Meet the Founder: Maidenfleet

It reads like something out of a science fiction novel: AI-enabled, unmanned, semi-autonomous offshore fishing vessels floating in our seas.

It’s not fiction if Dan Burrows has something to say about it - he is working hard to make this story a reality. Meet the founder of Maidenfleet, one of the ventures taking part in the Sprout Accelerator Autumn24 Cohort. His mission is to see these uncrewed AI boats out of our imaginations and into the sea. 

Dan has seen firsthand the problems the offshore fishery industry faces and is working hard to find a solution. 

One of the significant issues in the fishing industry is the lack of profitability for owners and operators. Additionally, there is a shortage of skilled employees who can serve the current fleets. Another challenge is the ageing fleet of vessels requiring a high amount of maintenance, which increases costs. Lastly, the current environmental impact of ageing vessels and catch techniques, such as trawling on fish stocks and the marine ecosystem, is a matter of concern.

Dan firmly believes that removing man from fishing vessels and automating them can solve all the abovementioned problems. “The manned elements are a huge part of the operating cost and requirements.”

It’s his vision to simplify the whole operation by adding technology. He’s excited to employ AI as a solution to make harvesting possible as well.

Currently a solopreneur, Dan is fearless about hiring the support he knows he needs to make this venture a reality. He works closely with Christian Stimson, a globally renowned naval architect with over 30 years of experience. He also works with another naval architect and concept engineer, Tony Stanton. Both Stimson and Stanton have extensive experience working together on marine craft design. 

This business was a long time coming. For Dan, the idea was planted in 2018 while fishing down in Oamaru. He took a sidestep, bringing another business into life, but now, 3.5 years later, the idea and the need resurfaced, and he is ready to make it a reality. 

Joining the Sprout Accelerator and bringing this venture one step closer to reality is one of the most satisfying moments for Dan so far. He looks forward to working with Sprout to refine and further validate the economic model and put it in front of the right people to gain the necessary traction. 

Throughout Dan’s research, he was surprised by the reluctance to change. “Many of the guys I spoke to in the industry see the writing on the wall but are set in their ways and sceptical to change.” 

Dan is inspired by New Zealand's wealthiest individual Graeme Hart, a man who came from humble working class beginnings as a panel beater. Armed with a vision and his young family's support he went on to become one of the wealthiest business magnates in the world.  Dan hopes to follow in his footsteps. 

“I want to make a change in the industry. Not just incremental but something really groundbreaking and instrumental.”

Maidenfleet's creative approach to fishing stands as a beacon of hope for fishermen looking to make innovative decisions and revolutionise their operations. With a focused mission, cutting-edge technology, and a global vision, Dan Burrows and Maidenfleet are poised to impact the fishing industry significantly.

About Sprout: Sprout Agritech LP is an early-stage investor specialising in transformational technologies that impact how life on Earth is nourished and sustained. Through their Sprout Accelerator, they have helped grow more than 110 early-stage ventures within the agri and food industries, which have collectively gone on to raise over $60m in capital.