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Wilmington-based Fishing App Wins NC IDEA Grant

By Audrey Elsberry, posted Apr 30, 2024
Local Catch, an app connecting fishermen and their customers, was founded in Wilmington three years ago. This week, it won NC IDEA's MICRO grant for $10,000. (Photo courtesy of Local Catch)
Local blue economy startup Local Catch was named a spring 2024 recipient of NC IDEA’s MICRO grant, injecting $10,000 of capital into the young technology company.
 
One of sixteen companies in the state awarded the grant, Wilmington-based Local Catch is the only recipient on the coast. More than 200 early-stage startups applied for the grant, according to NC IDEA’s announcement Monday. The MICRO grant is meant to extend the entrepreneurial nonprofit’s resources to a larger range of startups. NC IDEA’s larger SEED grant awards winners $50,000.
 
“These funds are going to go a long way, but also it’s just going to get our foot in the door with a handful of other things we are trying to get done this year and next year,” Local Catch CEO Landon Hill told the Business Journal on Tuesday. “We eventually will be able to apply for the larger SEED grant … and would actually be a lot more helpful with (those) sort of funds.”
 
Hill said he is very proud and grateful NC IDEA officials see the value in what his company has to offer. Local Catch is a digital application that connects supply and demand in the fishing industry. Hill developed the idea for the company while finishing his undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He founded Local Catch one year after graduation, in 2021.
 
Now that the application is approaching 1,000 users across the country, Hill began focusing on gaining capital this past winter, he said. The company’s growth has been bootstrapped until this point, Hill said. Now he is hoping to pursue all methods of gaining capital, including angel investors, pitch competitions, institutional investor mentors and grants.
 
Hill plans on putting the NC IDEA funds toward a new vertical for his app: research. The service, called Log Book, would allow universities and researchers to access data about where fish are transported from fishermen to individual and marketplace buyers. User privacy is the most important aspect of this new endeavor, Hill said. He will ensure the data collected by researchers will be separated from personal user information.
 
The value of user data from Local Catch adds to existing information fishermen must provide to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Marine Fisheries, Hill said.
 
“They require commercial fishermen and seafood dealers to fill out these things called trip tickets,” he said. “It's kind of just, ‘Hey, as a commercial fisherman and a licensed dealer, this is what's being bought and sold.’ But it kind of ends there.”
 
Local Catch data would provide a way to confirm that information from a second source and traceability to the fish and where it ends up. It is also a way to monitor fish population and sustainability efforts, Hill said.
 
The company has received recognition from other entities in the state like NC Tech, when Local Catch was named a finalist in the AgTech (agriculture technology) category. Local Catch is also a 2024 Costal Entrepreneurship Award winner in the technology category. The Coastal Entrepreneurship Awards are a joint effort between UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.
 
Look for a profile on Hill about Local Catch’s CEA win in the next Greater Wilmington Business Journal print issue, which comes out on May 3.
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