When I started Fish 2.0, many investors, foundations, and even seafood experts said it would be difficult to get more than 50 entries in a competition for sustainable seafood businesses. They were not seeing many innovative seafood businesses, and they believed most of those they did see were not looking for investment. The inaugural competition in 2013 showed that assessment was off the mark: it drew 83 entries. This year’s application period, which closed April 27, shows that innovation in the seafood sector is positively surging: we received 170 entries, more than double the number in the previous field.
That is fantastic news for our oceans and the people who depend on them. About 70 percent of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited, overexploited or have already suffered a collapse under the pressure of a $390 billion global seafood market. Yet analysts expect seafood demand to double by 2050, and island and coastal communities around the world depend on seafood for both sustenance and economic health. The situation demands sustainably managed fisheries and environmentally responsible aquaculture.
This year’s Fish 2.0 applications—from about 100 start-ups and 70 ventures that are already successfully selling and scaling—illustrate the diversity of innovation happening in the sector. Some of these businesses are shortening supply chains for value-added sustainable seafood products in the Pacific Islands, Alaska, Japan and Thailand. Some are using advanced aquaculture techniques to reduce energy costs, wastes and loss from disease, or are developing new fish feeds. Others are improving seafood storage systems to reduce logistics costs, improve quality and open new markets; bringing convenient sustainable seafood products to consumers; developing software to make fishing and fish farming businesses more efficient and systems that make supply chains traceable; or providing healthy foods and income to communities that have few other options.
The new pool of Fish 2.0 applicants also reflects rising global entrepreneurial interest in sustainable seafood. In 2013, 70 percent of Fish 2.0 applicants were from North America—and we wondered if we could persuade a significant number of entrepreneurs from areas such as the South Pacific Islands and Thailand to enter a North American business competition held in English on the Internet. We have our answer: this year only about half the entries from North America, with about one-third coming from Asia and the Pacific Islands. Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East, and Africa are also represented in the applicant pool.
Impact investors and traditional investors who are interested in food systems, community development, supply chain innovation, aquaculture and other areas touched by seafood businesses should take note of this growing opportunity. The World Bank projects that sustainably managed fisheries could boost annual seafood harvests by as much as 95 million tons, worth $72 billion. Consumer and retailer demand for sustainable, traceable seafood is high. And governments are starting to insist that seafood be captured legally, farmed sustainably and traded transparently.
For investors and others in the business community, Fish 2.0 offers an opportunity to get an inside look at new trends in seafood businesses, and to help turn the industry’s tide toward true stewardship of our oceans. We’re looking for business advisors who will spend a few hours providing advice and feedback to these sustainable seafood entrepreneurs, as well as investors who can provide the capital these enterprises need to thrive and grow. We invite advisors and investors to join us by registering here.