Posted tagged ‘World Aquaculture Society’

Aquaculture 2013: “Strike a Chord for Sustainable Aquaculture”

February 22, 2013

Amid the small talk at last night’s cocktail reception, I was asked, “How is it that you came to aquaculture through your interest in marine conservation when so many environmentalists are hostile to aquaculture?”

The full answer would require more than a single blog post, but the short version is, “I came to it naive, without knowing what, as an environmentalist, I was ‘supposed to know’.” As I’ve written elsewhere, when I started down this path several years ago I thought a fistfight might break out during the Q&A following an advance screening of the film “The End of the Line” when an audience member suggested that the film gave short shrift to aquaculture as part of the solution to the problem of global overfishing.

A couple of years later, I was pleasantly surprised during a screening of “Sushi: The Global Catch” to see aquaculture prominently featured as a beneficial component of any strategy to reduce the impact of sushi’s global popularity on bluefin tuna stocks.

Aquaculture 2013’s theme is “Strike a Chord for Sustainable Aquaculture.” Today’s keynote address by climate change expert Dr. Edward Allison of the University of East Anglia and the WorldFish Center (titled: “Aquaculture in a Changing Climate”) presented a much more nuanced picture both of the climate change debate and of the environmental friendliness of aquaculture than we are used to seeing from professional environmentalists. While he didn’t equivocate over whether climate change and sea level rise are real and have their roots in human behavior, he acknowledged repeatedly that the issues are complex, impacts are hard to predict, and “there will be winners and losers.”

“Aquaculture is a small contributor to global warming,” Dr. Allison said, adding that the biggest contributing factor is feed (the capture and processing of fish for fishmeal). So, the biggest factor in a small contribution to global warming is feed production – an impact that is completely addressable through existing and yet-to-be-developed means. When compared with other, more energy-intensive forms of livestock with much higher feed-conversion ratios, aquaculture starts to look awfully good.


Day 1 of World Aquaculture Society’s Annual Meeting in Nashville

February 22, 2013
World Aquaculture Society conference,  Day 1.

World Aquaculture Society Conference, Day 1.

Looking forward to lots of learning and productive networking. Will be tweeting (@Aquaculturebiz) during and in between sessions. If you’re here, let’s talk! If you’re not, follow me and I’ll do my best to keep you abreast of the action.

Want to Attract Venture Capital? Have an Exit Strategy

March 15, 2012

Perhaps the most discouraging aspect of the World Aquaculture Society‘s Aquaculture America 2012 event in Last Vegas was the organizers’ inability to attract financial types to come and talk to the more business-focused sessions.  This doesn’t speak well for venture capital’s perspective of aquaculture (at least in North America) as an area rich with opportunity.

Dave Conley, one of the speakers at the “Creative Financing” session and founding partner of the Aquaculture Communications Group in Ottawa, Canada, at least was able to speak with someone in the venture capital world and bring back some VC wisdom to the session  — the most interesting of which to me was the question: Do you have an exit strategy?

This should be a more obvious consideration than it is, and I have to admit that I hadn’t really thought as much about it as I should have. You can spend an awful lot of time on a well-thought-out, clearly articulated business plan, but if your endgame is to pass a profitable business on to your children and grandchildren, why should VCs care? They are in the business of identifying undervalued enterprises, taking an ownership stake, making them successful, and selling them within a clearly defined timeframe.

This is not to say that creating a profitable, sustainable business is not a worthwhile goal — it is only to say that if that is your goal, pursuing venture capital is not going to be a good way to spend your time and energy.

“But where will I get financing?”

Your best approach might be to step back and study other, non-aquaculture entrepreneurial ventures that have been successful and learn what you can from them. Are you producing low-volume, high-value products for sale into a local or regional market? You might be able to steal some plays from successful small wineries or micro-breweries. Do you have a successful operation that you are looking to expand?  Perhaps you could explore partnering with your vendors or customers with an eye toward mutual benefit.

Maybe finding funding isn’t your real problem. Think about it.

My Takeaways From WAS Vegas

March 8, 2012

The World Aquaculture Society’s Aquaculture America 2012 event in Las Vegas last week was enlightening and strongly validates everything I’m trying to do with Aquaculture Means Business. I’ll be processing what I’ve learned in my next several posts, but here are my top-of-mind takeaways:

  1. From a scientific and technical perspective, aquaculture has no dearth of subject-matter experts. The average person in every event I attended has forgotten more than I will ever know, at least in terms of their own areas of specialization. Where the industry falls down is in its ability to aggregate and translate the knowledge locked in the heads of these experts and their organizations into actionable business intelligence.
  2. The $10 billion U.S. seafood trade deficit is not going to be eliminated or even reduced overnight, and progress will only begin when the technical and scientific knowledge that already exists is harnessed and integrated with genuine business intelligence. I’m not talking about sophisticated modeling and analytical methodologies – though these will be essential to long-term success; at this point, I’m talking about some basic business-planning practices: understanding your markets and your competition; identifying and solving customer problems, rather than cultivating a product and then looking for a market to sell it to; using technology, site selection, and creative partnerships to improve productivity and reduce costs.
  3. Despite its often-discussed challenges, North America represents enormous opportunities for aquaculture: major seafood markets; abundant feed resources; relatively cheap energy; strong financial and intellectual capital. As rising global energy and labor costs abroad level the playing field and burgeoning middle classes in Asia and Latin America increase demand for diverse, high-quality seafood, supplies will tighten further and prices will rise, making well-designed aquaculture projects a more compelling investment.
  4. Environmental concerns about aquaculture – many of them legitimate – are not insurmountable. Obstacles placed in the path of aquaculture development in North America – where greater health and safety regulations and transparency exist than in the developing world, where most of the planet’s farmed seafood originates – work against more sustainable approaches. The industry must do a better job of articulating its benefits and building broad consumer awareness of where our seafood comes from and why all farmed product is not created equal.

Over the next several posts I will drill down into these observations and share the insights I derived during the WAS event – mostly from conversations between sessions – and hope to hear your thoughts.

Viva WAS Vegas!

February 25, 2012

Looking forward to next week’s World Aquaculture Society (WAS) “Aquaculture America 2012” conference! Eager to reconnect with colleagues I haven’t seen in a while and meet face to face with people I’ve only had the pleasure of meeting via LinkedIn, e-mail, phone, and Skype. If you’re going to be there and want to meet for drinks or coffee, drop me a few lines at to let me know a couple of convenient times, as well as the best way to reach you on the fly.

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