2023 was a year filled with innovation and inspiration. From digital platforms to biotechnology, from aquatic engineering to new fish farming ventures, here we list just a few of the start-ups that caught our attention at WeAreAquaculture this year.
Start-up Aquarech, whose mission is to improve outcomes for Kenyan small-scale fish farmers with its mobile app platform, recently closed an equity investment led by Aqua-Spark.
MariHealth Solutions is a biotech startup from Cape Town, South Africa, leveraging biotechnology and proteomics to offer vets, farms and aquafeed companies more granular biological insight into the impacts of farming operations and nutrition on fish health and metabolism.
Indonesian startup eFishery's goal is to export fully traceable, chemical-free and antibiotic-free shrimp to international markets, while also strengthening the connection between end consumers and farmers. In July, the company confirmed it had secured $200 million in Series D funding, making it a rare aquaculture "unicorn".
"It was started as a simple idea 10 years ago, an inspiration that I had from running my own small-scale fish farms," eFishery founder and CEO Gibran Huzaifah wrote in a LinkedIn post announcing the achievement.
"Growing up from a humble family background, I never dared much to have an ambitious dream that the small idea can be a big one. But I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by big-dreamers; passionate, impact-driven, and strong-willed eFisherian and investors that support me and my co-founder along the way. That's what creates the collective force to amplify our impact in eFishery, to grow our community the size that we are now."
A spin-off of the Alfred Wegener Institute, the Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), and Carbonwave, the company MACROCARBON has been founded in Las Palmas, in the Canary Islands, Spain, to develop algae farms in which the macroalgae Sargassum will be cultivated.
The new company aims to use the ocean's natural resources to develop new climate-friendly raw materials. As founder and CEO Mar Fernández-Méndez explained to WeAreAquaculture, the idea is "to use Sargassum to try to help decarbonize or defossilize the chemical industry."
Aquit is an aquaculture biotech start-up based in Chile, developing preventive treatment for infections in fish that replace antibiotics, improve survival rates and boost natural immunity. WeAreAquaculture spoke to Aquit CEO Daniela Allerbon, as part of our 'Female Founders' series.
Viable Gear is a mission-driven early stage start-up working on materials R&D and product design. The company seeks to reduce petroleum-based plastics in the ocean by using seaweed to make a plastic replacement for the fishing and aquaculture industries. WeAreAquaculture interviewed co-founder Katie Weiler as part of our 'Female Founders' series.
SEAWATER Cubes markets a fully automated container farm for onshore farming of marine fish.In addition to selling complete systems, the company offers components for biofiltration and conducts research on innovations in aquaculture. WeAreAquaculture interviewed CEO Carolin Ackermann as part of our 'Female Founders' series.
Megan Sorby, who has led operations for Kingfish Maine over the past four years, is in the process of starting up a new land-based project farming Red Drum at Pine Island, Florida. The new company recently announced the appointment of Ohad Maiman as Chairman of the Board.
BiOceanOr, a start-up specializing in disruptive digital technologies to predict and monitor water quality for aquaculture and the wider "blue economy", raised €2 million through its latest investor round.
In June 2023, the Icelandic land-based salmon farming start-up GeoSalmo announced it has reached a "major milestone", having secured the necessary municipal construction permits to begin building its 20,000 tonne hybrid flow-through land-based farm in southern Iceland, now it has also the financing to begin construction.
The farm will include on-site smolt and processing facilities, enabling GeoSalmo to grow their salmon from roe to finished product at the same site. During its first phase, the facility will produce approximately 7,500 tonnes of fish, ramping up to a 24,000-tonne capacity when fully operational.
BLUU Seafood, the German biotech startup specializing in cultivated fish protein, announced the successful completion of its Series A funding round, securing 16 million euros (17.5 million US dollars).
The start-up, which grows fish protein directly from fish cells, intends to use the funding to advance its technology and prepare for the market launch of its initial products after its pilot production plant opens later this year.
Josh Neese set up The Florida Oyster Trading Company with the goal of supplying local growers with high quality, Florida-bred and grown oyster seed. The next step on that journey is to scale up by expanding the company's patent-pending micro-hatchery production model, supported by an ongoing capital raise.
Industrial-scale aquaculture in the United Arab Emirates may soon become a reality, with the news that Ocean Harvest is about to open its Series A funding round.
The Abu Dhabi-based company has already raised seed funding of $2.1 million, and has its core team in place, with the recent hire of new CEO Jawad Jamil. Last year it brought on board former Atlantic Sapphire specialist Bruno Sardenberg as its production director.
In April, Aqua-Spark added Finnish biotech startup eniferBio to its portfolio. The Netherlands-based global aquaculture investment firm led an €11 million ($12 million) for the Finnish, startup focused on its PEKILO® ingredient for aquaculture feed, which Aqua-Spark says is developed through the world's most efficient mycoprotein process.
Europe's largest indoor shrimp farm is planned for Germany, as shrimp start-up Aquapurna partners with German fertilizer giant K+S to build the cutting-edge facility near Hanover, after securing a seven-figure investment from private backers.
In January 2023, Thai Union announced that its Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) Fund has joined other strategic and financial partners to back French startup Algama, a leading microalgae ingredient company.
The investment in the Series A financing round is €13 million ($13.98 million). With this funding and the collaboration between the two companies, Algama seeks to support the future growth of its alternative protein business.
MicroHarvest is the only European company to receive the prestigious Bloomberg NEF Pioneers award for its innovative biomass fermentation technology. In November 2023, the German-Portuguese biotech startup inaugurated a state-of-the-art pilot plant in Lisbon that not only brings the company closer to its goal of commercializing its technology but will also make the large-scale production of single-cell protein ingredients one step closer to everyone.
Its protein solutions can be applied to various sectors, such as animal feed, pet food, and human food, but they have decided to start with aquaculture feed. Their first single-cell product, HILIX, is a specialized product for aquaculture, but it is only the beginning. "We keep on working on the development of protein ingredients to fuel the innovation pipeline for the aquaculture sector," CEO Katelijne Bekers told WeAreAquaculture.
In April, we learned the co-founder of The Kingfish Company, Ohad Maiman, and the co-founder of Atlantic Sapphire, Thue Holm, had joined forces and experience to create AquaFounders Capital, a new project without moving away from land-based aquaculture. While initially considering a venture capital route, after studying the outlook and talking to potential investors, their entrepreneurial DNA soon led them down the natural path for both: move on to building two new companies from scratch.
Although including new challenges, the first will be a familiar format for both. Focusing on the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Iceland, Maiman and Holm have already initiated the search for sites to develop a farming company focused on new high-value species that meet the critical trifecta: limited availability in the EU, high-value, and well-suited for RAS farming.
The second, on the other hand, has a novel format. What they call 'Farm in a Box' is a modular, standardized RAS farm concept with its own advanced operating system. The guiding factor in what will be AquaFounders Capital partners' new start-up is a rethinking and redesign of how RAS farms should be standardized, modularized, and prefabricated, to enable lower CAPEX and faster assembly, supported by a reliable operating system.