GLOBAL - Investors interested in both doing well and doing good gathered at Stanford University this week to hear over 20 sustainable seafood start-ups pitch their enterprises in the Fish 2.0 Competition Finals and Investor Ideas Exchange.
The competition, designed to bring together sustainable seafood entrepreneurs and interested investors, featured businesses throughout the seafood supply chain.
A panel of judges selected three companies –Blue Sea Labs, Cryoocyte, and Ho’oulu Pacific - as the competition winners, awarding $75,000 in cash prizes for the strength of their businesses and their potential to create positive environmental and social impact.
“Through Fish 2.0, we gave seafood entrepreneurs a chance to show investors that there are both financial gains to be made in these markets and opportunities to build businesses that contribute to food security, ocean sustainability, and thriving local communities,” said Monica Jain, founder of Fish 2.0.
“Awareness about sustainable seafood has increased and continues to rise,” said Mitchell Lench of Treetops Capital, an investor who attended the competition. “There is a desire by impact investors to support new initiatives, and it was useful to see so many different types of sustainable seafood companies all in one place. The time is now for investments in more companies like the ones presented here.”
All of the companies at the competition presented profitable business ideas with positive environmental and social outcomes.
Blue Sea Labs, the winning company, is a software and logistics service that enables fishermen to garner higher profits by selling and delivering sustainably caught seafood directly to customers.
Cryoocyte, the runner-up, is developing novel technology to freeze fish eggs, which would allow fish farms to produce at full capacity year-round and create a genetic egg bank to preserve endangered species.
The third place finisher, Ho’oulu Pacific, helps tackle obesity and nutritional challenges prevalent in low-income communities by providing aquaponics modules that can be used to grow fish and vegetables in your backyard. Families using the systems produce healthy food to eat and a surplus to sell for increased household income.
“We are really excited about the chance to grow our business and help fishermen reach more consumers,” said grand-prize winner Martin Reed of Blue Sea Labs.
“It was great to have a room full of investors there who wanted to know more about seafood. It’s very affirming to see people validate what we’re so passionate about and have worked so hard on.”
“We want people to have better access to healthy foods, and we want generations down the road to have the same biodiversity in the oceans that we see today,” added Dmitry Kozachenok of Cryoocyte.
“We are eager to move our technology forward and put it into position to enhance aquaculture sustainability and help restore wild fisheries.”
A New Business Competition Model
Fish 2.0 was started by Manta Consulting Inc.’s team of experts who understood that financing sustainable businesses in the seafood industry was challenging for both investors and businesses.
Business owners struggled to find investors who fully understand the industry, while investors struggled to find businesses that meet their criteria for sound investments. Fish 2.0 offered a unique, online accelerator-style competition space where entrepreneurs spent valuable time with advisors to help refine their business ideas and find interested investors. Through the process, investors reported that they saw more viable investment opportunities in a few months than they usually see in a year.
Building Interest and Investment Opportunity in Sustainable Seafood
“Seafood is an exciting sector,” said Aaron Enz of Watershed Capital Group, a corporate finance advisor who attended the competition. “It is the most efficient animal-based protein in the world in terms of feed and water usage, and it has better health attributes as well.”
“We are pleased to see so much momentum at the intersection of sustainable seafood and impact investing,” added Lisa Monzon from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, one of the competition sponsors. “The number of viable businesses that came to the table shows that this sector is well-poised for growth.”
This excitement is spreading. Seafood is gaining more and more attention from impact investors – those who want to put their money into businesses that provide both financial returns and positive environmental and social outcomes.
A new fund dedicated solely to aquaculture, Aqua-Spark, is launching this week. And a recent report by Fish 2.0 sponsor KL Felicitas Foundation and Sonen Capital shows that impact investments can compete and even outperform typical investment portfolios.
“More and more, environmental issues are business issues,” said Enz. “Consumers and advocates are calling for more sustainability. There are production problems linked to disease outbreaks and overfishing. When this demand comes together with sustainable production from companies like we saw today, it will propel sustainability. The status quo isn’t possible - to meet future seafood demand, sustain remaining wild harvest stocks and have responsible aquaculture, the industry is going to change.”
For information about the Fish 2.0 businesses and the competition process please visit the Fish 2.0 website by clicking here.
TheFishSite News Desk