Our first cohort launched five Blue Economy related businesses in 2020.
In the spring semester of 2020, the Crystal Blue team was just a group of strangers thrust together to create an innovation that could protect their local waterways. Initially, they set out to create a single data app meant to equip ocean farmers with the tools necessary to thrive in a nascent industry. And then, Covid-19 hit. As the country began its shutdown, the beleaguered team transitioned to awkward virtual meetings, and progress was slow.
While muddling through quarantine, the Crystal Blue team noticed a surge of people enjoying the outdoors. With more people interacting with nature, they decided to take this opportunity to introduce citizen science to their local communities. Citizen science is the practice of public participation and collaboration in scientific research with scientists, to increase scientific knowledge and public awareness of local issues. Creating the Ocean Farming app is still a goal for the company; however, the team decided that creating an app where citizens can engage with their local environment was more urgent. The team also noticed that due to the pandemic, local businesses were struggling to stay open while also keeping their clientele safe. Coastal based businesses were no exception.
This sparked the development of the Sound Scavenger app – a platform that encourages cleaning up local beaches and waterways while promoting community engagement through eco-tourism. This preliminary app will include a map with all local recreation surrounding Long Island Sound and local businesses. There will be another map layer where the user can mark their location, post pictures of themselves cleaning up trash they see within their community, or post pictures of native species. This way, the Crystal Blue team can track where waste is accumulating throughout Long Island Sound and amass crucial data on native species populations.
This product aims to reach a range of demographics, such as recreational users, ocean farmers, and NGOs, allowing Crystal Blue to grow product recognition, customer interest, and a central database in an efficient, cost-effective manner. Crystal Blue’s primary mission is to act as a centralized data hub “for all things Long Island Sound (LIS).” Through a “swiss army knife” approach, Crystal Blue aims to collect mass amounts of data, and, ultimately, make it available through a medley of services such as site suitability for ocean farmers, customizable data history for researchers, and more. Finally, the Crystal Blue team hopes that through their data collection, they can help support Long Island Sound’s environment, economy, and community.
The Crystal Blue team consists of four student innovators: Maeve Rourke, majoring in Environmental Systems and Sustainability; Gia Mentillo, majoring in Geographic Information Science with a minor in Business Administration; Joe Fonseca, a general studies major with a concentration in STEM; and Project Blue research member Louie Krak, currently receiving a masters in Environmental Studies.
Project Blue researchers Brandon Wong, Kellie Kingston, Derek Faulkner, and Caitlin McLaughlin are excited to announce the creation of kelp food parent company Wrack Snax, and its kelp-based candy, chips, kombucha, and kimchi.”
At Wrack Snax, we believe that the quality of our products is directly related to the collaborators who’ve contributed to them. To make sure these high standards are meet and ensure that the customer has the best accessibility to all products, we’ve decided to unite our unique brands different brands under one parent company:
Despite the marketing differences, our main goal remains the same; utilizing the unique flavor options that kelp provides to create innovative (and delicious!) food while promoting sustainable practices in the Northeast. In keeping with these values, we promise to source our kelp from Long Island Sound and actively support local growers as a primary source of ingredients when possible. By providing vegan, non-alcoholic, and gluten-free options, we believe that we can accommodate many different diets. We’re also always open to new ways to make our products more inclusive, so please feel free to reach out!
Due to the unfortunate events that have been taking place globally, Wrack Snax is still in the process of preparing our products. We want to make sure that our ideas will look, taste, and be as ethical to you as they are to us.
As our ingredients and processes get further refined and sourced, we will remain as committed to transparency as we are to taste and dedication. We greatly look forwards to you trying our products and remind you to Kelp Yourself!
Caitlin McLaughlin is a junior in the Environmental Systems and Sustainability (ESS) major. She is interested in helping independent citizens find sustainable solutions and implement them. She is the innovator of the Beyond the Shore candy.
