Software and logistics company Blue Sea Labs took home the winning title at last week's Fish 2.0 Competition Finals, held at Stanford University.
The judges of Fish 2.0, a business competition connecting sustainable fisheries and aquaculture businesses, were blown away by Blue Sea's service, which enables fishermen to garner higher profits by selling and delivering sustainably caught seafood directly to consumers.
In total, the competition awarded $75,000 to Blue Sea labs and the two runners up. The competition was open to both aquaculture and wild catch technology projects, with both types receiving funding.
In second place was Cryoocyte, the developer of a technology for freezing fish eggs which would allow fish farms to produce at full capacity year-round and create a genetic egg bank to preserve endangered species; while in third was Ho'oulu Pacific, a company that helps tackle obesity and nutritional challenges prevalent in low-income communities by providing aquaponics modules that can be used to grow fish and vegetables for use as food or to sell in order to increase household income.
“Through Fish 2.0, we gave seafood entrepreneurs a chance to show investors that there are both financial gains to be made in these markets and opportunities to build businesses that contribute to food security, ocean sustainability, and thriving local communities,” said Monica Jain, founder of Fish 2.0.
These three companies were singled out out of 80 companies that applied last spring, after undergoing a rigorous selection process involving four phases. The last round of the competition involved five judges, all of whom were investors, which narrowed down the winners from a slate of 10 finalists; who were selected from a list of 20 semi-finalists. Each phase was narrowed down through online judging, a Fish 2.0 spokesperson told Undercurrent News.
The winners all have sustainability goals at the center of their line of vision and expressed appreciation at the opportunity to be recognized for those efforts.
“We are really excited about the chance to grow our business and help fishermen reach more consumers,” said grand-prize winner Martin Reed of Blue Sea Labs. “It was great to have a room full of investors there who wanted to know more about seafood. It’s very affirming to see people validate what we’re so passionate about and have worked so hard on.”
Echoing Reed's sentiments, Cryoocyte's Dmitry Kozachenok said "We want people to have better access to healthy foods, and we want generations down the road to have the same biodiversity in the oceans that we see today.
"We are eager to move our technology forward and put it into position to enhance aquaculture sustainability and help restore wild fisheries.”
Fish 2.0 was started by Manta Consulting Inc.’s team of experts who understood that financing sustainable businesses in the seafood industry was challenging for both investors and businesses. Business owners struggled to find investors who fully understand the industry, while investors struggled to find businesses that meet their criteria for sound investments. Fish 2.0 offered a unique, online accelerator-style competition space where entrepreneurs spent valuable time with advisors to help refine their business ideas and find interested investors. Through the process, investors reported that they saw more viable investment opportunities in a few months than they usually see in a year.
Investors report strong interest in seafood, which Watershed Capital Group's Aaron Enz described as "an exciting sector."
“It is the most efficient animal-based protein in the world in terms of feed and water usage, and it has better health attributes as well," Enz, whose Watershed is a corporate finance advisor who attended the competition.
This excitement is spreading. Seafood is gaining more and more attention from impact investors – those who want to put their money into businesses that provide both financial returns and positive environmental and social outcomes.
A new fund dedicated solely to aquaculture, Aqua-Spark, launched last week; and a recent report by Fish 2.0 sponsor KL Felicitas Foundation and Sonen Capital shows that impact investments can compete and even outperform typical investment portfolios.
“More and more, environmental issues are business issues,” said Enz. “Consumers and advocates are calling for more sustainability. There are production problems linked to disease outbreaks and overfishing. When this demand comes together with sustainable production from companies like we saw today, it will propel sustainability. The status quo isn’t possible - to meet future seafood demand, sustain remaining wild harvest stocks and have responsible aquaculture, the industry is going to change.”