Kick-off a Global Investment Agenda in Aquaculture.

Aquaculture is a great source of high-quality proteins with a low feed and carbon footprint. It has the potential to feed a growing world population in a responsible way. Aquaculture has surpassed wild caught fish in global market share, but still it has not the capacity to feed the world. Furthermore, the aquaculture sector struggles with diseases, overuse of antibiotics and overuse of feed. Hence there is a need of investments for scaling sustainable aquaculture.

2nd Annual Invest Aqua

Aqua-Spark and IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, organized the 2nd annual Invest Aqua in Utrecht. The event brought together aquaculture industry stakeholders that recognize the industry’s potential for sustainable development through innovation. Around 120 high level representatives joined the event. Industry representatives and investors came together to discuss investments in aquaculture. The event focused around three topics: Investing in Technology Solutions; Investing in Partnerships and Investing in Sustainable Tilapia.

The day was kicked off by a vision for aquaculture from Amy Novogratz, Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Aqua-Spark, and Flavio Corsin, Aquaculture Program Director at IDH. Daniel Ruben, an advisor to the Rockefeller Foundation then discussed the changing protein market. Jacqueline Claudia from Love the Wild stressed the need for changing the image of aquaculture and consumer behavior. The session was closed by Joost Oorthuizen, CEO of IDH, on the potential to invest in African countries.

Investing in Technology Solutions

Technology is instrumental in improving the sector’s sustainability by offering alternative feed sources, linking diagnostics better to farmers and helping farmers to make better decisions that result in higher profitability and more efficient feed use. Joost Matthijssen from Nutreco, Esther Luiten from ASC, Gibran El Farizy from eFishery, Ralf Onken from FAI Farms, Francois Robitaille from XpertSea, Raj Somasundaram from Aquaconnect and Ezhil Subbian from String Bio discussed technology solutions and increasing data-driven farming.

Investing in Partnerships

Addressing aquaculture sustainability demands a fresh partnership approaches, for example the Partnership Assurance Model, that engage governments, donors, civil society, and the private sector as partners in improvement at an area level. Emerging  approaches to support sector improvement were highlighted: Willem Klaassens of IDH talked about the Verified Sourcing Area concept, Mariska Bottema from Wageningen University provided lessons on area-based management approaches in aquaculture and the importance of engaging groups/clusters of farmers, Herman Wisse presented the Global Sustainable Seafood Index (GSSI) plans to focus on improvement of non-certified seafood, Wendy Norden of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch® program highlighted the potential of the Partnership Assurance Model to improve transparency and area-based improvement and finally, Roxanne Nanninga from Thai Union highlighted the critical role that partnerships play in achieving both business and sustainability objectives.

In the breakout session, Resonance, Seafood Watch and other partners provided an overview of the core elements of the Partnership Assurance Model, which brings together farmers, processors, buyers, NGOs, government, input providers, financial institutions, and technology companies in a region, to co-design, implement, and verify environmental and social improvements throughout the production process. The group then collectively identified the partners that will support specific country projects, discussed claims and verification at different stages (commitment, absolute performance, and improvement), and identified the need for an investable suite of interventions, farmer incentives, and aggregation strategy are keys to getting to investment at scale.

A one-day workshop focus on articulating the investment potential of the Partnership Assurance Model and identifying new partnerships followed Invest Aqua.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium, Resonance, SGS, Tucker Consulting Services, Aquaspark, Thai Union and the IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, organized the workshop that resulted in concrete action plans to expand and launch Partnership Assurance Model projects in shrimp aquaculture in specific production areas in Indonesia, India and Vietnam.

IDH, Seafood Watch and several other organizations agreed to support events in a specific region or country, likely Indonesia, Vietnam and India, to bring together key seafood market, industry and investors actors to identify priority interventions that could support investment at scale through the Partnership Assurance Model.  Several organizations, including Alune, ASC, Larive International, Conservation International and ASC agreed to share insights on the use of technology to address farm-level risk and data collection and setting up governance and oversight of improvement projects. eFishery and AquaConnect expressed interest in exploring how their technology platforms can link with Partnership Assurance Model projects to support data collection and verification, risk profiling and transparency, feedback loops to farmers, and increasing efficiency and value with partners.

Investing in Sustainable Tilapia

Tilapia is a key species for food security. A broad overview of the sector was provided by Kevin Fitzsimmons, after which Peter Hajipieris of Regal Springs explained the opportunities and challenges of producing and selling sustainable Tilapia. Althaf Khan of the Fishin’ Co. explained the opportunities and challenges of Tilapia trade. Rob Kiers from Nutreco then presented the Tilapia food market, after which Elizabeth Pederson released some of Aqua Spark’s plans to establish an Aqua-Spark Africa Fund. Damien Legros of Chicoa Fish Farms then explained how to produce Tilapia in Mozambique and the session ended with a call to action on Tilapia marketing by Jennifer Bushman.

Tilapia is a fish species that, when farmed sustainably, has very favorable feed conversion rates, is profitable for small scale farmers and can be farmed in many tropical areas including those in Asia and Africa. US and European consumers’ demand for sustainably farmed Tilapia could be a great incentive for producers to invest in Tilapia farming; hence the need for a general consumer facing product promotion of Tilapia. At the break-out session, several European traders and Asian producers showed interest in investing in such a promotion. Both Aqua-Spark and IDH offered to co-invest in such a sustainable product promotion.

In sum: we started catalyzing investment into aquaculture. We welcome anyone to join us on this journey and make aquaculture the preferred solution to food security.