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Eight sustainable seafood businesses win top honors at Fish 2.0 Finals

Laurence Williams
Laurence Williams
10 November 2017, at 2:15pm

Entrepreneurs from all over the world are responding to global trends driving market demand in the seafood sector and beyond

Fish 2.0 closed out its 2017 Innovation Forum today by awarding cash prizes to the eight seafood ventures earning the highest scores in this year’s Fish 2.0 business competition. The winners are each simplifying supply chains while increasing income for fishers and farmers, bringing to market creative approaches to aquaculture production and traceability, and getting consumers excited about seafood.

Diverse panels of investor-judges chose the cash prize winners from among 22 presenters who came out on top in six regional and two global tracks. Judges picked the strongest business in each track based on the presenters’ 3-minute pitches and 5-minute question-and-answer sessions on stage at Stanford University. 

The winners by track are... 

Sustainable Fishery Trade (Chile and Peru), a Lima, Peru­­–based social enterprise that works with artisanal fishers to provide high-quality, traceable seafood direct to restaurants. 

Real Oyster Cult (New England), a Duxbury, Massachusetts, business that ships fresh oysters from all over North America direct to consumers overnight.           

Fishing Company (Pacific Islands), a Solomon Islands social enterprise that enables island communities to fish for premium bottom-water species offshore, relieving pressure on in-shore fisheries. 

EnerGaia (Southeast Asia), a Bangkok-based company that farms spirulina, an algae superfood, on urban rooftops and in rural communities for use in a variety of food products. 

Panacea Oyster Co-Op (South Atlantic and Gulf Coast Shellfish) of Spring Creek, Florida, which is restoring oyster farming in Apalachicola Bay by creating a unified brand and guaranteeing purchases to farmers. 

Northline Seafoods (U.S. West Coast), an Alaska-based company whose unique floating processing facility eliminates waste and extends the shelf life of sustainable wild salmon. 

ThisFish (Transparency and Traceability) a Vancouver, B.C., company whose traceability software helps seafood enterprises around the world record key supply chain data and improve business efficiency.

NovoNutrients (Supply Chain Innovation) of Sunnyvale, California, which is using food-grade bacteria to make fish food from industrial carbon emissions. 

 “We’re elated that we won and also humbled—there are so many bright lights in the industry right now, and so much innovation going on,” said Eric Enno Tamm, CEO of ThisFish. “Many of those companies approached me about our technology. It’s helpful to connect with the early adopters.”

 Saumil Shah, managing director of EnerGaia, and Simone Pisu, CEO of Sustainable Fishery Trade, also cited the value of connections—and welcomed the attention of the global marketplace. “Being in a competition with such a strong presence in the U.S. market is going to be a real launching point for us,” said Shah. “We are making great connections not only with investors but also with partners and buyers.”

“The Fish 2.0 award gives us the possibility to have the spotlight of the sector on us,” said Pisu. “Our mission is to improve the fishery sector in the region. We now have more potential to inspire other companies.” 

Prizes include $40,000 cash, ICX (Industry Connection) awards

Each winner received a $5,000 cash prize. They and all the other finalists are also eligible for ICX (Industry Connection) prizes: unique opportunities for ventures to gain market insights and expertise from industry leaders that support growth and innovation in sustainable seafood. 

The Fish 2.0 advisory panel will announce the winners of those prizes in December. “I was impressed with the range of businesses and innovations,” said Leigh Moran, senior officer, strategy, at Calvert Impact Capital, which is sponsoring an ICX prize. “This was the strongest group yet at Fish 2.0; I noticed more focus on brand and more sophistication, combined with a commitment to building the sustainable seafood sector overall.” Participating in Fish 2.0, she added, “is a great way for us to stay up to speed on what’s going on in the sector. It’s an entirely unique event in terms of the different actors it brings together, the topics it addresses, and the focus on both good impact and good business.” 

Audience chooses favorites in short-pitch session 

The 17 remaining finalists delivered 90-second pitches directly to the audience of about 250 investors, business leaders and government representatives, who voted for the company they most wanted to follow up with.

The top vote-getter was American Unagi, a Thomaston, Maine, company that grows locally harvested glass eels to market size in a land-based aquaculture system, providing a sustainable eel option for the domestic market while creating economic opportunity in a rural area. 

The 39 companies presenting at the finals emerged with top scores from an initial field of 184 and prevailed in a particularly strong semifinalist field of 80 ventures. During Fish 2.0’s seven-month competition program, which took place online up to the finals, businesses received feedback from investor-judges and worked with business and impact advisors to develop their strategies, integrate positive impacts and metrics into their plans, and position their enterprise for investment. 

At least six judges scored each competitor that reached the finals. “The power of this event is seeing a lot of different companies approaching similar problems with a variety of technologies,” said Dan Pullman of Fresh Source Capital, a judge on two panels. “I can compare their presentations, talk to them and get to know them. I’m impressed—the entrepreneurs are very well prepared. They are ready to be communicating to investors.” 

Five global trends are driving innovation

Leading up to the Innovation Forum, Fish 2.0 analyzed the market demands that companies in the Fish 2.0 network are responding to and found that five accelerating global trends are driving transformation in the seafood industry

  1. The need to predict and understand climate change impacts
  2. Wild fish stocks nearing maximum yield
  3. Product globalization and the rise of online sales
  4. The worldwide growth of a health-conscious middle class
  5. Aquaculture’s rapid expansion. 

These five trends are opening up new markets in the seafood sector, and ventures around the world are racing to capture a share of the opportunities. “Innovation in the seafood sector is growing like never before,” said Fish 2.0 founder and executive director Monica Jain. “Rapid technology advances and new players are coming to this previously traditional sector. We’re seeing creative products, services and business models that solve problems and remove barriers to both sustainability and growth of the seafood supply. These innovations are poised to create significant changes in the way seafood is produced, harvested and marketed over the next decade.”