Aqua-Spark is Funding the Bleeding Edge of Aquaculture

On one of my many trips down the Internet recently I discovered a nexus between two interests of mine: sustainable seafood and investing. All these new and innovative aquaculture ventures that are popping up need funding and Aqua-Spark, a Private Equity investment fund based in The Netherlands is doing just that. Here’s a snippet from their website.

Aqua-Spark is an investment fund with a focus on sustainable aquaculture businesses around the world. The small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) we invest in are working toward the production of safe, accessible aquatic life, such as fish, shellfish and plants, in ways that do not harm our oceans. Our investors value the fact that each investment aims to create triple impact—specifically, each investment is chosen for its potential to generate significant financial returns while also activating positive environmental and social outcomes.

Aqua-Spark’s strategy is to provide initial funding to SME’s in the field of sustainable aquaculture ranging from 250,000 to 5 million Euro. They prefer to remain minority stakeholders in these companies and invest mostly in those that are already in business and ready to expand or have a viable proof of concept. Only 10% of their funding goes to riskier, more experimental ventures.

The website describes their thorough vetting process, which is done in partnership. I first learned of this with Love The Wild, which I reviewed back when they were in their portfolio. I’m sure some of you remember how pleasantly surprised I was with their products. Another company that caught my eye is a fish farm called Sogn Aqua, which farm-raises Atlantic halibut in a very innovative way. I’ll be taking a closer look at this company soon.

The Aqua-Spark Portfolio

Aqua-spark project bali
Indonesian carbon-capture seaweed farm. Credit: Aqua-Spark

I recently reviewed some of the current start-ups in the Aqua-Spark portfolio and it is certainly worth a look. One company that stands out is the Chicoa Fish Farm, which is changing the way fish are farmed in Africa. Endeavors like the Chicoa Fish Farm may not change my mind on tilapia, but what they are doing is a major step forward for African food security.

A major problem with raising fish sustainably, without sacrificing quality, is the feed source. The supply chains for fish meal, oil and discards gets into questions on sustainability. Non-wild, plant based feeds that contain mostly corn and soy are not great for some fish, or for the consumer. Protix, based in the Netherlands is attempting to solve these feed issue by using insect protein. Their approach may not just improve aquaculture, but how we raise all animal protein, from salmon to chickens.

If Aqua-Spark continues to fund companies like these, they may completely reverse the general public’s view on aquaculture. The image of dirty ponds crammed with unhealthy shrimp, tilapia or swai can be a thing of the past. The sea pens overstocked with salmon riddled with sea lice and pumped full of antibiotics may one day be replaced with less intensely farmed fish that don’t threaten wild fish or the fishermen who rely on them.

Now, I must admit that I don’t believe the oceans will be depleted soon, as in their promo video. However, my opinion is changing on the role aquaculture needs to play. Aqua-Spark and the companies they invest in, gives me hope that responsible, sustainable aquaculture can co-exist and supplement what we harvest from the oceans.