Derek Faulkner, a senior studying Coastal Marine Systems in the ESS program, is developing Kelp-bucha. His focus lies in water quality and coastal resilience, with goals of finding innovative solutions to environmental issues along Connecticut’s coastline.
Brandon Wong, a senior studying Environmental Systems in the ESS program, is developing Bari Bari Kimchi under the parent company Wrack Snax. His current focus involves expanding the Long Island Sound “Blue Economy” through innovations in the food industry.
Kellie Kingston is going into her senior year and is studying Environmental Systems in the ESS program. Her focus is making plant based sustainable alternatives using locally sourced ingredients. Kellie is the innovator for Kelp Krisps.
Project Blue student innovators Heather Cushing, Larissa Anderson, and Claudia Oeges are thrilled to announce the development of Connecticut’s first Kelp Fest. After winning first place in the Blue Economy Pitch Competition at the Connecticut Business Conference and Competition in the spring of 2020, Heather, a Geography/GIS major, recruited Larissa, an Environmental Systems and Sustainability major, and Claudia, a recent SCSU graduate who majored in Recreation and Leisure with a concentration in Tourism, Hospitality, and Event Management, to further develop and plan Connecticut’s first Kelp Fest.
Connecticut Kelp Fest is the first of its kind one-day community celebration of the emerging kelp industry in Long Island Sound. Held at the end of the harvest season in early June of 2021, this festival will take place on the beautiful shoreline of Connecticut to help promote and celebrate kelp’s nutritional values, environmental benefits, and innovative uses. Kelp Fest will have kelp tastings and unique dishes from various local chefs and restaurants, as well as local breweries offering their unique spin on kelp infused beer. Local innovators and retail vendors will be in attendance to showcase kelp’s diversity of uses. Live music, educational presentations by various kelp farmers and researchers, as well as family friendly activities such as an interactive kelp forest model, seaweed inspired arts and crafts, and games will also take place at Connecticut’s first Kelp Fest.
The purpose of Kelp Fest is to showcase, celebrate, and engage the Connecticut community with the emerging Long Island Sound kelp industry. According to the student innovators, “Kelp Fest is the perfect opportunity to educate, celebrate, eat, and use locally grown kelp all while stimulating interest around the emerging blue economy business of farming kelp in Long Island Sound.” Within the last decade, kelp has been known to provide a plethora of benefits for Long Island Sound – cleaning its waters by filtering out nitrogen, absorbing inorganic nutrients, and providing a habitat for numerous important and culturally significant species. The first kelp farm in Long Island Sound was established in 2012, and since then, 15 permitted sites have been established in the coastal waters of Connecticut. Despite the growing interest in farming kelp in Long Island Sound, many are still not aware of kelp’s environmental benefits, nutritional values, innovative uses, and growing global interest.
Like others working and interested in the kelp industry, Heather, Larissa, and Claudia recognized the lack of awareness surrounding kelp’s benefits, values, and uses as a unique opportunity to bring the Connecticut community together to showcase and celebrate the benefits of farming kelp in Long Island Sound. Although they are still in the planning phases of the festival and the circumstances surrounding Covid-19 may be of hinderance to throwing a large outdoor festival in the spring, they hope to still get Connecticut educated and interested in the locally grown kelp of Long Island Sound.
Focused on Project Blue’s end goal of developing a sustainable Blue Economy research, tech transfer and innovation hub in New Haven, Connecticut, student innovators Gabriela Triay, Sarah Cook, Josie Lynch, and Dan Andrien along with research members Louie Krak and Michaela Garland are currently in the process of completing the initial steps towards developing an ocean cluster for Long Island Sound. The students of the Long Island Sound Ocean Cluster (LISOC) innovation team have been using the summer months to develop a database that contains information on all Blue Economy related businesses and services in the Long Island Sound region. The LISOC team is using the information collected in the database to map the main companies, major supporting services and R&D services within Long Island Sound’s Blue Economy. This database will provide valuable information about each Blue Economy industry and the concentration of Blue Economy activities in the Long Island Sound region. The database’s purpose is to serve as a platform to better understand the expertise, opportunities, and needs in Long Island Sound’s Blue Economy so that further innovation and collaboration can occur between industries.
