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The Minister for the Marine has congratulated a Donegal teenager with Down Syndrome, described as having “sea blood running through his veins,” for following his dream to work in the marine sector.

Sixteen-year-old Seán Boyle has passed his three-day Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) Basic Safety Training course, which will allow him to work on a boat or ferry.

“An incredible achievement,” according to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, who wished Sean the best of luck with his future career.“An inclusive culture and spirit of opportunity, where everyone has the chance to contribute and achieve their dreams, is vital. Diversity and inclusion add to the richness of our society, and I am delighted for Seán.”

Séan Boyle lives on Árainn Mhór Island and is the third brother in his family to take the training. He got his love of the sea from his fisherman father, John. A Transition Year student at Gairmscoil Mhic Diarmada on Árainn Mhór, he had to undergo three days of training at the BIM National Fisheries College in Greencastle to receive his safety card. The training involved tasks such as jumping into a pool with safety gear, going on a life raft on his own and doing elementary first aid. Seán excelled in everything that came his way.

Seán’s mother, Elaine, said the family couldn’t be prouder of Seán who is the youngest of five children. “He is a brilliant character and people person and doesn’t let much get in his way! Our family is steeped in fishing tradition and as soon as he could walk, Seán would put on his wellies and follow his Dad when he was going out in the boat.”

Donegal teenager Séan Boyle from Árainn Mhór has taken a step closer to following his dream to pursue a career at sea by passing his Bord Iaschaigh Mhara (BIM) Basic Safety Training course which will allow him to work on a boat or Ferry. Photo: Brian Farrell16-year-old Séan, a Transition Year student at Gairmscoil Mhic Diarmada School on Árainn Mhór, has Down Syndrome and did not let his disability get in his way to achieve his maritime ambitions Photo: Brian Farrell

He learned to swim when he was younger, taking the ferry every Saturday with his mother across to the mainland to take lessons in Letterkenny Pool. It took him longer than usual to learn to swim. “It was a real commitment, but he was determined,” said Elaine.

Seán said: “If my brothers can do it why shouldn’t I? I am really looking forward to working on a boat.”

Seán’s teacher, Florence Calais, helped him apply for the BIM training, and it is hoped he will do TY work placement in the coming weeks on one of the island ferries.

Garvan Meehan, Principal of the BIM National Fisheries College of Ireland in Greencastle, said: “It was a joy to have Seán on the course in Greencastle. He completed all the tasks with no problems, and his training card is an important step forward towards achieving his goal of working at sea. He is a great example that you can achieve your dreams if you are determined and supported.”

Barry Sheridan, CEO of Down Syndrome Ireland, said: “We’re all incredibly proud of Sean and his achievement. It’s such an impressive qualification, and we know that Sean will be an asset to any vessel he serves on. We at Down Syndrome Ireland, and all our branches and members, are constantly trying to forge new opportunities for people with Down syndrome, and Sean is a real trailblazer. Sean’s Bord Iascaigh Mhara card will be the passport to a brilliant future”.

BIM is the primary training body for the seafood industry in Ireland and runs Basic Safety Training at its National Fisheries Colleges in Greencastle, Co. Donegal, Castletownbere, Co. Cork, and two mobile coastal training units around our coastlines.

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Almost 8,000 fish meals distributed by the social enterprise FoodCloud to community groups and charities have come from classes with trainee fishmongers, new figures confirm.

Over three tonnes of fresh salmon, cod, place and monkfish have been donated over the past seven years via FoodCloud in partnership with Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the State’s seafood development agency.

The fresh fish is collected at BIM’s fish filleting courses in the north Dublin fishing harbour of Howth and in Clonakilty, Co Cork. The accredited courses are run for fishmongers and those who wish to improve their fish handling skills.

More than 190 kilos of fish were transferred to charities such as Depaul, working with the homeless, this year alone (2023), and BIM calculates that the 3.2 tonnes of fish in total over seven years amounts to 7,719 meals in total.

