Posts Tagged ‘socent’

The Oyster Opportunity

September 3rd, 2013

Contributed by Marah Hardt

What happens when a bunch of shellfish biologists, creative finance gurus, a few techies and some storytellers get together for a three day workshop in New Orleans? First, they eat a lot of really good oysters. Second, they brainstorm some impressive pathways forward for saving oyster fisheries, farms, and reefs.

And oysters need to be saved. With only 15 percent of oyster reefs remaining (yes, 85 percent have been wiped out), they are the most endangered marine habitat in the world.  But saving oyster reefs is not just about oysters—it’s about inventing new ways to restore an ecosystem and the many services it provides: water filtration, fish habitat, coastline protection, and nutrient recycling. It’s a complex problem that intersects sustainable aquaculture (the vast majority of harvested oysters are farmed), restoration ecology, and wild fisheries.

The workshop in New Orleans was one step towards hatching out a strategy for saving oysters. Many ideas were thrown around, from reality TV shows to gaming apps. Within the mix of wild and crazy were the seeds of some truly inspiring and potentially game-changing ideas, including creative financing tools, knowledge exchange platforms, and scaled-up recycling ventures.

For example, Chris Fisher with Fisher recycling includes oyster shell as part of his larger recycling business that includes glass, plastics, electronics, paper and more.  The key to adding oyster shell to the list? Dealing with the smell. Fisher recycling uses aesthetically pleasing as well as tightly-sealed containers to minimize any stinky odors.  With a dedicated service person committed to every client, they ensure recycling needs of each business can be met.  Fisher Recycling operates as a franchise model, which could mean the opportunity to create bigger, better, and yes, profitable shell-recycling efforts may be just over the horizon.

The oyster opportunity continues at SOCAP where Future of Fish will facilitate an interactive workshop on Thursday, September 5th populated with the entrepreneurs who are making waves in the oyster recovery world.

Village Fishmonger: Bringing Sustainable Seafood to the Big Apple

August 26th, 2013

“…a new startup called Village Fishmonger hopes to blend the history of New York fish markets with the city’s tech-savvy, entrepreneurial culture.”National Geographic

Samantha Lee, co-founder of Village Fishmonger and subject of the article above, has created a source of local, sustainable seafood in NYC that is educating consumers and trying to change the market.  Samantha will be on “Coastal Communities: Livelihoods and Conservation” – Thursday, September 5th at 11:45

Check out more in this great series of articles on Ocean Innovators hosted by National Geographic.


3D Ocean Farming

August 22nd, 2013

“My view is that the 3D model of growing specifically chosen species that restore rather than deplete our oceans is replicable globally. So yes, I’m considered a little crazy, but our oceans are in trouble and maybe what we need is a little crazy.” – Bren Smith, Thimble Island Oyster Company

Our SOCAP13 ocean entrepreneurs have been getting a lot of great press! This Fast Company article gives a summary of what Bren Smith is up to at Thimble Island Oyster Company. You can also catch Bren live at The Oyster Opportunity workshop at SOCAP13, Thursday, September 5th at 10:30 am.

Ocean of Innovation

August 20th, 2013

Contributed by David Helvarg

In my new book ‘The Golden Shore – California’s Love Affair with the Sea’ I write about how the Pacific has contributed to Californians’ innovative and entrepreneurial spirit.  Being a pioneering ocean culture, California combines the Pacific’s limitless horizons with structured thought (necessary for survival on this fetch of ocean) in a way that has given it world leadership in the development of computational, biomedical and other technologies.  In other words, ‘catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world.’ A few examples of how a healthy ocean can keep blue businesses afloat would have to include the Meistrell twins, Bill and Bob, who made their own wetsuits out of neoprene insulation from the back of a refrigerator 60 years ago, before going on to found the Body Glove corporation out of their southern California dive shop. Hobie Alter was another ocean lover who redefined surfboards with foam and fiberglass and supercharged sailing with his Hobie Cat sailboat, the original catamaran template for today’s multi-million dollar America’s Cup yachts and teams including California’s Team Oracle.  J. Craig Venter, a pioneer in sequencing the human genome, has been working for years sampling and cataloging life in the ocean.  Among his ideas, modifying marine microorganisms to create clean fuels.  This has led to a $600 million collaboration with Exxon to develop the next generation of biofuels.  Others, like Mark Holmes of Newport Beach, want to leapfrog the old corporate structures.  His Green Wave Energy Corporation is looking to harness offshore clean energy using new and radically simple wave turbine technologies.  Newer California-based corporate titans like Google are looking to create the smart offshore power cables needed to bring wind turbine energy ashore while also mapping and making the ocean more transparent through its online Ocean portal.  I could go on and do (in my book).   But what’s key to understand is how much of this innovation is driven by California having learned to live well with the sea and become its steward, using the best available marine science to set policy and enhance collaborative approaches.

In California problems associated with ocean health are addressed through a combination of private and public investment in the state’s massive blue economy.  With a multiplicity of marine interests in recreation, transportation, trade, energy, fishing and National Defense, California has also become the world’s leading innovator in coastal protection, climate adaptation, marine parks, green ports, ocean observation and science systems and other cutting edge technologies and consumer trends that offer huge opportunities for investors and innovators alike.  For more on California’s ocean leadership see my article from the San Francisco Chronicle’s Insight section on Aug. 11.

