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The Gulf Blue Navigator Program Selects Inaugural Six Startup Companies

Tue, 10/25/2022 - 03:30pm

Six blue technology startups target improving ocean health, securing critical infrastructure and increasing coastal resilience all while driving economic growth in the ‘new’ blue economy.

The University of Southern Mississippi Research Foundation and SeaAhead, with the support of partners including Jackson State University, has selected the first cohort of blue technology startup companies for the Gulf Blue Navigator. This six-month program provides scaling startups, with innovations relevant to the ocean, with market access to the Gulf of Mexico region, proximity to federal agencies, technical facilities, and expertise. With an emphasis on shortening the timeline of development and market access, the Gulf Blue Navigator positions blue technology startups for success by leveraging the existing strengths and capabilities of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

“The Mississippi Aquarium participated in the rigorous selection process of the high-quality applicants and is looking forward to catalyzing collaborations on the Mississippi Gulf Coast with startups leading the way to innovation for the new blue economy,” said Kurt Allen, CEO Mississippi Aquarium.

The selection committee narrowed the total applicant pool from 48 applicants across 12 countries to select the final 6 startup companies. Each will receive support for their costs for the program, including travel to the Gulf Coast over the six-month program. The startup companies are:

  • Blue Ocean Gear: Intelligent tracking buoys for commercial fishing fleets, aquaculture farms, and ocean observers, helping them save time and money while gaining critical operational insights. (HQ: California)
  • Marauder Robotics: Remote work platform that collects critical ecosystem data in near real-time and automates underwater tasks done by divers to restore biodiversity. (HQ: Georgia)
  • SeaTrac Systems: Persistent, multi-purpose solar-powered Uncrewed Surface Vehicles (USVs) to efficiently, safely and cost effectively perform real-time data collection and communications for research, commercial and defense applications. (HQ: Massachusetts)
  • BeeX: Advanced underwater vehicles with the ability to swarm targets working in tandem with software tools to help reduce the costs and risks of underwater work at scale. (HQ: Singapore)
  • Safety Net Technologies: Solutions that enable sustainable practices in the fishing industry for a world where oceans and people thrive together. (HQ: United Kingdom)
  • SEATREC: Energy harvesting systems that generate electricity from naturally occurring temperature differences in ocean waters to power deep water oceanographic research equipment such as floats, gliders, and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), for cost-effective deep ocean data collection. (HQ: California)

Participants in the Gulf Blue Navigator will benefit from SeaAhead’s global network of expertise and success with the Blue Swell Incubator, along with The University of Southern Mississippi’s renowned facilities, faculty and staff. The program includes advanced interactive workshops taught by practitioners in the field, site visits with large industry and federal agencies, co-working space at the historic Gulf and Ship Island Building in Gulfport, and customized mentorship to meet the needs of each startup. The program will kick off with a splash the first week of November with the cohort visiting all three Coastal counties as a first step to possible partnerships to accelerate commercialization.

Mark Huang, Managing Director of SeaAhead, said, “The Gulf Blue Navigator program will act as a ‘Gateway to the Gulf’, as it is a bridge to connect promising bluetech startups to the unique capabilities and infrastructure on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”

The Gulf Blue Navigator is made possible by the participation, support and financial contributions of our sponsors and partners who assist with recruitment, selection, curriculum, mentoring and more.  This program is funded by the Builders Initiative, Mississippi Department of Environmental, Members of Coast Electric Power Association through their Operation Round Up program in partnership with the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, with additional financial support from Harrison County Development Commission, Port of Gulfport, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Leidos, Hancock County Port & Harbor Commission, and Keesler Federal Credit Union .

Peter Bryant, Program Director for Builders Initiative, said, “Gulf Blue Navigator is a great program that will help advance blue economy business solutions to solve some of the most pressing issues facing our oceans. The combination of the academic leadership of The University of Southern Mississippi, the waterfront Gulfport location, and the business accelerator support of SeaAhead’s venture studio programs will spur innovation and help burgeoning entrepreneurs in the blue economy obtain the skills and assistance they need to grow their businesses.”


About the organizations:


The USM Research Foundation is a Mississippi non-profit corporation formed in 1998 and is administered and operated exclusively for the benefit of The University of Southern Mississippi. The foundation supports and enhances the research mission of the University by promoting the increase of useful knowledge and encourages the development of intellectual property owned by the University. The foundation also provides support to the University by managing research contracts, coworking space and entrepreneurial programs.


The University of Southern Mississippi’s support for the Gulf Blue Navigator program is anchored by the Marine Research Center with its ability to support autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) development ranging from prototyping to over the horizon at sea testing, the Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center which conducts research in algae, fin and shell-based aquaculture as well as recirculating aquaculture system-based farming, and the Mississippi Polymer Institute.


Headquartered in Cambridge, MA, SeaAhead Inc. specializes in high potential ocean-focused technology startups, building global networks, and venture financing. Now also co-located in the Gulf & Ship Island building in Gulfport, SeaAhead’s platform, in tandem with USM’s infrastructure and mission of fostering a culture of innovation, will connect promising global blue technology startups to the Mississippi Gulf Coast blue economy.