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Entrepreneurial legacy

Mel Woodward Cup invests $40,000 in students with an eye for opportunity

By Susan White

Student-led startups focused on sustainable opportunities in aquaculture were the big winners at the eighth annual Mel Woodward Cup last night.

Atlantic BioCorp, founded by business and philosophy student Dante Enewold, won the top prize.

He took home $25,000 for his company that converts crab waste into chitosan.

Mel Woodward Cup winner Dante Enewold holds a large trophy. He's flanked by Ed Martin, director of the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship, and Gillian Woodward.
From left are Ed Martin, first-place Mel Woodward Cup and $25,000 winner Dante Enewold and Gillian Woodward.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Chitosan comes from the exoskeleton of shellfish and can be used across a variety of industries including waste water treatment, drug manufacturing, skin care products and as a food stabilizer.

Mr. Enewold came up with the idea after working for several years as a procurement officer in the fishing industry and seeing the massive amount of waste that was being generated.

“I came to realize that something should be done,” he said. “Here were these piles of discards that everyone considered to be garbage, and I figured something could probably be done with it. It turns out something could be done, and I’ve been working towards doing that ever since.”

In just under a year, Atlantic BioCorp has completed its first fundraising round, secured a supplier and engaged with a potential customer in British Columbia.

“I’m just very thankful for all of the friends, family and colleagues who have helped me get to this point.” — Dante Enewold

Now, with the Mel Woodward Cup title under his belt, Mr. Enewold will turn his attention towards building a refinery to process the crab waste into chitosan.

“Honestly, it still hasn’t quite set in,” he said about winning the competition. “I’m very honoured and very grateful to have gotten this opportunity, and I’m just very thankful for all of the friends, family and colleagues who have helped me get to this point.”

The Mel Woodward Cup is a startup pitch competition for Memorial University students.

Hosted by the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship (MCE), it was created through a donation to the Faculty of Business Administration by the family of the late Dr. Mel Woodward, founder of the Woodward Group of Companies.

Runner-up: Invertable

The $15,000 runner-up was Invertable, founded by Jessika Lamarre, a PhD student in cognitive and behavioural ecology at the Faculty of Science.

Invertable is developing a land-based fish feed made of insects as an alternative to using wild stocks to feed farmed fish.

Jessika Lamarre, runner-up for the 2024 Mel Woodward Cup, poses with Ed Martin, director of the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship. They both hold large novelty cheques.
From left are Ed Martin and Jessika Lamarre, who won two prizes including being named the $15,000 runner-up, at the 2024 Mel Woodward Cup.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Ms. Lamarre says the idea for her company grew out of a desire to continue eating fish for its nutritional benefits without harming the natural resource.

Currently, the majority of feed for farmed fish is made from wild fish such as caplin.

“I had a hard time reconciling wanting to get the benefits from eating fish but also contributing to the decline of wild fish populations that are already struggling,” she said. “The goal is essentially to continue benefitting from eating fish without having to harm wild stocks in the process.”

Ms. Lamarre is developing a substrate that she’s feeding to crickets and mealworms, and then uses the insects to create the fish feed.

Her winnings from the Mel Woodward Cup will allow her to complete laboratory testing. She aims to launch her minimum viable product this summer and then begin trials with farmed fish at the Marine Institute.

“I’m incredibly grateful to the judges, the Woodward family and the Fry family for their trust that my startup will succeed and for seeing the potential in sustainable aquaculture.” — Jessika Lamarre

She’ll also be seeking approval from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and filing a patent for the substrate.

The goal is to fully launch her product in the spring of 2025.

“I’m incredibly grateful to the judges, the Woodward family and the Fry family for their trust that my startup will succeed and for seeing the potential in sustainable aquaculture,” Ms. Lamarre said. “I’m actually thrilled that both fishery and aquaculture companies won, and I think it shows how people are excited to see environmentally-friendly companies sprout and embrace the seafood industry, which is dear to this province.”

Ms. Lamarre also took home the $2,500 Fry Family Foundation Award for Women or Non-binary Leadership.

Entrepreneurial pipeline

Last November, she was the big winner at the inaugural Illuminate, a pitch competition for women and gender-diverse Memorial students held by the MCE.

“My experience with Illuminate made me realize that people really value my product,” said Ms. Lamarre. “I also got to meet with different entrepreneurs and experts that brought my startup further and even challenged some of my ideas, which really sped up the development of my product.”

A fourth award was given out by the Fry Family Foundation. Tuckamore Technologies won $2,500 for the most promising early-stage idea.

The company uses augmented reality and thermal imaging to help firefighters navigate low-visibility environments.

It was founded by Tyler Yard, a mechanical engineering student, and Ben Thomas, computer engineering student, and Carl Thibault, who is not a current Memorial student.

The other two finallists are below.

  • Mallax Vision helps e-commerce sellers reduce costs and elevate customer satisfaction through automated damaged product analysis on customer returns (founders: Syed Zeeshan Haider Rizvi, electrical engineering student; and Hisham Habibulla Hafeez, science student); and
  • MetaCrust provides lightweight, energy efficient, end-to-end secure transmission of health data on low-powered remote patient monitoring devices (founder: Sidra Anwar, a computer engineering student, and Abdul Wahab, who is not a Memorial student).

Tuckamore Technologies, Mallax Vision and MetaCrust all take home $2,000 to help further their startups.

Tuckamore Technologies answers questions from the judges during the 2024 Mel Woodward Cup.
From left, Carl Thibault, Tyler Yard and Ben Thomas of Tuckamore Technologies answer questions from the judges during the Mel Woodward Cup.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

The top two teams also receive a variety of in-kind prizes from Altitude Media, Atlantic IP Advantage, Cox & Palmer, Gardiner Centre, Genesis, HeyOrca!, KPMG, Perfect Day and techNL.

‘Worth celebrating’

Thirty applications were received this year, which were whittled down to 13 semi-finalists whose applications were reviewed by a preliminary round of judges.

The top five then pitched their companies before a panel of expert judges at the Emera Innovation Exchange, Signal Hill Campus, on March 20.

“The quality of the applications this year were simply phenomenal,” said Ed Martin, MCE director. “There are so many student startups at Memorial that are worth celebrating. I’m particularly pleased with the diversity we had in our finalists and applicants overall this year. Two women-led companies, two ocean startups, and students from across many faculties and disciplines. It’s an exciting indication that Memorial’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is growing and making a meaningful impact.”

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency also provides support for the Mel Woodward Cup.

The MCE, based on St. John’s campus, aims to inspire and support aspiring entrepreneurs at Memorial by offering foundational training, guidance and access to funding and connections to create high-growth businesses.

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