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Ocean Innovators: Aaron Stevenson, Ashored

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Innovacorp helps build ocean technology start-ups in Nova Scotia. We offer them access to venture capital, acceleration programs, non-dilutive funding, and incubation space at Start-Up Yard at COVE. These start-ups are helping transform our economy and protect our ocean. Get to know their amazing stories.

Aaron Stevenson and Ross Arsenault, co-founders of Ashored, describe their company as being "born global," which references how quickly they realized their product is something every coastal country in the world could use.

A resident at Innovacorp's Start-Up Yard, Ashored develops technology and gear innovations for the fisheries and aquaculture sector, specifically commercial fisheries. For the first two years, they focused on a system designed to reduce the amount of ghost gear (i.e., discarded, lost or abandoned fishing gear) that ends up in our ocean. Recently though, as often happens with start-ups, the team discovered that each component of their system — all seven of them — was independently viable with established customer bases.

Ross and Aaron founded Ashored while masters students at Saint Mary's. They met after their respective presentations at an Innovacorp-led ocean challenge event.

"Ross came to talk to me about complementary ideas he was working on. But it was more than the ideas that felt compatible, there was also an alignment in values."

Aaron credits the evolution of Ashored to networks and individuals who gave their time and advice.

"I learned something every time I shared the vision for Ashored. Being part of start-up competitions and programs like those Innovacorp offers was also hugely impactful. It helped us continuously refine our message and compete for funding. That's really important — having other people know your story."

On the question of funding, Aaron notes that it's one of the biggest challenges he and other start-ups face.

"Finding a balance between how much money you need, when you need it, and where it's going to come from, as well as what you're willing to give up — these are not decisions to be taken lightly. You have to be so resourceful with the funds you do have. You learn a lot about what's important during these times."

There's a strong sense of purpose for Aaron.

"It's important for us to know the why. Why are we are doing this? Why this team? For us, it's a belief that we can do better. A healthy ocean is an essential part of healthy lives. It affects livelihoods, sources of food, erosion. Very little of life is not impacted in one shape or form by the ocean."

September 22, 2021, Halifax, Nova Scotia