It also estimates that the fish fillets which might otherwise have been disposed of after the classes contributed to a total of 10.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent emissions saved.

DePaul chief executive David Carroll explained that “every Friday, our chef in Sundial House in Dublin serves a hearty fish meal”.

This “not only provides much needed nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D”, but also “puts a smile on faces”, he said.

“Thanks to food donations we get, including from BIM, we can help to close the gap on food inequality for people in homelessness,”he said, noting that fresh fish is a relatively expensive food which might otherwise be out of reach of its budgets.

FoodCloud, which was established in 2013 by Iseult Ward and Aoibheann O’Brien to ensure that no good food is wasted, was awarded Irish Charity of the Year in 2022.

It connects businesses and organisations with extra food to community and voluntary groups and charities, and is currently redistributing around 1.25 million meals per week.

Since it was set up, FoodCloud says it has redistributed the equivalent of 250 million meals, amounting to over 105,000 tonnes of good surplus food to over 7,000 charities in Ireland and internationally.

It has two methods – through a technology platform, Foodiverse, and through FoodCloud hubs in Dublin, Cork and Galway, which collect and redistribute larger volumes.

The organisation’s co-founder and interim chief executive Aoibheann O’Brien has thanked BIM for its partnership and contribution to “create a world that is kinder to its people and our planet through the redistribution of surplus food.”

BIM skills development services manager Ian Mannix said the organisation is “committed to doing everything possible to build a more sustainable future, and our partnership with FoodCloud has helped us play our part”.

The surplus fish arises from a number of two-day introduction to fish handling and filleting training courses, and the QQI accredited certificate in fishmonger training programme, run in the BIM Seafood Innovation Hub in Clonakilty and at its fish filleting facility in Howth several times a year.

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The Irish seafood sector has a low carbon footprint, which generates less than 2% of Ireland’s total carbon emissions, according to a Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) study.

The report says that total Irish fish catch and aquaculture segments represent just 1.76% of Ireland’s total carbon emissions.

The study, discussed at a seminar in Athlone this week hosted by BIM with the Marine Institute, sets out a “greenhouse gas emissions” baseline for the Irish seafood sector, incorporating the Irish fishing vessel fleet and aquaculture.

The baseline, which can be used as a benchmark to measure future emissions, collates seafood carbon data for the first time, BIM says.

It identifies areas to minimise carbon emissions associated with seafood production and finds that farmed mussels, oysters and wild-caught mackerel in particular have very low carbon emissions, BIM says.

“The report stresses the need for a detailed decarbonising plan to ensure that the seafood sector plays its part in Ireland’s ambition to achieve net zero emissions by 2050,”BIM says.

The study notes the diversity of the Irish seafood sector, and how the carbon footprint of different products “varies depending on the species and the methods used to cultivate or catch them”.

“The Irish seafood sector is undergoing a transformation in how we do things, how we fuel our fleets, how we grow our shellfish, and feed our salmon,” BIM economics and strategic services director Dominic Rihan said.

He said the industry is looking at a range of new technologies, alternative fuel sources as well as operational changes to reduce their carbon emissions.

Investment in the future for such initiatives will be provided through the European and Maritime, Aquaculture and Fisheries Fund, under which Ireland has received total funding of €258.4 million, he noted.

“There is also a lot of work done on waste and plastics reduction. All these initiatives contribute to lower greenhouse emissions from the sector,”he said.

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Goatsbridge Trout Farm in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, has completed a €1.68 million investment, which will allow it to increase production of its popular trout products and improve efficiencies. The investment, which included a factory extension, upgrading and introducing new state-of-the-art production lines, and installing solar panels, was supported with grant aid of €666,540 from the Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme and the Brexit Sustainable Aquaculture Growth Scheme, administered by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM).

The new investment will also protect the current 27 jobs in the business and hopefully increase the numbers employed in the next year. Goatsbridge produces smoked trout, trout pâté, fish chowder, and Ireland's only caviar made from trout roe. The investment will transform the business, which is run by Mag Kirwan and her husband Ger, allowing it to pursue its strategy to produce more high-volume, high-margin products to increase domestic and overseas sales.

