AquaHack workshop aims to bolster sustainable blue economy in Hawai‘i

In an effort to advance a sustainable blue economy in Hawai‘i, the University of Hawai‘i (UH) Climate Resilient Aquaculture Innovation Megahub (CliRAIM) and Hatch Blue, the world’s first aquaculture accelerator, hosted the AquaHack workshop on April 18 in Kona, Hawai‘i. The blue economy refers to coastal- and ocean-based industries such as aquaculture, biotechnology, or blue carbon, in which carbon dioxide is sequestered from the atmosphere to mitigate climate change. 

CliRAIM, and Hatch Blue welcomed ocean stewards, technology trailblazers, entrepreneurs, engineers, innovators, and scientists who seek to create positive social, environmental, and economic change in Hawai‘i. CliRAIM is a program of a National Science Foundation-funded Development Engine led by UH that advances an equitable and inclusive regional innovation ecosystem for climate resilience, food security, and renewable energy in Hawai’i and the US affiliated Pacific Islands.

“We are particularly focused on advancing innovations for the blue economy in ways that are sustainable and culturally-informed—a major goal is to identify strategies to generate more food locally and create livelihoods that improve our societal resilience,” said Erik Franklin, CliRAIM director and associate research professor at the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology in the UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. “For the AquaHack event, the participants generated exciting potential solutions to current challenges in aquaculture for both traditional Native Hawaiian fishponds as well as modern aquaculture approaches.” 

Taking talent to the next level

“We hope that the AquaHack eliminates barriers to progressing sustainable ocean-related food or business ideas,” said Dylan Howell, Hatch Blue Operations Manager, Americas. “The impetus for organizing the workshop was to help bring Hawaiʻi’s talent to their next level—we’ve now connected a solid network of innovators that will lead the charge.”

The AquaHack was focused on acquainting people with varying and complementary skill sets. Whether attendees were innovators with a great idea who needed to network with talented, successful industry leaders, or entrepreneurs with technology in-hand who could benefit from expertise in sales and marketing, the event aimed to connect the dots. The one-day event was an opportunity to engage, consult, and form business relationships with industry experts from all over the blue economy supply chain.

At a farm tour of Big Island Abalone, someone from the company shows two visitors an abalone.
A farm tour of Big Island Abalone

“AquaHack was an amazing event that brought together the diverse working group of aquaculture people in Hawai‘i and served as a catalyst for those looking to bridge both modern and traditional technologies within the innovation space,” said Anthony Mau, owner of Kupu Place Aquaponics, LLC. “We saw groups come together and develop ideas for future businesses that were much more holistic in approach, and that support our communities needs with respect to food, financial, and social security. Our future businesses focused on aquaculture production and its serving technologies will not survive without having a positive impact to our island people and environment—that was made clear.”

Boosting the blue economy means new opportunities to grow industry, innovation, and sustainable food systems in Hawai‘i. “As a newer frontier for businesses, it is important that we get it right from economic, environmental, and community perspectives when it comes to developing sustainable aquaculture, marine biotechnology, blue carbon, bountiful seafood and the multitudes of other industries that are a part of the blue economy,” said Sarah Karner, Hatch Blue Community and Programs Marketing, Hawaiʻi.

The connections, partnerships, and ideas formed during the workshop will continue as the networks of participants have a series of opportunities through programs offered by Hatch Blue and the UH system to support innovation and entrepreneurship.

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