ReShore is a young, for-profit startup that combines breakwater technology and aquaculture to create a nature-inclusive marine infrastructure solution. Frej Gustafsson, ReShore’s chief technology officer and marine ecologist, believes in the concept: “If we can prove this technology here in the Netherlands, we can export it all over the world.” About breakwaters on which mussels, oysters and seaweed are grown.
What is ReShore’s core business?
We are developing new technology to stop waves and rebuild ecosystems. Why? Waves can cause erosion and flooding in coastal areas, and marine ecosystems are being destroyed at a rapid pace. That’s how we came up with the idea to build nature-inclusive breakwaters that combine the best of engineering with the best of nature. We call our product the Living Breakwater.
How did you start the company?
I studied with co-founder Mitchell Williams, who has a background in environmental economics and project management. When we graduated from Wageningen University in 2020, we wanted to create a business in ecosystem services. We started with seaweed, discovering its value in nature. Our intention was to start a ‘for-profit startup’. We were looking for a marketable idea in which people would want to invest and that would benefit nature. In our system, we grow mussels, oysters and seaweed that clean the water by filtering out, for example, heavy metals and excess nutrients. The aquaculture can also be harvested and sold, but that is not the main purpose of the breakwater.
Help from incubator StartHub
In the idea phase, we got help from incubator StartHub here at Wageningen Campus. They asked questions such as: What do you want to achieve with your startup? What is your core business, and to whom do ytested the concept at MARINou want to sell your products or services? This was incredibly helpful in taking the first steps. In late 2021, we joined the StartLife programme and focused on the business model for our breakwater system and did market research to validate our customer segments. We took part in several competitions where we presented our business plan. Luckily, we won some money to develop our Living Breakwater system and we have recently tested the concept at MARIN in Wageningen. We are now talking with potential customers such as ports, the government, and maritime contractors. Each customer segment has different needs, but so far it looks very promising in that we will be able to help them with their problems.
How many, and what kind of, people are working for you?
It’s just Mitchell and me working full time at ReShore. Last year we had some interns in aquaculture and in economics, and several advisors helped us. We now want to expand the team, especially in engineering and commercialisation.
What is your link with WUR? How do you cooperate with WUR and companies on campus?
We are in contact with a few researchers who work at Wageningen University and Research, but most importantly is the support we receive from StartHub and StartLife. Because we were both students at WUR we are given the opportunity to start here in Wageningen. As a startup we rent an office in PlusUltra II here at the campus. We are also part of the Seaseeds consortium.
What are the benefits of being located on campus and what are you missing?
We have a big and accessible network here at the campus. Unfortunately, Wageningen University has no direct link with the maritime business. We have contacts with MARIN and some researchers from Wageningen Marine Research, but you must be in Rotterdam or The Hague to be part of the maritime industry centres. We might consider moving but that will depend on the future of our startup. To move we need the right connections.
Do you use any of the facilities on campus?
WUR has good lab facilities in fishery, but lab space is limited, and not very accessible for startups. We could use a modest wet lab to do some experiments. All our testing so far has been conducted at MARIN.
How do you see the future of your company?
To survive we have to go to the market very quickly or we have to do contract research on a specific problem. We are just a startup, and things are changing rapidly. One thing is certain, we must make it work, better sooner than later. We are participating in the AtlasInvest competition with the finals on 18 May and of course we are hoping to win. Because staying alive without funding is a risky business. Meanwhile we are looking for collaborators in the engineering department and are looking for fundraisers. We believe in our product. If we can prove this technology here in the Netherlands, we can export it all over the world. The future of ReShore looks bright.