Poseidon Ocean Systems determined to put their coastal community of Campbell River on the global aquaculture map
By Samantha McLeod
As global leaders in aquaculture solutions and technology, Matt and Heather Clarke (pictured) who operate Poseidon Ocean Systems in Campbell River, B.C., believe that “if you build it they will come.”
Doing just that with “creative collaboration”, the bee line to their business today includes many of the world’s aquaculture giants, whose farms contend with high currents, strong winds and powerful storms in the open ocean.
“In response to these challenges, we developed the experience and technical capability to design, engineer and supply saltwater aquaculture infrastructure that enhance operations – even under the harshest of conditions,” said Heather Clarke, Vice President, Operations of Poseidon Ocean Systems Ltd.
At the recent Campbell River Chamber Business Awards of Distinction, Poseidon took home the top awards for New Business of the Year and Excellence in Innovation and Technology category.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to talk about our story and the direction that the industry is moving in. Aquaculture has changed so much in the last 20 years and it continues to move forward with new technology at a rapid pace,” said Heather, whose husband Matt is the company president.
SeaWestNews caught up with Poseidon’s first couple, who are determined to put their coastal community of Campbell River on the global aquaculture map., for a Q&A.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves
“Poseidon was founded by both of us and we are married. I have a background in finance and business management (B.Comm-Finance), while Matt is a Professional Engineer and formerly the head of engineering for a major Canadian Aquaculture company.
We come from entrepreneurial parents, growing up in households supported by small businesses. We have two daughters, aged 2 and 3 years old.
We both feel very strongly about giving back to our community, so in addition to our entrepreneurial endeavours, we also volunteer. I am on the board of the Rotary Club of Campbell River as the Membership Director, and also on the board for Habitat for Humanity Vancouver Island North. Matt serves as Chairman of the Board for Community Futures Strathcona. We are also both active members of Young Professionals Campbell River as well as TEC (The Executive Committee)—a small business round-table group for other North Island Business Owners.”
What do the awards mean to you?
“The awards mean a lot to us and also so much to our team. With so much of the anti-farming propaganda that we see provincially, it was so nice to be recognized by our local community for both New Business of the Year and Excellence in Innovation. It was a wonderful opportunity to talk about our story and the direction that the industry is moving. Aquaculture has changed so much in the last 20 years and it continues to move forward with new technology at a rapid pace.”
Tell us about your business
“Poseidon Ocean Systems Ltd. or Poseidon is a Canadian full-service aquaculture engineering and support company specializing in aquaculture infrastructure design, engineering, development, supply and installation. The company is headquartered in Campbell River, which has some of the most extreme saltwater aquaculture conditions in the world. High currents, exposed sites, and powerful storms are common occurrences, and Poseidon has developed the experience and technical capability to design, engineer and supply saltwater aquaculture designed for these conditions. Our clients include Marine Harvest Canada, Grieg Seafoods, Cermaq, Cooke Aquaculture and others.”
“While Matt was working internally as the head of engineering at a local Canadian Aquaculture company, he noticed the lack of support coming from many of the Norwegian headquartered infrastructure supply companies. We set out to create a company that would solve the issues that Canadian farmers face that perhaps are smaller issues to Norwegian fish farmers—things like predators (sea lions), harmful algae blooms, and the extreme currents & environmental conditions we face here in BC.”
Describe a typical day/week in your business and in your community
“Between travel for business, our involvement in not-for-profit groups, and our two little girls we are on the go constantly. We both travel quite a bit between Campbell River and our office in St. Johns, Newfoundland. We are also spending a lot of time in international business development so in the last year we have travelled to Singapore, Scotland, Turkey, Chile and Norway. The team at Poseidon is amazing—we have put together a fantastic group of people to support the operation.”
What’s the most exciting thing about what you do?
“Developing new products that help our fish farming partners is pretty amazing. We’ve filed four patents in the last six months for new products. We have developed the strongest steel cage in the world that has been verified by a third party, as well as plankton mitigation equipment and aeration systems that perform well and enhance operations. In less than three years, we have created a sustainable and profitable business that is having a real impact to the global aquaculture industry. We have brought high paying, technical jobs to Campbell River. We have also brought manufacturing and production capabilities to Campbell River.”
What are your main challenges?
“One of the biggest challenges we’ve had to date is growing at a faster rate than what traditional banks expect, and therefore being ineligible for commercial lending products that could assist us. We were able to overcome this challenge with the help of the BDC and EDC (Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada).”
Why Campbell River?
“Its where we live and want to raise our family, first and foremost. It’s a beautiful community, but it is also full of amazing, diverse people.”
What advice would you give to a business looking to start in the aquaculture industry?
“If you build it they will come”