As the world’s population increases and wild fish stocks decline, there’s an intense need for new, sustainable ways to produce, capture, and market seafood. Unless we change the way we fish today, there won’t be enough left for the planet to feast on. Fish will become a specialty, not an everyday meal.
Luckily, there’s a lot of good things happening in sustainable fishing. All sorts of startups are now appearing, and there’s a burgeoning investor scene too, according to Monica Jain, founder of the Fish 2.0 challenge. Jain says there’s double the interest in this year’s contest–from companies, funders and sponsors–than two years ago, when the first event happened.
We asked Jain to pick out a few interesting startups from the 37 that made it to the finals, which take place at Stanford in November. Below are her six choices covering different aspects of the industry.
Fish feed used in aquaculture (fish farms) is made from a mixture of dried fish, fish oils and “filler” like wheat. And the stuff isn’t getting any cheaper. According to Fish 2.0, which produces a range of market reports, prices have risen up to 300% in the last 20 years.
Entofood, from Malaysia, uses an alternative to fish-based feed: insects. “There are certain proteins and nutrients that you only find in insects. Otherwise, you’re only able to source from wild fish,” Jain says. What’s more, Entofoods grows its insects using waste food, so it’s not using up any fresh raw materials to get its feeds.
Jain also likes SabrTech, which makes the RiverBox, an all-in-one modular system for producing algae biomass. Housed in a shipping container, the algae feeds on fish waste, then itself produces fish food, potentially completing a loop for fish farms. The Canadian company is currently piloting the box with a partner in Singapore.
TimberFish, in western New York, is developing a new way to grow fish in controlled environments without the pollution that often goes with aquaculture. Using plants and insects, the system almost does away with the need for feed altogether, according to the company. “It removes all the pollutants from the water and creates a very clean seafood,” Jain says.
Meanwhile, Acadia Harvest, in Maine, is pioneering the production of saltwater fish, like California Yellowtail, in fish farms. Up to now, most land-based aquaculture has cultivated freshwater species, like trout. At the same time, it’s also developing fish feeds from its waste products.
Love Wild Fish is more on the consumer end of things. It packages fish like red trout with pre-packed sauces, creating an easy weeknight dinner option. “This is really important because people often say cooking fish is hard. So this is an easy kit that you throw into the microwave or oven, and there you have a nice, sustainable fish entree,” Jain says.
Finally comes Bureo, which isn’t actually producing fish or feed, but is having an impact on the fishing industry. From Chile, it pays people to collect up discarded fishing nets, then produces skateboards and sunglasses from the waste (the boards are sold at Patagonia).
“All these nets were just sitting around on the beaches in Chile and creating a lot of eyesore and pollution,” Jain says. “It’s a really savvy idea to get consumers to help reduce waste on beaches.”
See more of the entries here.