Kampachi Farms has announced that UK seafood entrepreneur Toby Baxendale has joined the board of directors, joining chairman Bjorn Myrseth, Neil Anthony Sims and Michael Bullock.
Hawaii-based yellowtail kampachi farming operation Kampachi Farms has been looking to Mexico as the site to scale the business up for over a year, but with initial investment secured from Baxendale, Myrseth and others, the project is now moving forward.
Kampachi Farms' co-founder, Bullock, is already based in La Paz full time, and the company has established kampachi broodstock there, fellow co-founder Sims told Undercurrent News.
Sims is pleased with the range and experience of Kampachi Farms' board, and is grateful for Baxendale’s expertise to strengthen the company, he said. Sims himself is a veteran of sustainable, open-ocean farming, Bullock was previously a salmon farming division manager in Chile, producing over 20,000 metric tons per year, and Myrseth was recently honored by the Global Aquaculture Alliance with a lifetime achievement award.
"On a trip to Turkey in 2012 to understand more about 'mariculture' as opposed to aquaculture (open ocean as opposed to land /loch/near shore) I met the inspiring Neil Sims of Kampachi Farms who was chairing the event," wrote Baxendale on his website.
"I also learned of some of the pioneering and exciting projects to develop, what I would call a sustainable alternative to hunting tuna: the cultivation of the yellow tail jack, or more specifically this specie Seriola which is Aquaculture Stewardship Council-approved."
The main reason for Kampachi Farms' move to Mexico was the difficulty it was having in expanding farming operations in the US.
“Aquaculture plans have been stuck in the US regulatory system for years,” said Sims, though he pointed out the good work of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) aquaculture scientists.
“NOAA’s fisheries management plan for aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico seems to have not moved for the past four years,” he said, “yet America is importing over 80% of its seafood."
The 1km-square La Paz site will sell kampachi to the North American market. It is projected to produce 8,800t within 10 years. The company is looking to raise over $10 million for the project eventually.
The farm uses a modified surface pen system, to allow for efficiency of operations, but still incorporates some of the successful innovations from the firm's Velella project, a drifting cage which was named one of Time magazine's inventions of the year in 2012.
Over 150,000t of kampachi, or almaco jack, and hampachi, otherwise known as Japanese yellowtail, is grown in Japan each year. It is most commonly used at sashimi grade for sushi on the domestic market, though it is also exported to the US for sushi there. It has also shown potential for use in white tablecloth and high-end chain restaurants in the US, said Sims.
There is also the potential for a branded product to move into retail once it is recognized by consumers, he suggested.
As Sims told Undercurrent a year ago this week, Kampachi is looking to expand to the Middle East in the future. A farming site there would serve the domestic market, in which demand is strong for marine fish, as well as the European market, he hopes.
While there is no current set date for this, the company is “aggressively pursuing” its interests there, he said, adding that a site there would be developed in conjunction with research and development partner Lockheed Martin, which helped create the technologies used in the Velella project.