The investment will also pave the way for the business to become carbon-neutral in the coming 3 to 5 years. "We want to be sustainable not just from a business point of view, but more importantly, from an environmental point of view. We want to protect what we have for generations to come," said Mag Kirwan.

The Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme and the Brexit Sustainable Aquaculture Growth Scheme will deliver up to €65 million in funding to the Irish seafood processing sector. Both schemes are funded by the European Union under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve and are recommendations of the Seafood Taskforce established by Minister for Agriculture, Food, and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D.

According to Mags Kirwan, the investment will improve energy efficiency. "As well as solar panels, we have upgraded existing doors to improve temperature control in the production area, and added a blast chiller to improve the processing of products including caviar." The new solar panels will radically cut down on Goatsbridge's energy costs, reducing the impact of climate change on the business.

Ger and Mag Kirwan pictured at the new solar panels at Goatsbridge Trout Farm in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny. The panels which will improve energy efficiency at the farm were supported with grant aid under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve schemeGer and Mag Kirwan pictured at the new solar panels at Goatsbridge Trout Farm in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny. The panels which will improve energy efficiency at the farm were supported with grant aid under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve scheme

Goatsbridge products are available in Irish retail outlets and are sold in 400 Sainsbury's outlets in the UK. Recently, the company landed a deal to stock its popular products through the Ocado online food company in the UK. Goatsbridge is currently pursuing exports further afield, with negotiations underway for a possible listing in the Dubai-based Spinneys supermarket and grocery chain, which has more than 65 locations across the UAE.

BIM CEO Caroline Bocquel said, "It is great to see at first hand the positive impact of the Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme on fish businesses, including Goatsbridge. Mag and Ger have been true champions in the Irish seafood industry for almost 30 years and are constantly adapting and innovating and seeking to be more efficient."

Goatsbridge Trout Farm was started by Ger Kirwan's father, Padraig, in 1961 when he created the first fish ponds on The Little Arrigle River in the heart of the Nore Valley. Ger and Mag took over the business in 2002.

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Kelly Oysters, a multi-award-winning seafood business based in Galway, is set to expand its sales of mussels for the domestic market following a recent investment.

The €172,000 investment has been supported by BIM, with €74,844 coming from the Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme.

This significant investment will enable Kelly Oysters to "mussel" in on the growing seafood market and meet the increasing demand for high-quality seafood in Ireland. The expansion is expected to create new jobs and help drive growth in the local economy. The investment is a testament to the quality of Kelly Oysters' products and the company's commitment to sustainability and innovation in the seafood industry.

The scheme, which will deliver up to €45 million in funding to the Irish seafood processing sector, is funded by the European Union under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve. It was recommended by the Seafood Taskforce established by Minister for the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D.

Diarmuid and Michael Kelly of Kelly's Oysters in Galway Bay. As well as supplying the Oyster Festivals, Kelly Oysters supplies oysters throughout Ireland and around the world. Last season, these much sought-after delicacies were exported to 14 different countries. Photo: Andrew DownesDiarmuid and Michael Kelly of Kelly's Oysters in Galway Bay. As well as supplying the Oyster Festivals, Kelly Oysters supplies oysters throughout Ireland and around the world. Last season, these much sought-after delicacies were exported to 14 different countries. Photo: Andrew Downes

Diarmuid Kelly, one of two brothers who runs the business, said the investment has seen the introduction of a new production system which will package small-sized bags of mussels suitable for home preparations. He sees this as opening the doors for new sales channels at home and abroad.

Kelly Oysters recently won a prestigious Euro-Toques Food Award for its outstanding Blue Rope Mussels, and for its contribution to regenerative aquaculture in Ireland. “We were so proud to win this award. It is recognition of the work we put into producing the finest shellfish possible.” said Diarmuid Kelly.

