Aqua-Spark, the first investment fund focused exclusively on sustainable aquaculture, has announced two crucial investments that could help transform the industry.
As the fish farming industry surges ahead, these two investments could help pave a path towards a more sustainable, clean and healthy way of farming seafood.
Aqua-Spark launched in December 2013. Since that time, the fund has raised $10 million for the sole purpose of investing in aspects of the aquaculture industry that will make fish farming sustainable. The goal of the fund is to grow to $400 million by 2025. Its first round of investments is valued at $4 Million.
Scientists predict our oceans could become virtual deserts by 2050 if nothing is done and around 85 per cent of wild-caught fish stocks are exploited or, worse, depleted. With demand for fish projected to double in the coming decades, there is massive opportunity for aquaculture operations to supplement and surpass wild catch. Yet this must happen sustainably, which is the driving force behind Aqua-Spark.
Aqua-Spark’s first investee is US-based biotechnology company Calysta, which could transform fish feed – making it healthier and more environmentally sound. Until now, feed has involved everything from chicken to wild-caught fish, ultimately defeating the purpose of farming fish.
Calysta cultivates an efficient, methane-eating natural microbe that produces protein. This is a new and sustainable feed ingredient – a single cell protein that is a perfect replacement for fishmeal. This protein has a smaller carbon footprint than soy and is proven to be a healthy, readily available and highly digestible alternative for fishmeal.
The second Aqua-Spark investee is Chicoa Fish Farm, located in Mozambique, Africa. Chicoa’s team and operations stand apart for their experience and sustainability practices, presenting a unique and important opportunity in Africa. The investment is part of a larger strategy to help develop a sustainable aquaculture industry in sub-Saharan Africa, where only one per cent of consumed fish is presently from aquaculture.
With the continent projected to need an additional 1.6 million tons by 2015 just to maintain current consumption – and a further 2.6 million tons by 2030 – this is far from sufficient, and presents a notable growth opportunity. The Chicoa team has over 20 years of experience in Southern African aquaculture.
“We’ve spent the last many months examining technologies, businesses and farms around the world that have the potential to shift the aquaculture landscape,” said Mike Velings and Amy Novogratz, co-founders of Aqua-Spark.
“Throughout this process, we’ve been astounded by the opportunities to innovate and scale aquaculture in a way that’s sustainable and healthy. Both Calysta and Chicoa have stood out as game-changing business ventures. Calysta is a transformative way of providing feed to farm-raised fish. And Chicoa is a farm operation that, we firmly believe, has the potential to spur the right kind of aquaculture development across the continent. Getting aquaculture right means alleviating pressure on our stressed oceans while also providing people around the world with a healthy food source. We’re confident our first two investees will help do both.”
“Calysta’s Microbial Protein™ Feed is a proven, scalable high quality protein that meets the aquaculture industry’s critical need for innovation,” said Alan Shaw, Ph.D., Calysta President and CEO. “We are honored to be joining with Aqua-Spark to develop new solutions for the rising global demand for sustainable food.”
“With decades of experience in aquaculture in Africa, we understand that to truly lead and change our industry, we must develop every link – from fish to consumer,” said Chicoa Fish Farm co-founders Damien Legros, Gerry McCollum, and Erik Rotsaert.
“Working with Aqua-Spark, we can have a significant impact on lives in Sub-Saharan African by providing sustainable, affordable nutrition and employing people to grow this industry across the continent. This is only the beginning of our journey, and we’re thrilled to see how we can change the face of aquaculture while making an impact on local economies.”
"Aquaculture is the future of seafood, but to meet current and future demands, we must address its Achilles Heel: an ironic reliance on wild-caught fish for fishmeal,” said Dr Aaron McNevin of the World Wildlife Fund.
“Aqua-Spark's mission is to sustainably grow the fish farming industry, and its investment in Calysta - a single cell protein alternative for fish feed - marks an exciting turning point. It means the potential to feed billions, and protect dwindling ocean species, while using smarter and fewer resources. It feels like we're at an exciting moment for this industry, and on the right trajectory for the planet."