Ross Arsenault

Ross Arsenault

Ross Arsenault, a Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer at Halifax oceantech company Ashored Innovations, has won the $10,000 first prize at the Canadian finals of the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards.

Arsenault, who is now completing the Masters of Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation program at Saint Mary’s University, received the award at a competition in Toronto last month.

Representing the Atlantic region, he was competing against finalists representing five other regions in Canada. He will now proceed to the global finals of GSEA in Capetown, South Africa, in April, where the top prize is US$25,000.

“It’s nice to get this recognition, especially in something that is so industry-agnostic,” said Arsenault in an interview. “When people look at Nova Scotia, they tend to call it a have-not province. But with the ocean, we have a resource that few places can match."

Arsenault and his fellow SMU students Aaron Stevenson and Maxwell Poole founded Ashored two years ago to help reduce the risks the fishery poses to marine animals.

The company’s fishing equipment reduces the danger of animals such as whales becoming entangled in ropes and the hazard posed by lost equipment littering the ocean floor. Its first product, the Modular Ocean Based Instrument, or MOBI, is a lobster trap buoy that is positioned near the ocean floor and released only when the fishing boat approaches.

The team conducted the first sea trials of MOBI in late 2018. That product had a timer for unraveling the spool and it established the basic functionality of the product in the open ocean. Working with the Halifax engineering company Enginuity, Ashored last autumn tested an improved product in which the spool unwinds on command via a radio signal as the fishing boat approaches.

Now, the company plans to take what it has learned and re-engineer MOBI to devise a product it can take to market. It's planning more extensive pilot projects and possibly some early sales this summer, and then a full release in 2021.

Ashored was the only Canadian company accepted into the MassChallenge accelerator in Boston last summer, and was one of two companies to receive a US$75,000 (C$98,000) platinum award at the MassChallenge demo day in October. The platinum award is given to two runners-up at the demo day.

Next week, the company will attend the Gear Innovation Summit hosted by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Halifax.

Ashored, which now employs six people, raised $300,000 in convertible debt from friends and family last autumn. It plans to raise its seed funding round in the spring with a target of $1.2 million.

Stevenson told Entrevestor last fall that one advantage the company has as it courts investors is that Ashored has the validation of competing with 3,000 startups to get into MassChallenge and ending up in the top three in the program. What’s more, he said the program was a great stepping stone into a key strategic market with major knowledge and customer bases.