Kelly Oysters recently won a prestigious Euro-Toques Food Award for its outstanding Blue Rope MusselsKelly Oysters recently won a prestigious Euro-Toques Food Award for its outstanding Blue Rope Mussels

At present the live mussels produced by the Kelly’s are mainly packed in 10kg to 15 kg bags for the food service and wholesale market. But they are not suitable for retail sales.

Said Diarmuid Kelly: “We noticed an increase in demand from fish wholesalers for smaller sized packaging during the Covid-19 pandemic and this trend has remained. Market research is telling us that consumers are looking for produce that is semi prepared and ready to cook. Our new smaller 1kg packaging is an opportunity to drive increased sales into retail, and direct to consumer channels.”

Traditionally, handier 1kg net bags of mussels have been produced by hand, something which was very labour intensive. But thanks to the recent investment, supported by BIM, Kelly Oysters has introduced a product line that will prepare, weigh, pack and label 1kg bags of mussels that are fully traceable from farm to fork.

The live mussels produced by the Kelly’s are mainly packed in 10kg to 15 kg bags for the food service and wholesale marketThe live mussels produced by the Kelly’s are mainly packed in 10kg to 15 kg bags for the food service and wholesale market

“Our investment will add huge value to our existing produce,” said Diarmuid Kelly. “From existing inquiries, we estimate a demand of 20 tonnes of 1kg packs of mussels per annum, growing to 50 tonnes over three years. We are very excited about the new chapter and the prospect of welcoming new generations of shellfish lovers to our product.”

For more than seven decades the Kelly family has been successfully farming delicious, top quality oysters, mussels and shellfish in the crystal-clear waters of Galway Bay. Its sustainably farmed oysters grace the tables of some of the finest restaurants and hotels in Ireland and around the world.

Kelly Oysters was first set up by Diarmuid’s father, Michael, in 1952. At that stage there was only a wild stock of oysters on the west coast, and no oyster farming. “My grandfather, who was also called Michael, was an oyster dredger and he would dredge wild oysters from the bottom of the sea from a fishing boat. It was my father Michael who formally set up the business and started selling oysters to restaurants.”

Kelly Oysters is a multi-award-winning family seafood business based in GalwayKelly Oysters is a multi-award-winning family seafood business based in Galway

The passion and love for the business was passed down to sons Diarmuid and Micheal. But pivotal also to the business are their wives Mary (married to Micheal) and Theresa (married to Diarmuid) who work full time in the business. In addition, Micheals, son Michael junior, is on the staff of ten.

Said Diarmuid: “Where we are now is very much due to the hard work and dedication that our entire team put in every day. The Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme has been a huge help to us, and was the incentive for us to introduce our new product line which will help us become more efficient and to reach new customers.”

The Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit created several challenges for the business with significant disruption to sales.

“We realised to meet the economic and future needs of this family business; a new strategy was required which included adding value to existing products, and which did not rely solely on the existing wholesale foodservice market.”

Currently Kelly Oysters sell approximately 30 per cent of its product abroad, and 70 per cent to the domestic market. It exports oysters to 14 countries around the world, including Canada and Singapore.

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The Irish aquaculture sector has shown significant growth and sustained employment opportunities, according to the Annual Aquaculture Report for 2022 published by Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM). Despite a reduction in the number of Production Units (PUs) due to consolidation within the shellfish segments, employment increased in both the finfish and shellfish sectors. 

In 2022, the sector contributed €208 million to the economy, supporting 2,008 jobs and generating a full-time equivalent (FTE) of 1,177 across 292 PUs. The average individual salary for the year was €34,372 per worker. 

The report highlights that 44,623 tonnes of aquaculture products were sold directly at the farmgate, generating sales of €186 million, representing a 4% increase in both volume and value compared to the previous year. The production involved 554,000 culture structures, covering over 12,250 hectares of licensed ground throughout the country. 

