Posted tagged ‘oyster’

Not “Aquaculture’s Winston Churchill” — Maybe Something Better

July 21, 2012

In a recent post on the Aquaculture Means Business LinkedIn group, I expressed concern about a “leadership gap” in the aquaculture industry.  “We need Winston Churchill,” I wrote.

This dearth of leadership is not only a problem when organizations like Food & Water Watch crank out anti-aquaculture screeds  that pass as research  and few to no industry voices rise to set the record straight (allowing the web and the media regurgitation machine to propel the NGO’s message far and wide without scrutinizing its claims and unstated premises); it represents a huge opportunity cost throughout the global discussion on food availability, safety, and security. Aquaculture needs to be a key participant in this discussion, and if it is not, then shame on us!

So, it is particularly heartening when I read articles like this one  in SeafoodSource, highlighting Phil Cruver, CEO at KZO Sea Farms, who has quietly been building support for and advancing an open-ocean aquaculture initiative off the coast of California, of all places!  Phil recently received a provisional permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to establish a 100-acre bivalve farm 4.5 miles off Long Beach that, if approved, would be the first commercial offshore shellfish farm in federal waters.

I’ve had several phone and e-mail conversations with Phil over the past year, and, though he is an articulate spokesman, he is hardly a Winston Churchill. His manner is less that of the polished orator than of the no-nonsense businessman who recognizes an opportunity when he sees it. KZO is no “Mom & Pop” pipe-dream start-up, as a glance at the KZO leadership team shows.  Phil has founded four start‐ups and has served as CEO of two public companies.  He is the co‐ founder and former chairman of KZO Innovations Inc., a venture-capital-funded software company.

So, what is Phil doing right?

1. Right timing.  His efforts have closely tracked the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s release last year of its national marine aquaculture policy.

2. Right product. His choice of oyster farming taps an existing market with strong local and regional demand for a product that is relatively uncontroversial from an environmental perspective, compared with, say, salmon or other finfish.  As the Army Corps of Engineers put it: “When properly sited, operated and maintained, commercial shellfish aquaculture activities generally result in minimal adverse effects on the aquatic environment and in many cases provide environmental benefits by improving water quality and wildlife habitat, and providing nutrient cycling functions.”  Even an aquaculture nemesis like Food & Water Watch has stated:  “Carefully located, well designed oyster, mussel and clam farms could help achieve the goal of expanding U.S. seafood production, while also providing food for health conscious, environmentally concerned consumers.”

3. Right partners. Phil has surrounded himself with the scientific and technical expertise he needs to make his venture a viable enterprise. KZO has partnered with USC/Wrigley to apply scientific research in the fields of genetics, physiology, and ecology to the challenges of cultivating shellfish Shellfish on Catalina Island off Southern California. Such partnerships confer scientific and environmental credibility.

4. Right scale. Phil is not afraid to think big, but neither is he a starry-eyed dreamscaper. Even as he works to get his California project off the ground, he is actively exploring ways to replicate his model globally in order to help developing nations access the $50 billion worldwide mariculture industry to diversify their economies in a manner that is not only sustainable but environmentally restorative.

So, Phil may not be aquaculture’s Winston Churchill, but his actions speak louder than words. You go, Phil — a lot of eyes are on KZO and wishing you a success worth emulating!


%d bloggers like this: