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Deep Sea Aquaculture Promises Quality Products

US - Open Blue Sea Farms farm cobia, using environmentally safe and sustainable deep ocean aquaculture methods, which they believe will produce a cost efficient fish.

Cobia fish may be the next big thing in high-end restaurants, replacing the now high-priced Chilean seabass, which is suffering from illegal and overfishing.

New York-based Open Blue Sea Farms specialises in developing environmentally safe and sustainable deep ocean aquaculture methods, known as free-range fish farming, the company’s Executive Vice President, Clive Zickel told The Cleantech Group.

Mr Zickel said even though the company is initially focused on raising cobia—a white, firm fish often caught for sport—it is planning to grow other species as well.

Mr Zickel said most fish farming tends to be done close to shore or in ponds, where the fish often swim in dirty water, eat what they excrete, and mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls can become a problem.

“Out in the deep water, our lab tests don’t show any of that,” Mr Zickel said.

The fish at sea are raised in large geodesic domes, about the size of a six-story building, which are raised only for cleaning. The structures are more expensive to build and secure to the ocean floor than traditionally-used methods.

However, Mr Zickel said the financial trade off is that by feeding the cobia a healthy fish meal diet and allowing them to be raised in an environment more like their natural habitat, a better product results that can become cost efficient in time.

Boston based Resolute Marine Energy COO, Olivier Ceberio said as fish farming causes more harm to local environments, the trend is moving toward raising fish offshore, which is expensive in terms of energy costs. The company’s AirWec technology would be able to generate enough clean energy from the waves to power everything from the fish cages to the control system, he said.

Cobia is not to be confused with tilapia or other low-end fish, Mr Zickel said.

“These fish do not school; they all swim around individually,” he said. “They are loner fish.”

Cobia are used for sashimi, sushi, and can be prepared a variety of ways. And Mr Zickel said there’s demand for them at high-end restaurants.

“The average person doesn’t know what cobia is because it’s not in big supermarkets,” he said. “But the idea is to get it into top supermarkets and restaurants.”

After launching a test site in Puerto Rico capable of producing about 50 tons of fish a year, the 20-employee company is now growing about 45,000 fish off the coast Panama, which it expects to start harvesting next month and then would sell to distributors. Weighing in at about 10 to 12 pounds each, the fish are sold for approximately $50 each.

“We raise fish that are to be sold into the US market,” Mr Zickel told The Cleantech Group. “We don’t raise our fish to freeze them.

In August, the company acquired Panama-based Pristine Oceans, which was also raising cobia, for an undisclosed amount. Pristine was operating near Open Blue Sea Farms in Panama.

Open Blue Sea Farms, founded by 30-year-old entrepreneur Brian O’Hanlon, has raised $215,000 in seeding funding and convertible debt totaling $1.2 million, with investment from Aquacopia Ventures I. New York-based Aquacopia invests in early-stage seafood farms, aquaculture technologies, and related supply, service, and marketing firms.

Open Blue Sea Farms is in the process of closing a $1 million bridge round, Mr Zickel said. The company is currently seeking an initial $6 million to be used for assets, such as building more hatchery facilities, feeding the fish, and working capital.

the Fish Site Editor

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