The largest contributor to national sales value was the culture of Atlantic salmon, amounting to €104 million in 2022. This diverse segment demonstrated multiplier effects evident in turnover, employment, and gross value added. The mussel and oyster-producing segments led the sector in terms of employment, generating €76 million in 2022 and providing work for 1,693 people across 260 PUs. 

However, a survey on the sector's technical challenges highlighted the struggle of shellfish segments in sourcing or retaining suitably trained staff. To address this issue, businesses are exploring technologies that have the potential to reduce or eliminate labour-intensive tasks in production.

The full report is available at bim.ie

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Marine Minister Charlie McConalogue has announced a €25.6 million support package for the Irish pelagic fisheries sector.

The Pelagic Fisheries Support Scheme, funded under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve Fund, will compensate owners of Refrigerated Sea Water (RSW) pelagic vessels and polyvalent Tier 1 and Tier 2 vessels that have suffered losses of mackerel quota over the period 2021-2023 as a result of the quota transfers to the EU under Brexit.

The support is designed to stabilise cash flow and assist vessel owners to re-structure their operations in light of the loss of earnings associated with the reduction of available quota under the TCA. The short-term aid is essential financial support to allow the 23 RSW vessels and the 27 polyvalent Tier 1 and Tier 2 vessels sufficient time to put in place longer-term restructuring measures.

Minister McConalogue said: “This €25.6 million support for the RSW pelagic fleet segment recognises the impact of quota transfers to the UK from the EU under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), and in particular that this segment of the Irish fleet has suffered the largest TCA related quota reductions for the main target species of mackerel.”

The Pelagic Fisheries Support Scheme was one of the recommendations of the Seafood Taskforce appointed by the Minister. It is restricted to eligible vessels in the RSW pelagic segment and Polyvalent Tier 1 and Tier 2 vessels fishing for mackerel in 2021 and 2022. Payments under the scheme represent the value of reduced fishing opportunities that resulted from the actual loss of mackerel quota in 2021 and 2022 arising from the quota transfer of quota to the UK. In monetary terms, the loss of mackerel per vessel over the same period, equates to the loss of one month’s fishing opportunities per year, with payment calculated on the average monthly turnover per vessel, less cost of fuel and provisions, over the period 2018-2020, compensating for one month per annum for 2021 and 2022.

The Minister concluded: “The RSW pelagic fleet segment has suffered significant quota loss of some 20,130 tonnes worth approximately €27.3 million, and this much-needed support will go some way to supporting the segment to adjust to the changed situation we find ourselves in so as to ensure a profitable and sustainable fishing fleet into the future. Now that I have secured State Aid approval from the EU Commission, I will instruct BIM to administer this scheme without delay.”

Scheme information, once launched, will be available on BIMs website at BIM - The Brexit Adjustment Reserve Fund

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Award-winning Co. Louth seafood company, Morgan’s Fine Fish, has completed a €270,000 investment to make it more energy-efficient and competitive in an increasingly tough market.

The investment has been supported with funding of almost €100,000 from the Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme, implemented by BIM, Ireland’s seafood development agency.

The scheme, which will deliver up to €45 million in funding to the seafood processing sector, is funded by the European Union under the Brexit Adjustment Reserve. It was recommended by the Seafood Taskforce established by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie Monologue T.D.

Gillian Morgan, Sales Manager of Morgan’s Fine Fish, said the efficiencies the company has achieved with support from the Brexit Processing Capital Support Scheme will help it compete on a level playing field with international competition.

“We are now using premium technology to offer fresh or frozen fish products to the market. The investments we have made with the support of BIM will futureproof the company and help us remain competitive and to deliver new products.” she said,

One of the Brexit Process Capital Support Scheme grants supported Morgan’s in introducing solar panels and replacing a 20-year-old refrigeration system to make it more energy efficient.

The company also availed of funding to invest in state-of-the-art technology to maximise the use of white fish landings, and develop value-added products for the European market place.

Morgan’s was founded 163 years ago and is thought to be the oldest fish business in Ireland. It has 80 staff and is located in a scenic rural location overlooking Carlingford Lough and the Cooley mountains.

