New Ace Aquatec director Chris van der Kuyl, left, with chief executive Nathan Pyne-Carter. Photo: Stewart Attwood / Ace Aquatec.

Minecraft tycoons help Ace Aquatec build better world

Aquaculture technology specialist Ace Aquatec has attracted new investment from Scottish video game entrepreneurs Chris van der Kuyl and Paddy Burns, the company announced today. 

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The investment of the undisclosed sum will also see Van der Kuyl join Ace Aquatec’s board as the ambitious company grows its team and regional support network over the coming months.

Van der Kuyl and Burns run 4J Studios, best known for developing the console versions of Minecraft, the best-selling video game of all time. Their move follows the decision last year by Dutch sustainable aquaculture investor Aqua-Spark to take a stake in Ace Aquatec.

Minecraft: a rich seam for 4J

4J Studios Limited was founded in April 2005 by Van der Kuyl, Burns and Frank Arnot, who left in 2012.

The company is best known for developing versions on the PC game Minecraft to consoles and handheld platforms, such as the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 /4 and Nintendo Wii U and Switch.

According to Wikipedia, Minecraft has sold 200 million copies across all platforms since its release in November 2011 and has 129 million active users as of 2020.

The game, in which players explore a blocky 3D world with infinite terrain and build things, has been cited as one of the greatest and most influential video games ever, and was inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame last month.

Ethical products

Ace Aquatec chief executive Nathan Pyne-Carter said: “Aquaculture is set to grow even quicker post-Covid and is seen by many commentators as one of the key drivers to address the onset of a global food crisis. As the industry grows, we are helping our customers support their own growth with the most sustainable and ethical products in the market.”

He added: “Chris and Paddy’s experience growing digital businesses will be a significant asset to our team as we strive to blend the best of physical and digital technologies to help our customers produce environmentally sustainable seafood.”

Van der Kuyl said: “Paddy and I are delighted to invest in such a fantastic technology, manufacturing and innovation driven company. 

4J Studios developed the console versions of Minecraft.

‘Phenomenal growth’

“Ace Aquatec has shown phenomenal global growth and ambition and I hope we can help bring our technology expertise to this world class organisation.

“Investing alongside management and an aquaculture specialist investor in Aqua-Spark gives us cause for great optimism and excitement for future developments.”

Ace Aquatec’s products range from acoustic devices that protect fish farms from predators and humane electric stunning equipment that immediately renders fish unconscious before they leave the water to be processed, to the world’s first underwater 3D biomass camera that provides unobtrusive indicators of fish health. 

The company exports to Chile, New Zealand, Australia, USA, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Greece, Germany, Denmark and Russia and in Scotland its salmon farming customers include Scottish Sea Farms and Loch Duart.

Ace Aquatec, which like 4J Studios is headquartered in Dundee, won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Innovation in 2018 and 2019.