Nova Scotia

Ocean-based startup companies in Atlantic Canada make top 10 in global list

Rankings by international research organization announced Wednesday

Posted: November 03, 2022

Louis Beaubien is CEO of BlueNode, a Halifax data software company that is part of Atlantic Canada’s ocean startup sector. (David Laughlin/CBC)

Atlantic Canada's ocean technology startup sector has been ranked in the top 10 in a new report on the global blue economy.

An international organization that promotes entrepreneurship, Startup Genome, issued the rankings on Wednesday. In comparison,Vancouver's startup hub was ranked 14th.

The blue economy is an attempt to make more responsible use of  ocean resources. 

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"It's very exciting to see that Atlantic Canada is ranked in the top 10. We are 10th though. So I think there is certainly more opportunity for us to continue on our growth trajectory,"said Kendra MacDonald, CEO of the Ocean Supercluster, a federal innovation fund, headquartered in St. John's.

The Ocean Supercluster may be one reason for the region's relatively high ranking. The report said most investment in ocean startup companies around the world comes from the public sector.

In 2018, Canada committed $153 million to the Ocean Supercluster to drive innovation and promote new business.

Innovacorp 10th in top investor startups

The Supercluster said it has approved 70 projects with a total value of more than $360 million, including private-sector money, which will deliver more than 120 new made-in-Canada ocean products.

The Startup Genome report ranked Nova Scotia Crown corporation Innovacorp 10th in top investors in startups.

MacDonald said more private sector investment is flowing into startups but government money gets them off the ground.

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"The need for public investment will continue to be there, the need to be able to support research, that will continue to be there because these are complicated scientific questions. They take time in terms of hardware and software in a number of cases to be able to build up the opportunity," she said.

BlueNode is a Halifax startup that plans to take the next step: selling artificial intelligence software it has developed to streamline shipping routes.

A container ship docked in the Port of Halifax in this 2021 file photo.   (Submitted by Halifax Port Authority)

The company is leading a $3-million project funded by the Ocean Supercluster to analyze huge data sets generated by AI to find the best route for goods from their source to final destination.

AI and port shipping

CEO Louis Beaubien said the software "looks for patterns, looks for new pathways where we can estimate new optimal routes to get cargo from point A to point B, new ways to transition cargo that's on a ship into a port. And then on a train and get it out to the marketplace."

The project is focused on the Port of Halifax, where he is working with Swedish company Saab, container terminal operator PSA and the Halifax Port Authority.

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Beaubien predicts markets outside the province will be interested thanks to the work being developed and demonstrated here.

Shipping logistics are just one of many ocean technologies, he said. Other startups are focused on improving wild-capture fisheries, aquaculture, underwater robotics and sensors.

"Every part of that ocean startup space and the modern ocean economy takes place here in Nova Scotia. And it has a huge impact on what we do every day, where the really, truly interesting jobs are and where the really interesting science is being done at places like Dalhousie and BIO [Bedford Institute of Oceanography, a federal research centre]," he said.

Europe global leader 

The report said Europe is the global leader in blue economy startups, holding 39 per cent of the share and producing the highest number of early stage deals. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Withers
Reporter

Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.