The business started with Gillian’s great-great grandfather in 1860, who operated from the local harbour with a small fishing boat. He also bought fish from other vessels. He sold his catch from a horse and cart as far away as Monaghan and Baileborough.

Gillian’s Dad, Pat, and uncle’s Arthur and Joe, are still working with Morgan’s Fine Fish today. Joe Morgan is the main fish buyer.

Gillian says developing convenient pre-packed product is the route to success. “Consumers can be a little bit intimidated by fish. What they want is high quality, ready to cook fish meals that they can put into the oven for a delicious meal. “

Recently Morgan’s Fine Fish was awarded the prestigious Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM)- sponsored Seafood Innovation Award at Irish food awards’ event, Blas na hÉireann, for its popular salmon darnes topped with garlic and herb butter and wrapped with Irish chorizo ribbon. The product is sold as part of Dunnes Stores' premium 'Simply Better' range.

The award recognises excellence in seafood innovation through the entire supply chain from product creation to the use of process technology to developing new markets.

“We were so proud to get this award,” said Gillian. “The partnership with Dunnes has been fantastic. The award was a real example of how embracing innovation and new technologies to create fantastic new products can give a competitive advantage. And it also showed the importance of partnering with a national brand like Dunnes.”

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An Irish aquatech company which has developed cutting-edge technology to provide a groundbreaking solution to measuring nitrate in water has been announced as the winner of the inaugural BIM Aquatech Business of the Year.

Aquamonitrix, based in Carlow, delivers a dataset to the water industry on nitrates and nitrites that are toxic to fish, but which were previously impossible to measure in real time.

The company was announced as the BIM Aquatech Business of the Year at a conference in Killarney titled “Aquatech – Ireland’s Global Opportunity”. The conference followed a two-week BIM Innovation Studio delivered by aquaculture accelerator Hatch Blue and supported by the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund.

Eight aquatech companies took part.

Mark Bowkett, Director of Aquamonitrix which has been named BIM Aquatech Business of the YearMark Bowkett, Director of Aquamonitrix which has been named BIM Aquatech Business of the Year

Aquamonitrix is an aquatech spin-out from the oil and environmental analysis company TE Laboratories, which started in 1991 carrying out fuel analysis. The company moved into environmental analysis and then developed a solution to monitoring water quality two years ago. Since then, the Aquamonitrix analyser has been bought by fish farms around the world.

Aquamonitrix Director, Mark Bowkett, said the company is delighted to be named the first BIM Aquatech Business of the Year. “This means a lot of us, especially as we are new to the aquaculture sector. Our participation in the BIM Innovation Studio Programme was a gamechanger, and helped us to develop this opportunity. It has been a steep learning curve. But the Innovation Studio helped us to determine that we had a value proposition for the aquaculture industry.”

Today the company employs more than 50 people and has customers from as far afield as Norway, the Netherlands and Canada.

Meanwhile, the conference heard that Ireland’s growing expertise in the developing aquatech sector means it has the potential to become a global leader in the field, with Irish aquatech companies turning over €200m last year.

BIM CEO Caroline Bocquel said over €15m has been invested in aquatech businesses and more than 200 high-tech jobs created in the sector over the last six years.

"Ireland has the potential to be the “Silicon Valley” of the aquatech world"

“Ireland is at a very exciting stage when it comes to aquatech. There are currently 62 aquatech companies operating here, all using technology to enable sustainable seafood farming at a time when the sector is facing many challenges.”

She added: “Ireland has the potential to be a world leader in aquatech and BIM is driving the sector’s development. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s Food Vision 2030 strategy is to “promote Ireland as a knowledge base for aquaculture technology and research and attract external investment into the sector.”

Congratulating Aquamonitrix on the award, she said the company is an example of the energy, innovation and talent that exists in the aquatech sector today.

