Creating Opportunity one Copepod at a Time

Written by Shea Lenkaitis

 

Richard Huse grew up on the water in Rowayton, Connecticut and spent his time exploring the sea and hanging out around fishermen on the sound. Kept him in a life jacket most of the time by his concerned parents, his interest in marine science grew despite the constraints. After spending summers at Topsail Island, he chose the University of North Carolina Wilmington to pursue his Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology, while surfing and kiteboarding between classes.

After graduating in 2015, Huse wanted to stay in Wilmington but knew that it was hard to find marine science jobs in the region. Instead of entering the competitive job market, he created his own job. Inspired by his ultimate goal of bluefin tuna aquaculture, he decided to start small. “I started experimenting with copepod aquaculture by using repurposed beer brewing equipment and an old tank from a hydroponics system,” said Huse. While on a long flight the summer after college, he decided that he was going to go for it and start his own business. To recent graduates thinking about starting a business, he has this advice, “Do it right after college, or you won’t do it at all.”

Atlantic Biotechnology was created by Huse in 2015 – a recent graduate, scientist, businessman and now entrepreneur. “A professor I had at UNCW told me not to try to go to graduate school but to start a business instead,” said Huse. Which is exactly what he did. Atlantic Biotechnology is a copepod culturing facility in Wilmington that grows and sells their products primarily to individuals and aquarium stores. The two current products can be found in over 50 stores across the country and at the locally owned Fish Room on Eastwood Road.

Huse was named Coastal Entrepreneur of the Year in the biotechnology category in 2016 by the Greater Wilmington Business Journal. This experience allowed him to work closely with people at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Wilmington and to also make connections with the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, located in Durham. In 2017, he was invited to speak at Cucalorus Connect, the technology conference that was added to Wilmington’s annual film festival. He was also named one of the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s 30 Under 30 for 2018.

Many successful people started their endeavors in their garage, and so did Huse. Atlantic Biotechnology started in his garage, expanded to one of the guest bedrooms, then the entire back of the house and most of the kitchen during shipping days, before moving to a dedicated facility. “I am in the process of expanding the business by adding more tanks so more copepods can be grown and the products can reach more stores and people,” said Huse.

His ambition to make sure this business succeeds and expands is driven by the dream he and his fiancée have of living on the water with a dock. He also wants to make a positive impact on our environment and oceans. Wilmington is the ideal location for his business because he can use saltwater from the ocean instead of having to make his own, which is very costly and has negative environmental impacts. “I use saltwater from Wrightsville Beach, and due to the nature of the organisms, discharge water is cleaner than what was taken in.”

Tigger copepod (Tigriopus californicus), 10x, DF

In his free time, he is always out on a boat in the Intracoastal Waterway or exploring the islands around Wrightsville, and is passionate about improving the water quality and ecosystems in his favorite place and his home.

Plans for the future include expanding the business, moving to a bigger facility, adding additional products, and creating more job opportunities for marine scientists in Wilmington. His ultimate goal is to make a lasting impact on the Wilmington community and its environs, and one day he may just buy that house on the water.