Recent University of New England graduate Jillian Robillard ’20 (Marine Entrepreneurship) has won the “Greenlight Maine” Collegiate Challenge, scoring $25,000 in prize money to bolster her innovative lobster bait business, Green Bait, which aims to preserve Maine’s lobster fishing economy.
Her win of the televised pitch competition – which pits college students’ business ideas against each other for the chance to win the kickstart money – was aired on NEWS CENTER Maine on Sunday, June 7. She bested two other student businesses: Easy Eats, a technology-based platform that provides dorm-door food delivery service to college students, and Ferda Farms, a sustainability focused oyster farm in Brunswick, Maine.
Green Bait is an extension of Robillard’s existing business Southern Maine Crabs, which buys crabs from fishermen along the Maine coast and sells them to wholesalers for profit. The new product is a lobster bait formula made from invasive green crabs, an insidious species that feeds on clam beds and oysters and has been linked to the decline of the soft-shell clam industry.
The crabs appear in lobster traps as bycatch and, due in part to climate change, their numbers continue to rise in Maine and New England. Fishermen cannot legally return the species to the water, so they are often killed and discarded.
Robillard saw the problem as an opportunity to grow her existing business while protecting the environment. To create the bait, she buys unwanted green crabs from fishermen and processes them into a proprietary bait blend. She then sells the bait back to those lobster fishermen at a reduced price.
The bait is cheaper for fishermen to purchase, and it attracts the same number of lobsters as conventional bait, Robillard told the “Greenlight Maine” judges back in January. In Sunday’s Collegiate Challenge finale, she said that developing the product is one of the ways she is doing her part to make a difference at the local and global level.
“Everyone has a social responsibility, and I think these fishermen are willing to try something new, especially if it’s in their benefit and if there’s an incentive,” she said.
Judging the episode were Andy Nichols, CEO of Elmet Technologies; Briana Warner, CEO of Atlantic Sea Farms; and Isla Dickerson, senior vice president and director of marketing for Bangor Savings Bank.
The three were particularly taken with Robillard’s product, with Nichols calling her an “impressive, driven, young entrepreneur.”
Dickerson was also especially impressed by the product. “I love the fact that she has taken something that has really been a blight on our oceans and turned it into something that can have a positive impact,” she said.
Of her win, Robillard said she is excited to see how the $25,000 prize will shape her business and the lobster industry.
“This feels absolutely awesome,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to the future and how to utilize this money to better our state and our planet.”