By Kelly Harrell, Executive Director
AMCC decided to take the plunge this spring and submit our concept for scaling up local seafood sales through creation of the Alaska Community Seafood Hub to the international fisheries-focused business plan competition known as Fish 2.0. This was the second time the ground-breaking competition has been hosted after first launching to high acclaim in 2013. For those in the fisheries world, Fish 2.0 quickly became the go-to place for those interested in advancing cutting-edge business models focused on the triple-bottom line of social, environmental, and economic impact.
When I left Alaska to head to Stanford last week, situated in the heart of Silicon Valley, I had no idea what to expect. I was thrilled that AMCC made it to the finals for our place-based, social enterprise business model and honored to be part of a global gathering of innovative fisheries entrepreneurs. I was both nervous and excited at the opportunity to share our work with other fish businesses and impact investors.
Salty Girls Seafood and Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust were also finalists. Colleagues from Real Good Fish, Credibles, as well as another Alaska competitor, ORCA (Ocean Rich Communities of Alaska), and Ian Dutton from Anchorage, now with Nautilus Impact Investing were also present. Off the Hook Seafood Hub from Nova Scotia and Smart Fish based out of La Paz, Mexico which both have similar business models to ours were also finalists and runners up. As an Alaskan, I of course had mixed feelings about the number of aquaculture focused businesses in the competition. But I was pleased to see the advances being made in land-based aquaculture systems as well as innovations in fish feed made from insects and algae, as opposed to wild fish. A large number of Pacific Islanders were present, as well as companies from Thailand, Switzerland, and Australia. Environmental funders and impact investors from groups like RSF Social Finance, the Calvert Foundation, and Aqua Spark rounded out the crowd.
announced we were one of the winners in our track, it was really icing on the cake by that point. I was honored to get to be up on the stage with the other winners and of course excited to take home $5,000 for AMCC. But by then, we all knew that nearly everyone in the crowd was worthy of that level of recognition and support. Fishing is behind the game when it comes to smart innovations in technology and business to help further the long-term health of our fisheries, oceans and coastal communities. We truly are all swimming together, and it was eye-opening to view our work as part of a national and global mosaic of fish-focused entrepreneurial efforts. We certainly plan to stay connected with other businesses and contacts we met at Fish 2.0, especially those advancing seafood hub models, and are hopeful that the exposure results in increased support for our work.
In September, AMCC also learned that the Alaska Community Seafood Hub received a $96,000 grant from the USDA Local Foods Promotion Program. With this support, we will hire a full-time staff member that is solely focused on local seafood sales and operations. We’ll also engage a communications firm to help create the Alaska Community Seafood Hub brand. This funding will be critical in allowing us to expand our seafood offerings, better serve our current customers, and expand to new communities in Alaska.
Adding to the momentum are discussions AMCC has been in with economic players and food businesses about bringing food hubs to Alaska, including a facility in Anchorage that would have amenities like a commercial kitchen and freezer storage space. AMCC and the Alaska Food Policy Council helped bring a Wallace Center workshop on food hubs to Anchorage in October that was attended by food leaders from across the state.
None of this progress would have been possible without the support of our Catch of the Season customers, the fishermen and processors we work with, Kodiak Jig supporters, members, and partners like you. You have made it possible for us to successfully build a local seafood sales program that connects Alaskans to our local fishermen and coastal communities. Thank you so much for your support and stay tuned for more to come soon!