The idea to create a Blue Economy database for Long Island Sound was inspired by the Iceland Ocean Cluster located in Reykjavík, Iceland. Thor Sigfusson, founder of the Iceland Ocean Cluster, established the ocean cluster in Iceland in order to create value and to increase sustainable economic opportunities in the Blue Economy by connecting entrepreneurs, businesses and knowledge. After researching the Iceland Ocean Cluster and Thor’s preliminary work in establishing it, the LISOC team discovered the value and benefit in having a full understanding of the activities, opportunities, expertise, and needs within a region’s Blue Economy. The students, each with their own knowledge of Blue Economy industries, collectively came together to research businesses and services related to maritime tourism, aquaculture, marine biotechnology, maritime transportation/trade, research institutions, energy, environment, maritime services, and other Blue Economy related sectors of the Long Island Sound region.
The students’ initial focus was to collect information on Blue Economy related businesses and services within the surrounding coastal counties of Long Island Sound – Fairfield County, CT; New Haven County, CT; Middlesex County, CT; New London County, CT; Westchester County, NY; Bronx County, NY; Queens County, NY; Nassau County, NY; and Suffolk County, NY. Since then, the students have expanded their focus to other New England ocean states in order to have an even larger regional understanding of New England’s Blue Economy opportunities, expertise, and needs.
The end goal is to establish an ocean cluster whose main focus is on creating and facilitating sustainable economic opportunities for the Blue Economy of Long Island Sound. These initial steps of developing a Blue Economy database will be the ground work for increasing sustainable innovation, collaboration, and networking within and between maritime industries in Long Island Sound.
SeaSkin’s mission is to provide a line of skincare essentials that not only benefit skin, but the ocean as well. This is done by our use of locally farmed sugar kelp as the thematic ingredient of each product. Using locally sourced sugar kelp helps us to commit to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and aid in increasing opportunity in Connecticut’s blue economy. We want to show that using a sustainable and unusual ingredient like kelp can actually provide many benefits for the skin – including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that provide acne-prone and sensitive skin relief, anti-aging benefits, and a number of vitamins and nutrients that the skin loves.
In particular, our company is well-suited towards a niche of consumers looking for products that can provide these benefits for their skin. SeaSkin is targeted towards an 18-25 year old demographic that often struggles with sensitive, acne-prone skin and is looking to start adding anti-aging benefits to their skincare routine. While this is the target audience, our products are suitable for all people that want to take care of their skin using natural ingredients!
Our products contain only organic ingredients to make sure that our customers get the best quality without harmful chemicals that could ruin their skin. Some ingredients included in our kelp lotion are organic shea butter, organic coconut oil, and kelp. Our sea kelp mist product includes aloe vera juice and green tea extract.
We are in the process of acquiring our ingredients and in the beginning stages of making prototypes. We have yet to focus on the label for each of our products and we also need to work out our final business plan. The final stage of the process will be to present each of our products at a pitch competition at the Blue Economy Conference in November.
On our team we have student innovators Julia Grounds, Ariana Dichello, and Kate Chamberland. Julia is a Chemistry major interested in research with biofuels and other renewable energies. She is currently in the process of creating an organic kelp-based body scrub. Ariana is an Environmental Science and Sustainability major interested in environmental and organic products that act as sustainable alternatives. She is working on developing a unique blend of kelp, shea butter, and coconut oil for skin quenching kelp-based lotion. Finally, Kate is an Environmental Science and Sustainability major interested in researching the effects of climate change and the application of sustainability concepts for the environment. She is currently working on designing a hydrating facial mist starring sugar kelp that provides skin-loving nutrients and properties on-the-go.