BIM’s Development and Innovation Director Richard Donnelly said: “The scale of the opportunity is enormous. We believe that with proper supports Ireland has the potential to be the “Silicon Valley” of the aquatech world."

"We are starting to see some very significant investments and some brilliant ideas. For example, the use of AI to monitor and provide early warnings on the health of aquaculture fish stocks. The BIM Innovation Studio, now in its 6th year, has played a major role in supporting companies in developing technology and guiding them on attracting investors and commercial scalability.”

The other two Aquatech Business of the Year finalists were Aqualicence, a marine and offshore windfarm consultancy firm supporting on all aspects of licensing applications and Konree Innovation, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to outsmart infestation by sea lice, a parasite that affects salmon and other fish.

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Ireland’s potential in “aquatech” is the theme of a Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) conference in Kerry today, when one of the keynote speakers will ask why there has been no innovation in this area here in the last two decades.

As The Irish Times reports, Australian marine biologist Neil Sims recalls a conference here on “farming the deep blue” in 2004, where he says that international participants were “blown away” by the enthusiasm and innovative spirit of their Irish counterparts.

A report commissioned by BIM and the Marine Institute for that conference had made an “overwhelming” case for developing and expanding offshore aquaculture.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) had estimated two decades ago that the demand for fishery products would rise to 180 million tonnes by 2030. One of the report’s key conclusions was that finfish farming must move offshore for environmental reasons, including reduced impact on wild fisheries inshore.

Richard Donnelly, Development and Innovation Director of BIMRichard Donnelly, Development and Innovation Director of BIM

“I’d like to know what happened in Ireland since then,”Sims told The Irish Times, before travelling to Ireland, where he is one of several keynote speakers at the BIM conference in Killarney today.

Sims, a specialist in applied marine research, is based in Hawaii. His company, Ocean Era, has developed what is described as the first integrated hatchery and open ocean fish farm in North America.

“In the offshore aqua-technology space, I cannot think of one single innovation that has come out of Ireland in the last 20 years,” he says.

“It strikes me as disappointing, when the world desperately needs sustainable aquaculture, and when a number of leading environmental groups which had been having pitched battles over fish farming 20 years ago in the US now recognise that blue food is required and that a global climate crisis requires a softer planetary footprint,”Sims told the newspaper.

Ireland’s growing expertise in the developing aquatech sector means it has the potential to become a global leader in the field, with Irish aquatech companies turning over €200m last year, BIM has said..

Over €15m has been invested in aquatech businesses in the last six years, and more than 200 hi-tech jobs created in the sector, it says.

Aquatech is described as any technology or innovation driving sustainable seafood farming, and it can be applied progressively to the breeding, raising, and harvesting of fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants.

Participants at “Aquatech – Ireland’s Global Opportunity” in the Brehon Hotel, Killarney, Co Kerry include the Senior Vice President of the world’s first aquatech unicorn company, E-fishery; a US sustainable seafood expert; a global off-shore aquaculture pioneer, along with a host of Irish aquatech entrepreneurs, and representatives from the Irish Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF).

BIM chief executive Caroline Bocquel said: “We have over 60 companies working in aquatech here, and the sector is worth about €200m. Hatch Blue, who we work closely with, is a major aquatech-focused venture capital firm based in Cork, which has already made Irish-based aquaculture investments."

"We’re starting to see some very significant investments and some brilliant ideas – for example, the use of AI to monitor and provide early warnings on the health of aquaculture fish stocks,” Bocquel said.

The conference is linked to the BIM Innovation Studio, an intensive two week no-fee programme that aims to develop the technological readiness, industry fitness and commercial scalability of emerging aquatech startups.

Funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) and now in its sixth year, the initiative seeks out projects in Ireland and other European countries that aim to upscale the region’s aquaculture or alt-seafood industries.

To date, the total investment attracted is close to 50 projects and companies that have completed the Innovation Studio over the past six years – including 2023 - is €15.1M, with over 200 hi-tech jobs created, BIM says.

