Ocean 14 Capital makes key bivalve investment

The ocean-focussed equity impact investment fund has backed MITO SrL, a clam breeding and farming venture, as part of its European bivalves platform strategy.

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
26 August 2022, at 8:30am
clams in a tray
Farmed clams

MITO has deep expertise in breeding and hatching clams

MITO, created through the O14C transaction, is the consolidation of clam hatchery and nurseries in Italy and the Netherlands. The company is co-founded by Gianluigi Lago, Paola Landri and Maurizio Varagnolo, industry veterans with deep expertise in breeding and farming of Veneridae clams. MITO, resulting from the merger of Societá Agricola Ecotapes Italia, Delta Futuro Societá Agricola and Ecotapes Zeeland, initiates operations producing more than 300 million clam seed juveniles ready for stocking for the Italian market.

MITO integrates biosecure hatchery operations in the Netherlands with local nursery centres in the core Italian market and, supported by Ocean 14 Capital Fund, has an ambitious growth plan to increase its operational capacity to 2 billion of seeds annually over the next few years. The Ocean 14 Capital Fund plans to invest an additional €5 million investment to scale and grow the business further, as part of its European bivalves strategy, creating another scalable, regenerative and sustainable protein platform within the blue economy.

“It is incredibly exciting to begin this journey with MITO – benefiting from and simultaneously accelerating the great and highly impactful work that Gianluigi, Paola and Maurizio have developed for years” said Katherine Elbert, investment analyst and co-investment lead for MITO at Ocean 14 Capital, the fund’s investment advisor. “We couldn’t have arranged a better starting investment for the Fund’s European bivalves strategy. Similar to what happened to oysters, a strong supply of viable hatchery seed is key for the sustainable development of the industry,” she added.

“O14C has been a great partner for us and we are very excited about the opportunity our partnership will capture,” says Gianluigi Lago, MITO’s Chief Operating Officer. “With their investment and support, MITO will soon lead the supply of hatchery clam seed in Europe,” added Lago.

Ocean 14 Capital Fund’s dedicated investment strategy for the European bivalve industry aims to bring capital, technology and best-practices to this often-overlooked sector of the European coastal economies. “With a total aquaculture production of more than 30,000 tonnes, the clam industry in Europe is one of the best opportunities for the Fund to invest in. It shows well who the Fund is as O14C, and its purpose,” says Francisco Saraiva Gomes, founding partner and Chief Investment Officer of the Fund’s investment advisor.

“It’s a great protein, with a superior production system, highly leverageable through technology and convergent with coastal conservation, of which we know a lot and where we are able to develop superior partnerships with the industry leaders. It’s a great impact growth thesis: the team is fantastic, we’re building at book value, and MITO’s sales are overbooked,” he added.

MITO is a high impact investment case for Ocean 14 Capital. Alongside nutritional benefits, clams are an exceptionally efficient, low impact protein. As filter feeders growing in the sediment of natural lagoons, clams require no feed, fresh water or antibiotics and almost no physical infrastructure. As a result, clams produce less than 2 kg of CO₂ per 100 g of protein, versus the European average of 13 kg per 100 g of animal protein and 50 kg per 100 g of beef protein.

clams on a batea
Farmed clams growing on a batea

Clams require no feed, fresh water or antibiotics and almost no physical infrastructure to grow

In recent years, the European production of clams has declined due to lack of wildly sourced seed, as well as the abiotic stress and disease, resulting in a spat mortality rate of over 50 percent. MITO supplies high quality clam juveniles that increase the production of low-impact and low-carbon protein by increasing the availability of clam seed, displacing farmer’s dependency on wildly sourced stocks, while simultaneously decreasing their mortality in grow-out and protecting the environment within the lagoon, which take pressure off the heavily overfished wild clam populations.