“Feed is the most likely focus, with health, genetics, or other technology also possible,” Tze said, as he launched the Tze Venture Search Fund for Aquaculture Technology. “Farms themselves are outside of scope,” he added.
Tze, who directed the first venture fund for aquaculture, Aquacopia Ventures I, more than ten years ago, said: “The new fund will do entrepreneurship through acquisition.”
Aquacopia, Tze said, helped to create several important aquaculture companies, including an offshore farm Open Blue (which is currently producing around 2,000 tonnes of cobia a year off the coast of Panama), an equipment innovation firm, InnovaSea (which created the Aquapod cage), and a feed ingredient technology firm and affiliated Chinese joint venture iCell/Nutrinsic. He said those companies put more than $200 million in capital to work in the aquaculture industry sector.
Tze said his new search fund will focus on innovation in the aquafeed ingredients sub-sector, seeking a single aquaculture technology to acquire, operate, and grow.
Tze said he and a network of private investors have been focusing on aquaculture technology, with a specific interest in alternative protein ingredients for aquaculture feeds, since the first half of 2016. After narrowing the potential companies down, Tze said he is evaluating four alternative proteins for aquaculture feeds. While he has not publicly identified them, he said the pool of ingredient technology prospects includes genetics, primary nutrient production, and value-added processing. One is a distressed patent portfolio, two are companies, and one is a solo inventor.
“The recent alternative ingredients for aquaculture meeting, hosted by the Fish-Free Feed Challenge, is the most recent and visible signal of coalescing interest in our area,” said Tze. “While I predict our ultimate ingredient will improve both fish-bearing and fish-free feeds, the F3 Challenge served as final confirmation of the top priority of this alternatives sub-category for my search fund.”
The F3 Fish-Free Feed Challenge launched in November 2015 on the HeroX crowdfunding site to encourage innovation of alternative ingredients for aquaculture fishfeeds, improve the industry's sustainability, and to reduce pressure on wild-caught fish to supply fishfeed components. The contest is intended to help catalyze the development and sale of cost-competitive, viable aquafeeds free of fishmeal and fish oils.