Hybrid MBA Student, Evan Kim ‘22, and his teammates won both the 2021 Science & Technology Showcase and Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge for their startup, Puget Buoy! Their team spans three different programs:
SEBA’s Science & Technology Showcase
The STS Showcase is a startup competition hosted by SEBA (Science Engineering and Business Association) and the University of Washington. Puget Buoy captured first place and their pitch was also honored with the best presentation award.
Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge
The 13th Annual Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge took place on April 1, 2021, hosted by the UW Foster School’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship. Judges representing clean tech entrepreneurship, investment, and environmental advocacy from across the region connected. Of the the sixteen finalists, Puget Buoy, came out on top and took home the $15,000 Alaska Airlines Grand Prize.
Puget Buoy’s Mission
Puget Buoy is a green technology startup developing innovations in experimental fishing gear designed to prevent whale entanglements and reduce lost fishing gear for the improved health and sustainability of the seafood industry.
The Problem: On the Pacific Coast of North America a dual environmental and economic crisis has emerged. Whales critical to preserving ocean biodiversity are entangling with crabbing gear at alarming rates. Since the early 2010s entanglements skyrocketed from 5-10 per year up to a record 61 whales in 2015. Entanglements, which are often fatal, have hit federally protected Humpback Whale populations particularly hard.
Crabbers are also tackling issues associated with lost and derelict fishing gear. An estimated 10% of the 500,000 crab pots deployed on the West Coast each year are lost at sea, which is over 3000 tons of marine debris annually. This leads to increased costs, crab population declines, and other environmental damages.
Their Solution: The Puget Buoy System provides crabbers with an affordable alternative that both reduces whale entanglements and prevents gear loss. Our timed-release crab pot system keeps crabbing lines out of the water column which means whales can migrate through crabbing waters at a dramatically reduced risk of entanglement (40-88% estimated decrease).
What’s Next for Puget Buoy?
Puget Buoy plans to further develop and test the Puget Buoy system by conducting a season-long study in partnership with tribal fisheries, regulators, and commercial crabbers in WA, OR, and CA. The study will begin in September 2021, consisting of 1,280 tests across 16 different test sites.
Puget Buoy is currently a member of the 2nd cohort of the Washington Maritime Blue Accelerator, an accelerator focused on creating the most sustainable maritime industry in the U.S. by 2050. Through the guidance and support of our strategic partners, Puget Buoy’s ultimate goal is commercialization of our product to build the sustainable seafood future!