Flipping oysters, better baseball, zero-emission power for ships: Ignition grants announced

The P.E.I. government has announced the 10 companies that will receive Ignition grants of $25,000 each for 2017.

Ignition grants were first awarded in 2014

Jordan Samson, Brett McDermott and Dylan MacIsaac pose with Island Aquatech's oyster flipper. (Island Aquatech)

The P.E.I. government has announced the 10 companies that will receive Ignition grants of $25,000 each for 2017.

The fund was created in 2014 to assist new and expanding businesses. The 2017 recipients are:

  • Exit Speed: To patent and market a training device for increasing bat speed in baseball and softball players.
  • Island Aquatech: To commercialize an oyster cage flipper, a device that makes maintenance of oyster beds less physically demanding.
  • Redrock Power Systems: To develop and commercialize zero-emission fuel cells for the marine industry.
  • Fresh Start Fauxmage: To produce nut-based, dairy-free vegan cheese.
  • Lighters Candle Company: To produce soy wax candles and home products.
  • MacWorth Industries: To produce the Highway Safety Prevention Bar, a safety device intended for use on school buses.
  • Taylor Pharmaceuticals: To develop and manufacture a hybrid, high-flow nasal irrigation device.
  • Bony Broth Co.: To increase production, enable export, and develop new products.
  • FieldEtect: To commercialize a handheld device that will identify DNA of known pathogens in agriculture.
  • Cradle Technology Design: To develop a urinanalysis device to provide athletes with health data to help optimize their performance.

In a news release, Economic Development Minister Heath MacDonald said the grants would help the companies create jobs and increase provincial exports.

'Dreamers and doers'

"For a small province we have a large number of dreamers and doers — and the Ignition Fund is one more way we are helping Islanders turn their big dreams into reality," the release said.

That's true for three young entrepreneurs who aren't even out of university yet. Dylan McIsaac, Jordan Sampson and Brett McDermott formed Island Aquatech, after a successful second-year project at the U.P.E.I. School for Sustainable Engineering. 

Representatives from 10 Island companies were on hand for the announcement they will receive support from the provincial government under the Ignition fund. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC)

Working with industry, after several tries they had a product that worked.

"There was trail and error, we did a lot of modelling on our software at the school, we were able to make a small scale prototype, and we ended up testing it in my pool actually at the start of the summer and it worked well," McIsaac said.

The oysters are grown in large cages, about 200 pounds each, that have to be flipped regularily to prevent bacteria and other contaminates from building up.

"They're all in these boats, and they're in a big basket off the side so they're probably about chest high in freezing cold water, they probably do it for nine months a year, 10 hours a day so it's really hard, laborious work," McDermott said. 

'Do everything by itself'

"So what we're doing is having a boat attachment attached to the side and it will do everything by itself."

The automation will make oyster production more efficient, Sampson said. 

"They'll probably be able to reduce the crew to two people, so this will allow them to expand their company, expand the amount of cages they have. We've also heard they've had a very hard time recruiting workers because it is very, very hard work so a lot of the companies are having a hard time adding cages for that reason."

The company plans to use the funds to incorporate and to develop their production model. 

With files from Natalia Goodwin