Several companies involved in this year’s Innovation Studio attended a delegation to Southeast Asia earlier this year with Hatch to grow their network and learn more about their potential market. The delegation has secured potential business opportunities on foot of this, BIM says.

The Innovation Studio supports the ambitious goals set out in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s Food Vision 2030 Strategy, namely to ‘promote Ireland as a knowledge base for aquaculture technology and research and attract external investment into the sector’, BIM says.

Read The Irish Times report here

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Marine Institute Research Vessel Tom Crean

Ireland’s new marine research vessel will be named the RV Tom Crean after the renowned County Kerry seaman and explorer who undertook three major groundbreaking expeditions to the Antarctic in the early years of the 20th Century which sought to increase scientific knowledge and to explore unreached areas of the world, at that time.

Ireland's new multi-purpose marine research vessel RV Tom Crean, was delivered in July 2022 and will be used by the Marine Institute and other State agencies and universities to undertake fisheries research, oceanographic and environmental research, seabed mapping surveys; as well as maintaining and deploying weather buoys, observational infrastructure and Remotely Operated Vehicles.

The RV Tom Crean will also enable the Marine Institute to continue to lead and support high-quality scientific surveys that contribute to Ireland's position as a leader in marine science. The research vessel is a modern, multipurpose, silent vessel (designed to meet the stringent criteria of the ICES 209 noise standard for fisheries research), capable of operating in the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The Tom Crean is able to go to sea for at least 21 days at a time and is designed to operate in harsh sea conditions.

RV Tom Crean Specification Overview

  • Length Overall: 52.8 m
  • Beam 14m
  • Draft 5.2M 

Power

  • Main Propulsion Motor 2000 kw
  • Bow Thruster 780 kw
  • Tunnel thruster 400 kw

Other

  • Endurance  21 Days
  • Range of 8,000 nautical miles
  • DP1 Dynamic Positioning
  • Capacity for 3 x 20ft Containers

Irish Marine Research activities

The new state-of-the-art multi-purpose marine research vessel will carry out a wide range of marine research activities, including vital fisheries, climate change-related research, seabed mapping and oceanography.

The new 52.8-metre modern research vessel, which will replace the 31-metre RV Celtic Voyager, has been commissioned with funding provided by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine approved by the Government of Ireland.

According to Aodhán FitzGerald, Research Vessel Manager of the MI, the RV Tom Crean will feature an articulated boom crane aft (6t@ 10m, 3T@ 15m), located on the aft-gantry. This will be largely used for loading science equipment and net and equipment handling offshore.

Mounted at the stern is a 10T A-frame aft which can articulate through 170 degrees which are for deploying and recovering large science equipment such as a remotely operated vehicle (ROV’s), towed sleds and for fishing operations.

In addition the fitting of an 8 Ton starboard side T Frame for deploying grabs and corers to 4000m which is the same depth applicable to when the vessel is heaving but is compensated by a CTD system consisting of a winch and frame during such operations.

The vessel will have the regulation MOB boat on a dedicated davit and the facility to carry a 6.5m Rigid Inflatable tender on the port side.

Also at the aft deck is where the 'Holland 1' Work class ROV and the University of Limericks 'Etain' sub-Atlantic ROV will be positioned. In addition up to 3 x 20’ (TEU) containers can be carried.

The newbuild has been engineered to endure increasing harsher conditions and the punishing weather systems encountered in the North-East Atlantic where deployments of RV Tom Crean on surveys spent up to 21 days duration.

In addition, RV Tom Crean will be able to operate in an ultra silent-mode, which is crucial to meet the stringent criteria of the ICES 209 noise standard for fisheries research purposes.

The classification of the newbuild as been appointed to Lloyds and below is a list of the main capabilities and duties to be tasked by RV Tom Crean:

  • Oceanographic surveys, incl. CTD water sampling
  • Fishery research operations
  • Acoustic research operations
  • Environmental research and sampling operation incl. coring
  • ROV and AUV/ASV Surveys
  • Buoy/Mooring operations