The Alaska Ocean Cluster merges with the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, rebrands as the AFDF Startup Accelerator
WRANGELL, Alaska – The Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association (BSFA) and the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation (AFDF) are excited to announce the transfer of the Alaska Ocean Cluster from BSFA to AFDF. The Alaska Ocean Cluster will become a program of AFDF and be rebranded the AFDF Startup Accelerator.
“The largest component of Alaska’s Blue Economy is the seafood industry, which has many research and development needs, particularly related to technology. The Alaska Ocean Cluster has developed a creative approach to support early-stage companies as they grow, partner with industry, and help realize the potential of our maritime industries. AFDF believes that by combining our efforts and expertise, we can unlock more benefits for the seafood industry and coastal communities,” said Julie Decker, Executive Director of AFDF. “We are excited to integrate the program with AFDF and look forward to working closely with our members to strengthen and build upon what’s been started.”
Founded and incubated by the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association since 2017 with support from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the Alaska Ocean Cluster is one of a dozen programs around the country advancing sustainable economic development in the Blue Economy, including Washington Maritime Blue, SeaAhead, and Gulf of Maine Ventures.
Revitalized as a startup accelerator in October 2020 by managing directors Garrett Evridge and Taylor Drew Holshouser, the program has supported more than 16 startups, facilitated multiple deployment projects, and built a globe-spanning network of early-stage founders, investors, philanthropists, and strategic partners. In the last two years, the team has:
● Tested salmon bycatch reduction technology in the Bering Sea aboard three pollock trawlers with SafetyNet Technologies, Denali Commission, and Coastal Villages Region Fund.
● Researched the availability of commercially valuable shellfish byproducts present in Alaska with Sandia National Laboratories.
● Supported development of an improved sea ice forecasting model with PolArctic LLC. and Alaska commercial fishermen.
● Worked with the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks to improve the commercial crab offloading process.
● Developed and hosted a two-day event focused on technological innovation needs for U.S. commercial fishermen with Seafood Harvesters of America, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Schmidt Marine Technology Partner, among others.
● Presented at public forums including Pacific Marine Expo, ComFish, Alaska Bycatch Reduction Taskforce, Alaska Mariculture Conference, Arctic Encounter, and the Arctic Circle Assembly.
● Secured a resolution of support from the Alaska Legislature.
● Secured funding through 2024 from Builders Vision, an impact platform founded by Lukas and Samantha Walton.
Moving forward, the AFDF Startup Accelerator will be guided by an Industry Advisory Committee in order to bring focus and synergy between its efforts and the priorities for technology, research and development in the Alaska seafood industry. Garrett Evridge has joined AFDF as Director of the AFDF Startup Accelerator. Taylor Drew Holshouser is leaving to pursue a full-time opportunity with a family investment office, however, will remain involved as a senior advisor and mentor with the program.
ABOUT ALASKA FISHERIES DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION
Founded in 1978, AFDF is a collaboration of harvesters, processors, and support sector businesses dedicated to making opportunities out of challenges using research and development. AFDF’s mission is to identify common opportunities in the Alaska seafood industry and to develop efficient, sustainable outcomes that provide benefits to the economy, environment and communities.
ABOUT BERING SEA FISHERMEN’S ASSOCIATION
Since 1979, BSFA has worked to support healthy and vibrant fishing communities by fostering greater social, financial, and political capacity to access, sustainably develop and protect fisheries in the Arctic, Yukon, Kuskokwim, and Bristol Bay regions of Alaska. BSFA is committed to the sustainable management of Alaska’s resources and serves as a steward of the extraordinary ways of life and cultures of Alaskans. The organization works to strengthen local communities, support long-term ecologicalintegrity, and stimulate robust economies.