The company behind a first-in-Maine aquaponics startup in Dresden received the $50,000 grand prize in a live business-pitch competition in Portland on Tuesday, June 7.
Fluid Farms LLC received the prize in Gorham Savings Bank’s fourth annual LaunchPad competition, according to the Portland Press Herald. The 4-year-old company was one of 179 applicants and five finalists in the competition.
On Tuesday at the University of Southern Maine’s Hannaford Hall in Portland, each finalist had seven minutes to make a pitch to a panel of three judges before an audience of more than 200.
The other finalists were Blue Ox Malthouse, Garbage to Garden, Good To-Go, and UniteGPS.
Fluid Farms plans to use the $50,000 to buy a more energy-efficient heating system for its greenhouse, according to the Portland Press Herald. Right now, high energy costs stand between the company and its expansion into an operation capable of supplying large distributors like Sysco and Whole Foods.
Fluid Farms operates its Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association-certified organic operation at 972 River Road (Route 128) in Dresden, a property formerly home to the wholesale nursery Sunshine Growers.
Aquaponics combines aquaculture – fish farms – with hydroponics – the cultivation of plants in water. The plants float on foam rafts in a greenhouse with their roots in nitrogen-rich water from the nearby fish tanks. The plants filter the water, which circulates back into the fish tanks.
The majority of the company’s revenue comes from sales of its lettuce, although it also sells its hybrid striped bass when they reach full size.
Longtime friends Tyler Gaudet and Jackson McLeod, a fisheries biologist and a mechanical engineer, respectively, founded the company in Portland in 2012, moved it to North Yarmouth in 2013, and completed the move to Dresden last year.
“The mission of LaunchPad is to award $50,000 to help fund the growth of a Maine business,” according to the LaunchPad website. “One of the biggest barriers for entrepreneurs can be the lack of funding. LaunchPad not only celebrates great business ideas, but provides the resources to help bring these ideas to life.”