I don't imagine I'm too different than many young boys and girls that experience the beauty of subsistence or recreational hunting and fishing while growing up in a rural area. Steve Sutton wait sometime though before he decided to dedicate his career to the world of seafood.
After finishing his studies in new New York City and working on Wall Street, he discovered some of the environmental problems associated with food. Then, he felt the concern to improve some parts of the world of seafood.
Here I am almost 20 years later, not bored and positioned to make an impact in the space.
Steve teamed up with a leading engineer and scientist, Douglas Ernst, to develop a new type of farming system. TransparentSea Farm produces shrimp that is local, sustainable, and of superior quality.
The name chosen for your business never made more sense. The name TransparentSea speaks directly to the philosophy of the brand. Whether we are talking about it from the consumers', farmers', or sometimes the animals' perspectives, we've noticed a lack of transparency in the world of seafood.
A lack of transparency through the distribution chain mutes the power of consumers to vote with their dollars to influence change. Transparency about the use of preservatives or true water usage rates, for example, is complicated. Also, dangerous topics for companies to discuss are out of context. But we believe that the cat is out of the bag when it comes to people knowing there are issues with some fishing methods, farms, and/or seafood handling and safety. So we put the most technologically advanced, proof-of-concept farm smack in the middle of Los Angeles County, Steve explains.
To achieve this, the Aquaculture Scientist emphasizes the need to involve the consumer. It's time to acknowledge the shortcomings (and of course successes) of past trailblazers. But we should grow a visually differentiated product while we invite customers to be the heroes in this journey to produce more sustainably.
In aquaculture, there is tremendous room for technological improvement. Further, an increasing number of customers that are willing to pay for something cleaner and less resource intensive than commodity products. But they have to know and trust the brand, he assures.
First, Steve Sutton's team source PL 9-12 from hatcheries in the US every 2-3 weeks. Shrimp spend a few weeks in the nursery/quarantine and then move into their proprietary automated grow-out system for 2 months. At that point, they have gone a year recycling approximately 99% of our water.
In more detail, we raise shrimp to 25-35g in about three months. Shrimp are harvested into ice slurry without preservatives, sorted into one of three sizes, and sold fresh on, the same day. We sell at a few farmer's markets. Some retail on site, but mostly direct to restaurants, small distributors, and grocery markets, he indicates.
Regarding the environmental aspect of farming, we use far less space, water, and energy per pound of shrimp produced and delivered. It's only going to get better. An indoor farm is going to uses more energy than a tidal pond to pump water around. But we ship less than 0.1% of the distance of the average commodity shrimp, for example.
As we build a mature brand and consistently profit, we can continue to reduce our impact further and further. This is not the only solution to our underwhelming carbon sequestration or devastating loss of productive natural habitats. But it is our best foot forward. In a few years, we'll be looking at actual zero-waste, de-risked, and scaled systems that produce multiple products in places that otherwise have little natural productivity, he advises.
I'm just hoping that consumers will continue to ask more questions of purveyors. Moreover, vote with their dollars for the stories they want to be more common in the world. I believe that a critical mass of North Americans wants to be healthier and live on a healthier planet. But we have all valued price and taste over health for long enough to build unsatisfactory food production and distribution systems.
Steve bets on awareness and transparency. We should mold our businesses around providing increasingly better products at scale. Human beings can once again defy the odds and overcome some historic challenges with innovation and communication.
Finally, he acknowledges how important is to invest in a proper team to keep on through ongoing development. Every one of my employees has inquired about an opportunity to work with us, unsolicited. It speaks to the level of interest young people have in being a part of changing systems for the better.
Furthermore, he alerts that the way to encourage young people to have long careers in this industry will be to build more successful companies and give them some ownership of that success.
So much of our industry talk is about fundraising, mergers, and CEOs, which are vital to starting up and scaling, but making more money than we spend each month is one of the things that will get talent to stay in the industry long-term. All of our team members want to build something they can be proud of, and that can pay them enough to stay around indefinitely.
TransparentSea Farm offers some of the only preservative-free shrimp or prawns you can find. Its farm is resource efficient reuses over 95% of H2O and uses at least 100 times less space than traditional farms.
It has developed a controlled environment aquaculture system that has been refined over 15 years. Once shrimp are stocked, they feed them and the system components mimic the ocean's circular ecology to produce beautiful 1-ounce shrimp in as little as 3 months.