Or join me and panelists from Google, Doer Marine and the National Ocean Economics Program for the ‘Making Waves in California’s Blue Economy’ session: 10:30 AM Wed. Sept. 4 in the Money Tent at SOCAP13.

Incubating Aquaculture Businesses at the Base of the Pyramid

August 15th, 2013

Successful projects, dwindling funds. What’s an innovative NGO to do?

One answer: Build a deal pipeline for impact investors looking for investable ventures.

WorldFish, a Malaysia-based spinoff of the the “green revolution” pioneer CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research), reached this crossroads in 2010. International aid had run out for aquaculture initiatives that had helped coastal communities in Aceh, Indonesia rebuild their livelihoods after the 2004 tsunami.

WorldFish had advised the Indonesian fish farmers on raising milkfish, tilapia, and cash crops like shrimp and lobster. The new farming practices increased efficiency, reduced waste and raised the profits of the smallholder farmers. Starting with 47 farmers, the program had grown to more than 2,600 by 2010.

With production established, WorldFish organized a co-op to secure access to markets and credit and enable farmers to buy feed and other supplies in bulk. Participating Aceh farmers increased their annual income from $215 in 2007 to $684 in 2010 and 96 percent were operating at a profit — up from 28 percent, according to a WorldFish report.

Then the funding from Sweden’s aid agency and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization ran out.

Enter WorldFish Incubator, which is aiming to transform projects that aid smallholder fish farms into viable businesses. The incubator plans to deliver to investors at least 12 investable deals, worth more than $10 million, by 2016. After an investment period of about five years, WorldFish expects the investments to generate attractive returns, increased well-being for more than 200,000 people, along with environmental benefits and valuable lessons for impact investors in aquaculture.

“We’ve run out of project funding, but there’s no need to depend on grant-type funding,” says Malcolm Beveridge, WorldFish’s director of aquaculture and genetics. “We’re beginning to see ideas that have commercial potential.”

WorldFish has started incubator activites with seed funding from the Resources Legacy Fund. It needs further financing for full operation, has already begun to source deals for aquaculture investors. For example, it has suggested a milkfish project raising in India to Aqua-Spark, a new fund based in the Netherlands that is looking to invest in socially and environmentally responsible fish businesses, particularly in the developing world.

Investor interest in aquaculture has been hindered by a shortage of investable ventures, and WorldFish is riding powerful trends. As wild stocks decline, nearly half of the world’s fish consumption is now supplied by fish farming. Aquaculture is the world’s fastest growing food system — it’s now bigger than beef production — and delivered 63 million tons of food fish in 2011.

Two major challenges hinder aquaculture’s ability to reach its full potential. Small and medium-sized aquaculture enterprises, have found it difficult to access the capital they need to scale up. And fish farming has historically generated a host of environmental problems.

WorldFish’s research suggests that supporting such smallholder fish farmers offers the best opportunity for both reducing aquaculture’s ecological footprint and generating sustainable food and livelihoods. In addition to the work in Aceh, WorldFish’s grant-funded projects include working with the marginalized Adivasi community in Bangladesh and smallholder fish farmers in Malawi. It developed more productive strains of farmed tilapia, aquaculture systems integrated with other agricultural activities and new lower-impact pond technologies.

With technical assistance and business planning, WorldFish believes it can help elevate pioneering aquaculture businesses to commercial performance — and make them appealing to values-aligned, patient-capital investors.

How will WorldFish “green” aquaculture? Waste-mitigating practices developed in Aceh as well as in India and Bangladesh include altering consumption habits to favor smaller fish, changing feedstocks and creating a network of environmentally-sustainable supporting services. “We want to help ecosystems, not trash them. We don’t want to introduce strange species or wasteful feeds,” says Wayne Rogers, WorldFish’s Director of Corporate Services.

Rogers believes that many of the polluting and problematic aspects of aquaculture can be prevented or addressed by a series of interventions. When farmers are taught to screen fry (baby fish) before stocking ponds, for example, diseases among the fish are reduced, as is the need to use pharmaceuticals to keep them healthy.

More innovative interventions include rethinking the size of harvested fish for sale. Fish sold at finger-size save farmers rearing costs, increase the number of harvests, decrease the chances of disease developing, and increase nutrition. (Small fish are likely to be eaten whole, instead of filleted, discarding the head, eyes, and other nutritious parts.)

WorldFish also seeks to incubate ventures that create new feeds based on algae or tunicates (small, sedentary, plant-like organisms). Such feed would replace the use of forage fish as feed, reducing the practice, as Rogers puts it, of “scooping up lots of little fish off the coast of someplace like Chile and flying them across the world to grind up and feed them to farmed fish.”

WorldFish’s incubator plans to share such learning among investors, government and all parts of the fish supply chain in order to catalyze investment in small and medium aquaculture investments. “The idea,” Rogers says, “is to create business ecosystems that build community support and wealth.”

This article from ImpactIQ is part of a series on Oceans and Sustainable Fisheries,  in association with SOCAP 13, the Social Capital Markets conference in San Francisco, Sept. 3-6.