London played host to a day of discussion and debate on the future of seafood and aquaculture today, as the Blue Food Innovation Summit opened its doors to visitors and panellists.
The summit, which takes place Tuesday 23 and Wednesday 24 May, brings together professionals from aquaculture, seafood, technology and finance to explore the latest trends and future outlook for the sector.
Today's event kicked off with a keynote by Professor Jim Leape of Stanford University, who argued that greater diversity in species and production techniques is necessary for future food security, in a world increasingly depends on blue foods for its protein and nutritional needs.
Data and digitalisation of aquaculture also featured high on the agenda, with discussion by experts and technologists from companies including DSM Animal Nutrition and Health, Wittaya Aqua, Scoot Science and Aquabyte.
New feed ingredients, and how to scale them, was the focus of a session including panellists from BioMar, Nutreco, Innovafeed and Calysta. Oyvind Fylling-Jensen of Nofima said fish health and the practical needs of industry were key concerns for novel ingredients, saying "You can't fool biology with money or technology," and adding "what works in the lab may not always work at an operational level". That is why, he argued, it was essential for industry to collaborate with research organisations to ensure feed ingredients are fit for purpose.
Seaweed was another of today's key topics, with a session featuring speakers from the World Wildlife Fund, together with representatives of seaweed companies Atlantic Sea Farms, Cascadia Seaweed, Nestle Nutrina and Sea6 Energy. While "seaweed is not a silver bullet," Paul Dobbins of WWF argued, "we believe it can contribute meaningfully to climate change and food security". Atlantic Sea Farms' Jesse Baines commented on her company's work with local farmers and fishers in Maine, suggesting that coastal communities "are uniquely positioned to scale this industry faster and better than almost anyone else."
In the last session of the day, the discussion turned to finance for blue food, with key investors in ocean innovation taking the stage to discuss their priorities for investment and vision for the future within the "blue food" space. Investing in the blue economy is, argued Chris Gorell Barnes of Ocean 14 Capital, "the key investment thesis of our time".
"The blue economy is finally getting the attention it deserves," Gorell Barnes said. "It's taken a long time for scientists and capital markets to catch up on how important the ocean is… Investors are realising there's a huge opportunity here to create very good returns, not only in terms of how much money you can make, but also the positive impact you can have on the ocean."
Amy Novogratz, co-founder of aquaculture investment firm Aqua Spark, shared similar sentiment, explaining that her company is "an investment fund trying to transform the future of aquaculture, investing all along the aquaculture value chain." While huge leaps have been made over the last ten years in term of aquaculture innovation, Novogratz said, "when you look at where we need to get to, to feed the world in a sustainable way, we need to scale it rapidly."
WeAreAquaculture will continue reporting from the summit tomorrow.