Innovation Day focused on Synergies Between Technology and Fishery Sectors
by Craig Rowe, Chair, NATI Board of Directors

There’s no industry more deeply rooted in our history than the fishery. There’s no trait more deeply ingrained in who we are as people than innovation. In what at first might seem like an unlikely pairing, the technology and innovation sector in Newfoundland and Labrador sees tremendous opportunity to work with the fishery to increase competitiveness, expand markets and help bring increased economic value to the province and its people.

The local technology and innovation sector and the fishery each bring more than $1.3B into the province each year. As we fully leverage the opportunity to work together, we know this benefit will only grow and accelerate as the two sectors find new ways to collaborate to solve problems, deliver leading innovation and drive growth.

On July 2, 2019,  the 27th anniversary of the cod moratorium, we held a NATI Innovation Day in partnership with the Offshore Fishery Association that focused on Building an Innovative Fishery for the Future. Close to 100 leaders in industry, business, government, and academia gathered to celebrate the innovation that is already happening in the fishery and the potential for the future. Through a panel discussion, the unlikely pairing of the two sectors was no more, as it became evident they clearly have something to offer each other – new opportunities.

Jim Locke, VP at NavSim Technology offered the lens of the province’s technology and innovation sector.  While his company is largely focused on global markets, he expressed his optimism that a derivative of what NavSim is doing globally can be brought to the fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. Likely unchartered territory for the sector, Locke expressed how important it is for other local technology companies to take advantage of the platform, awareness and connections NATI is creating through its Innovation Days series.

The opportunity for partnerships, often overlooked, was hard to miss at the event as Locke sat with Alberto Wareham, CEO of Icewater Seafoods to his right, and Ocean Choice VP Carey Bonnell to his left. The two companies are leaders in innovation in the fishery, investing in technology at sea and on land to improve research, support resource sustainability, reduce environmental footprint and improve economic contributions of their respective year-round operations.

Ocean Choice is investing tens of millions of dollars on a new state-of-the-art fishing vessel that will be the first groundfish vessel in Canada to hold the Green Ship designation. The ship will have a winch-based system that has regenerative power. Energy generated from setting the trawl will be reclaimed and use to run the vessel, reducing carbon footprint and fuel costs. Ocean Choice is also heavily involved in the Ocean Supercluster and is a partner in the inaugural project led by Kraken Robotics to use robotics to map the ocean floor.

Wareham’s Icewater Seafoods operations in Arnold’s Cove is investing $10M over three-years in technology to maintain its place as the only world-class processor of North Atlantic Cod in North America. The investment underpins an important message of NATI’s; technology and automation doesn’t mean job loss; it means more opportunity.  Icewater, for example, employs 215 people nearly year-round, 20 more than it did before the investments began. For Ocean Choice, their new vessel alone will create 70 more year-round jobs at sea.

Rounding out the panel was Kelly Moret, Associate Director at the Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Resources at the Marine Institute. Moret spoke to her unique experience examining the value chain of the fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador and comparing it to those in Iceland and Norway. She echoed the importance of investment, innovation and collaboration.

Moret, sat with reports on demographics in the province’s fishery stacked in front of her, emphasized the importance of treating the fishery like a business, rather than a model for socio-economic dependency, regardless of the size of the vessel. She highlighted the need to focus on extracting the highest value for the products landed. Innovation and technology are an important part of that.

Opportunities to collaborate with a local companies like Ocean Choice, Icewater Seafood, and others, that are competing in a global market and investing in the future, as well as the incredible work happening at Marine Institute, opens the door for both sectors to capitalize on the local talent, innovation, and world-class technology that is developed right here.

The ocean economy is our stake in the ground as a province, and a strength more broadly as a region. Through the Ocean Supercluster and other key initiatives, we know we’ve just scratched the surface in what is possible through this kind of collaboration, and NATI looks forward to continued collaboration with the fishery, other ocean industries, as well as others embracing technology.

Craig Rowe
Chair, NL Association of Technology and Innovation (NATI)
Founder, Clear Risk Inc.