As we gear up for the January launch of the Fish 2.0 business competition – an initiative that connects seafood entrepreneurs and investors – our team spoke with finalists from our 2013 competition to hear their news.
One of the goals of Fish 2.0 is to create the conditions and connections that will help sustainable seafood companies grow and succeed. We think the stories we heard are worth sharing.
As last year’s competition winner, Martin Reed, says, “It’s an exciting time to be in the seafood industry and working to make it more sustainable.” Here is some of the exciting news we heard from the 2013 finalists and semi-finalists.
Moving from Production to Strong Sales
Fish 2.0 finalist, Kuterra, began sales of the first, land-based, sustainably farmed Atlantic salmon in 2014. They also earned the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s green, “best choice” seafood ranking—one of only three farmed Atlantic salmon operations to do so thus far. Garry Ullstrom, Kuterra’s CEO, told us, “The demand is overwhelming. ”Kuterra is now selling salmon to Safeway and breaking into high-end food service markets in Canada and the U.S. In 2015, we are gearing up to reach production of over 60,000 pounds of fish/month and planning for expansion. At the Fish 2.0 finals, Ullstrom explained that Kuterra wanted to demonstrate that land-based salmon aquaculture can be a sustainable and profitable enterprise—it’s exciting to see their venture go from start-up to sales in a short time, expanding rapidly as the team implements their strategies.
Turning a Promising Idea into an Investment-Ready Business
Hoyt Peckham of SmartFish, winner of a short-pitch prize, came to Fish 2.0 with a promising venture idea in concept stage. One year later, thanks in part to connections and learning from Fish 2.0, he and his team have a social enterprise that is viable and ready for investment. Based on the strength of the plans they developed during the competition, SmartFish received funder support to implement financial feasibility pilots over the past year. SmartFish increases the price that small-scale fishermen can get for their fish while reducing their catch, directly incentivizing more socially and environmentally responsible fishing. Their 2014 feasibility analyses show that the SmartFish model can be profitable with additional species and across Mexico. Peckham and his team are now working on plans to scale their triple-bottom line business regionally and internationally, attracting a range of capital sources to do so.
Breaking into New Markets
Dane Chauvel of Organic Ocean finished Fish 2.0 with strengthened peer connections that led him toward government funding for market research. Organic Ocean, a Canadian business, secured and used this funding to explore how they could expand sales into retail stores and the U.S., and subsequently entered these markets. With the connections they made and lots of hard work, they exceeded revenue projections by 10 percent last year and are on track to realize a stunning 30 percent year-over-year increase in revenue this year. “We’re doing more, and doing better,” says Chauvel. “We’ve optimized our business, and I don’t think we would have got here as quickly without the networking opportunity and business plan honing we received through the Fish 2.0 experience.”
Other News and Updates from Finalists:
- Ed Robinson of Acadia Harvest Inc. (formerly RAS Corporation) applied for two Phase II Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer awards from the National Science Foundation, each worth $1.4M over four years. Acadia Harvest will use these funds to continue development of their zero wastewater treatment technology and new aquaculture feeds that use processing wastes from seafood that would otherwise be discarded. They plan to sell $400K in fish from their operations in 2015, moving closer to commercial scale.
- Martin Reed, founder of ilovebluesea.com and winner of the 2013 Fish 2.0 competition, exited the internet side of that business in October with a sale to Vital Choice, a leading online provider of sustainable seafood. Martin also started a new social venture, TwoFish, this year with seed funding from Cisco Systems and a successful Kickstarter campaign.
- Gary Beatty of Inland Shrimp Company, winner of a short pitch prize, is in talks with several investors and banks to explore financing options for his growing company.
Alan Lovewell of Local Catch Monterey Bay formed a strategic partnership with a local processor, a decision that allows Local Catch to focus on what they do best: connecting more people to fishermen and local seafood. He also obtained funds to expand his management team and operations. Local Catch Monterey Bay recently opened new distribution centers in San Francisco and San Jose, California and partnered with a local School District to provide sustainable fish in schools that serve over 6,000 meals a day.
We look forward to adding more success stories about seafood entrepreneurs and investors from the Fish 2.0 network that is building for next year’s competition. The application process for Fish 2.0 2015 will open in mid-January. In the meantime, please connect with us on the Fish 2.0 website and register to receive updates and/or to get involved as a business, investor, or expert advisor.