BUOY MAINE: rising together during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond
About Buoy Maine
Buoy Maine fosters innovation and entrepreneurship to support Maine’s working waterfront and coastal communities. This effort, designed in collaboration with concerned coastal community organizations, focuses on strengthening coastal/marine seafood and tourism related industries, highlighting the Maine Brand and experience, building resiliency, and helping Maine’s coastal businesses redefine operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Maine Sea Grant hosted two lively and successful Buoy Maine pitch events in October 26 and 27. Participants enjoyed the competitive challenge of the pitch format and received constructive feedback from a panel of judges to further develop their ideas. The event has already catalyzed several new partnerships, and we hope to continue the networking and learning with our funded projects throughout the next steps of our process.
The Buoy Maine team is happy to report these pitch competition winners:
This project aims to create a new Maine branded product, kelp fertilizer, that helps reduce waste from kelp farming by creating a value-added product from the kelp loss associated with harvest. With a new product to market, farmers (many of whom are lobstermen looking to supplement their income and diversify their business) will be able to grow more kelp and bring income to this sector after the loss of markets from COVID-19 that hit them hard. The project team will work with the University of Maine Soil Testing Lab to conduct micronutrient analysis and an independent company for expertise in fertilizers to develop digital assets to support the commercialization of the end products.
Marin Skincare will work with lobster processors to increase the supply of glycoprotein, a compound found in lobsters that is used as an active skincare ingredient, to develop a line of four new skin care products. A major goal of this project is to refine the methods and protocols for glycoprotein extraction so they can be easily implemented across multiple lobster processors. Glycoprotein comes from an otherwise discarded part of the lobster, and an increase in demand for products that utilize the protein will create additional value that will broadly benefit the Maine lobster industry.
Project partners will develop digital and social media assets to support the EatMaineSeafood hashtag, which showcases businesses from Maine that are selling local seafood and supporting Maine fishing families. Project funds will support website development and promotion by the project partners: Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, Maine Aquaculture Association, Downeast Dayboat, and Aragosta Mama.
Lady Shuckers is a women-led, mobile raw bar, artisanal shop, and event-planning company focused on supporting and selling aquaculture products produced by female-owned sea farms throughout Maine. Funds will be used to build out a mobile raw bar, to develop the brand and create marketing materials, and to advance the visibility of women-owned businesses in Maine’s seafood industry.
The University of Maine Aquaculture Research Institute, partners at the University’s Pilot Food Plant, and the A.M. Look Canning Company will develop processes for canning four species of Maine shellfish. These sample canning runs will be used for sensory analysis and market investigation to address the $40 million trade deficit in canned seafood and the growth in US canned seafood demand. This project aims to open up access to new markets by expanding the shelf life of shellfish, and was developed in response to industry needs during the pandemic.
The Maine Aquaculture Association will advance the capacity of the Maine Oyster Trail by developing an interactive website and increasing the offerings through the Trail to include activities such as pop-up events, tours, and a ‘passport’ for Oyster Trail travelers. This project aims to elevate Maine’s oyster industry through marketing, which will benefit oyster farms throughout the state and pave the way for similar efforts for other harvested shellfish species. As a tourism-driven tool, the Trail also presents an opportunity for diversification in the oyster industry through integration with tourism.
Twelve oyster producers in the New Meadows River Shellfish Co-op will explore ways to collectively brand and promote the New Meadows River as a distinct growing area, and to support small, family-run oyster farms. Funds will be used to develop marketing materials and a shared strategy, and to create a template for use by other oyster producing regions in Maine. This project aims to develop a regional brand to help gain wider recognition in the market, similar to how wines market regional varieties of grapes.
Maine Seafood Discovery Tours will continue to develop a COVID-safe program for visitors to Damariscotta, focusing on the area’s oyster industry. These ‘TeleTours’ will allow visitors and tourists to have the Maine experience while staying safe during COVID-19. The approach to be developed in Damariscotta during this project will then serve as a model for other tourism businesses throughout Maine. Funding will support development time, operations, and website development.
The Downeast Institute and Blue Hill Bay Mussels have collaborated to produce hatchery-raised mussel seed that has a predominance of gold-colored shell. Funds will be used to help market the fully-grown product, to increase the brand recognition, and to diversify the mussel production opportunities for Maine farmers. This unique, speciality product will help growers command a higher price when market saturation is high, making businesses more diverse and resilient.
Nine oyster farms on the Damariscotta River will work together toward advancing the brand of Damariscotta-grown oysters. Funds will be used to develop a website to highlight the products of the river, a logo, and promotional materials to bring the message to consumers. Developing a regional brand will help bring attention to the diverse tastes of oysters across Maine and will bring name recognition of products to a national level.
All awarded projects showcased their progress in a public event in 2021 in a celebration of the accomplishments of all the awardees. View Gayle Zydlewski’s welcome and introduction to the event:
Coastal Enterprises, Inc.
DownEast Acadia Regional Tourism
Maine Aquaculture Association
Maine Department of Economic & Community Development
Maine Department of Marine Resources
Maine Office of Tourism
Slow Money Maine
Sunrise County Economic Council
UMaine Office of Innovation and Economic Development
Judges for the Pitch Competition
- Martha Bentley – Director, of Economic Development Coordination, Maine Dept. of Economic and Community Development
- John Burns – Managing Director, Maine Venture Fund
- Tony Cameron – Chief Executive Officer, Maine Tourism Association
- Crystal Hitchings – Program Coordinator, Sunrise County Economic Council & DownEast Acadia Regional Tourism
- Emily Lane – Blue Lobster Consulting, LLC
Email Keri Kaczor
Please note that email is the most reliable way to reach us at the moment, as we are mostly still working remotely due to COVID-19, but should contacting us by phone be more convenient for you, we will check messages regularly at (207) 288-2944 ext 5834, and call you back ASAP.