Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin leads trip to Russia and Japan

Just three years ago, University of Victoria student Ashley Roulston and her brother Robert started a company that has developed a cost-effective method of producing algae used to feed shellfish in hatcheries.

This week, Roulston, 26, is in Victoria’s sister city of Khabarovsk, Russia, with Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin to talk about the experience of financing a startup in Canada.

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Fortin and Roulston, who graduated in 2010 with a commerce degree specializing in entrepreneurship, will address the Young People’s Business Forum, a conference being held in Khabarovsk on Wednesday and Thursday.

Fortin will speak to the conference about “entrepreneur cities” — talking up Victoria’s economic development strategy and talking about the rising tide of entrepreneurship in the city.

“I’ll also be promoting our high-tech industry, especially our gaming and that whole knowledge-based high-tech stuff,” he said.

“What it does is it provides an opportunity to promote Victoria as a place to invest.”

The whirlwind trip will be an eye-opener for Roulston, considering she has never been in a country where the main language wasn’t English or French.

The Roulston siblings started Industrial Plankton Inc. and are marketing a piece of high-tech feed equipment that produces algae in a secure and automated way for fish and shellfish.

The company has raised more than $600,000 from “angel investors,” research subsidies, business plan competitions and tax credits.

Industrial Plankton is just reaching the commercialization stage and already has a couple of sales under its belt.

“Things are ramping up very quickly,” she said.

Roulston is particularly excited about the stopover after the conference in Japan, where business and protocol meetings have been arranged in Victoria’s twin city of Morioka.

“I’m excited to see how they operate [in Japan], because 40 per cent of their oyster industry was damaged in the tsunami. So ours could be the perfect solution to help them get going,” she said.

Roulston was recommended for the trip by Saul Klein, dean and Lansdowne professor of international business, and Brock Smith, marketing and entrepreneurship professor at the University of Victoria’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business.

The cost of the Russian segment of the trip is being covered by the organizers who invited Fortin.

He said the city will incur $2,700 in costs to cover travel expenses in Japan for himself and city protocol manager Sheryl Masters.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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