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New Investment Fund Finds Promising Startups in Sustainable Fish Farming

RP Siegel headshotWords by RP Siegel
Leadership & Transparency

In many ways, the sustainability journey is one of growing our capacity to provide critical production outputs like energy, food and water in a manner that does not deplete the natural resources upon which they depend. This needs to be done in a way that also does not produce unwanted byproducts that challenge the carrying capacity of the environment.

Exciting new innovations are being developed and introduced every day. One area that really seems to be heating up is aquaculture. Fish are becoming more and more popular due to their lower fat than other meats, but as their popularity and our population continue to grow, overfishing is becoming a problem. We have written about sustainable fisheries, and the growing community supported fishery (CSF) movement, but there seems to be little doubt that farming fish in a controlled environment can be far more productive than catching it in the wild.

For example, Lake Erie, which encompasses some 4,000 square miles, produces around 11 million pounds of yellow perch per year (down from about 38 million pounds 50 years ago).  According to Norman McCowan of Bell Aquaculture, a sustainable operation in Indiana we wrote extensively about last summer, 11 million pounds of perch could be raised indoors on about 7 acres.

This week brought an announcement out of Holland of a new investment fund called Aqua-Spark that is focused exclusively on sustainable aquaculture. The fund was launched in 2013 and has since raised $10 million. This week, Aqua-Spark announced its first two investments.

The first is a U.S.-based company called Calysta, which makes fish food out of a methane-eating micro-organism. Alan Shaw, Ph.D., Calysta’s president and CEO, calls Calysta’s Microbial Protein Feed “a proven, scalable high quality protein that meets the aquaculture industry’s critical need for innovation.”

Considering the fact that much of the fish meal used in fish farming today comes from either wild-caught fish or soybeans, this approach reduces stress on ocean fisheries and the agricultural supply chain. At the same time, it removes methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from the waste stream. This appears to meet Will McDonough’s criteria of “waste equals food” as a recipe for sustainability.

The second investment announced by Aqua-Spark was in Chicoa Fish Farm (CFF), a company in Mozambique whose sustainability practices Aqua-Spark considers exemplary. The choice of an African investee is strategic considering that in Africa only 1 percent of fish consumed comes from aquaculture, compared to the rest of the world where that number is nearly half.

“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, in a statement. “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.”

CFF is working to provide a sustainable blueprint for an aquaculture industry ready to take off across Africa.

These announcements come on the heels of news out of Abu Dhabi, where a research consortium will begin evaluating the use of fish farming done synergistically with biofuel production, using seawater and salt-tolerant halophyte plants. In this project, wastewater from the fish farm will be used to water and fertilize the plants. If successful, this approach could have implications for many areas in Africa as well. Sponsors include Boeing, GE and Etihad Airlines.

Image credit: Calysta

RP Siegel, PE, is an author, inventor and consultant. He has written for numerous publications ranging from Huffington Post to Mechanical Engineering. He and Roger Saillant co-wrote the successful eco-thriller Vapor Trails. RP, who is a regular contributor to Triple Pundit and Justmeans, sees it as his mission to help articulate and clarify the problems and challenges confronting our planet at this time, as well as the steadily emerging list of proposed solutions. His uniquely combined engineering and humanities background help to bring both global perspective and analytical detail to bear on the questions at hand.

Follow RP Siegel on Twitter.

RP Siegel headshotRP Siegel

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, Grist, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering,  Design News, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, Environmental Science, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Eniday, and engineering.com among others . He is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 53 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP was the winner of the 2015 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week blogging competition. Contact: bobolink52@gmail.com


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