the oceans. 2021 also saw the debut of the HP Generation Impact Incubator, a new programme for young (35 and under) innovators residing in Australia with an idea to transform ocean health. The campaign seeks to bring together innovators, entrepreneurs and funding to tackle some of today’s major ocean challenges through climate, ocean harvesting, energy, plastic pollution solutions and many more.
Founded by entrepreneur Nick Chiarelli and environmentalist Tim Silverwood (ex-CEO of Take 3 for the Sea), OIO’s mission is to support and accelerate ocean impact businesses. For the Founders of OIO there is “no time to waste” in radically accelerating new innovations, investment and collaboration to help transform ocean health. Silverwood said of the organisation’s results to date: “We’re thrilled to see so many passionate entrepreneurs and innovators across the world applying to our programs to help accelerate their solutions and in doing so, help to transform ocean health. Our goal at OIO is to accelerate 100 ocean startups in five years and play our part in an emerging global ecosystem to accelerate 1000 ocean startups in ten years.”
“We developed OIO to help people start, grow and invest in businesses that positively impact the ocean,” said Chiarelli who has worked with startups for most of his career. “I’d seen all manner of startup accelerators and incubators emerge for specific areas like FinTech, MedTech, RegTech etc but nothing existed for the ocean,” Chiarelli said of the origins of OIO. “Given how fundamentally important a healthy ocean is of our own survival, there was a gaping hole and a huge opportunity for Australia to become a global leader in accelerating scalable ocean solutions.”
Now in its second year, The Ocean Impact PitchFest shows that abundant solutions are out there and investor appetite to support ocean impact is increasing. Last year’s inaugural Winner of The Ocean Impact Pitchfest was Planet Protector Packaging, an innovative Australian company using waste wool to create ‘Woolpack’, an alternative to expanded polystyrene packaging (EPS) that has so far prevented 7 million EPS boxes from entering landfill or the ocean. Joanne Howarth, founder and CEO of Planet Protector said: “Since winning OIO’s inaugural Pitchfest we have had enormous support, not only from the OIO team, but also from their very expansive network of passionate sponsors and investors.”
The initiative to scale 1000 Ocean Startups in ten years received a big boost in May with global leaders including Sir Richard Branson and Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg joining the call for collaborative support to expedite investment in ocean innovation. “We need to unleash the power of entrepreneurship in this effort, working together to invest in our common future,” said Sir Richard Branson. “Across the globe companies, entrepreneurs and investors are stepping up to address the challenges facing the ocean and increasingly realising that what is good for the ocean is good for business.”
On 12 October, the 12 shortlisted finalists for 2021 were announced. They are ACE AQUATEC, a UK-based company seeking to make aquaculture more sustainable, AQUAAI from Norway – a start-up with a focus on bio-inspired robotic technology, ATLANTIC SEA FARMS, a kelp-growing initiative from Maine, BETTER PACKAGING CO. from New Zealand who want to rethink packaging, Australian FIRETAIL ROBOTICS which focusses on hardware innovation, Melbourne-based GREAT WRAP, a company that produces compostable stretch wrap using mainly food waste, LITTERATI from the USA which wants to create a litter-free world, MATTER. from the UK – a company that produces technology solutions for capturing, harvesting and recycling microplastics, NEXTPROTEIN from France which focusses on producing insect-based proteins and oils as a sustainable, healthy and competitive alternative to fish-based products, PINOVO from Norway with the wish to stop ocean paint microplastic emissions, India-based SAATHI whose focus is to create hygienic products that are good for the body, community and environment as well as Australia-based SEA FOREST, a company that wants to pioneer the cultivation of a natural solution to climate change.
The finalists are now being assessed by an expert judging panel, before the winner, runners up and the spotlight award recipients will be revealed on 4 November 2021.
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Photography courtesy of the Ocean Impact Organisation.