The Seafood Innovation Project fostered relationships that promise to improve Indonesia's critical seafood sector for years to come
THE SEAFOOD INNOVATION PROJECT
Marine ecosystems around the world, from polar waters to coral reefs, are collapsing. Overfishing and pollution, as well as climate change, are among the major threats. Fish stocks are depleting as seafood demand continues to rise.
As the second-largest seafood producer in the world, Indonesia has the potential to radically transform the global seafood sector. It’s also a country renowned for its entrepreneurial spirit.
For these reasons, SecondMuse was drawn to Indonesia in 2018 to launch the Seafood Innovation Project (SIP) — an accelerator and community-building program that supported six promising innovators working to make the fishing industry more sustainable by developing their business and impact in Indonesia.
The 8-month project was run in collaboration with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Like all of our programming, it was premised on our conviction that building and supporting communities is fundamental to nurturing entrepreneurs and the economies they’re part of.
For that reason, before launching the program, we began by bringing together 22 stakeholders from different segments of Indonesia’s seafood industry to understand key challenges the industry faces, and lay the groundwork to build an SIP community.
The conversations dug into practical, on-the-ground challenges: What contributed to poor environmental standards? What sort of financial conditions were preventing small-holder fishers and fish farmers from accessing the capital required to make sustainable shifts?
The answers to these sorts of questions helped shape the program’s Challenge Statement, which called on innovators around the world to share novel technology, innovative financing ideas, and market-demand solutions that would help make Indonesia’s seafood industry more sustainable.
Over 80 teams applied to the accelerator. Stakeholders from across the seafood sector helped whittle the pool down to 17 finalists who were shortlisted for an interview.
Ultimately, six innovation teams were chosen to participate in the accelerator. Hailing from diverse regions and backgrounds, the teams were working to develop or fine-tune everything from digital platforms to physical tools aquaculture farmers and fishers could use to do their work more sustainably.
The Europe-based SafetyNet team, for example, came to the program seeking to expand its award-winning light-based technology that helps fishers better attract the size and species of fish they are licensed to catch — and avoid pulling in undesired or even endangered fish.
The team behind the Asian Seafood Improvement Collaborative (ASIC) created a stakeholder-developed supply chain platform specific for the Asian market that can recognize and reward small-holder farmers who integrate sustainability practices.
Other teams focused on issues related to finance, the logistics of storing and transporting fish, and using data and technology to sustainably increase farmers’ and fishers’ yields.
The six innovation teams came together for a weeklong summit to present their products and get to know the SIP community and potential investors.
Participants were impressed with the intensity of creativity and the spirit of collaboration and community at the summit.
“It’s very positive people, very positive thinking,” said Patrice Vandendeale of AlgaeVeg, which offers innovative systems for sustainable seaweed farming. “It’s like a big family [after only] a few days. It’s amazing.”
Following the summit, the innovators participated in a six-month online accelerator program that consisted of individual mentorship as well as peer support from their cohort.
As a result of the accelerator, innovators were able to pilot their products in Indonesia, secure larger investments and strengthen their brand presence, among other successes.
“I thoroughly enjoyed and gained a lot of knowledge – from starting up in Indonesia [and] accessing partnerships to dealing with investors,” said Rajamanohar Somasundaram of FarmMOJO, a machine learning-based mobile application that helps shrimp farmers achieve more sustainable farming practices.
Beyond supporting six groups of innovators, the program also fostered dozens of connections between businesses, academics, investors, fishing communities, nonprofits, government and industry groups working toward a more sustainable seafood industry.
Though the SIP program has ended, these relationships — forged with intention and our fundamental belief in the power of community-building — ensure our work to make Indonesia’s vital seafood industry more sustainable lives on.
“When I worked in business accelerators before, I felt the MO was that entrepreneurs must always be ‘on,’ and even talking about failures with others must be carefully crafted,” she says. “What was so beautiful about the first cohort is that a lot of entrepreneurs were comfortable speaking openly about their anxiety or insecurity.”COVID hit just as the first accelerator was getting started. The timing caused plenty of anxiety, and prompted the Headstream team to be intentional about addressing founder mental health and wellbeing.
“We took the mission of Headstream and turned it on ourselves,” she says. “If we had a meeting with someone and that person seemed distraught, we would not just push through the discomfort and talk about budget and marketing plans. We spent a lot of time on issues of confidence, insecurity, imposter syndrome.”
It was a natural shift to make, considering Headstream’s larger mission, which is ultimately about improving lives. The SecondMuse program, launched in 2018, is dedicated to improving the lives of every young person in the U.S. It is pursuing this goal by working to understand and shape the burgeoning economy around digital innovation and youth wellbeing.