Aquafeed moonshots at the F3 ‘talent show’

Global Aquaculture Advocate
  • James Wright
  • February 26, 2019

With fish oil replacement contest in the backdrop, dozens of feed manufacturers, ingredient providers and farmers gather to talk shop

In California’s Silicon Valley, where startup-business failures are worn like badges of honor by ambitious entrepreneurs, shoot-for-the-moon goals are the norm.

At the F3 (fish-free feed) Companies Got Talent event in Burlingame, Calif., last week, alternative (non-marine animal) aquafeed ingredient companies spoke of their ultimate moonshot: decoupling aquaculture from fishmeal and fish oil in a quest for greater sustainability.

“People make money in Silicon Valley by predicting the future and getting there before everyone else does – maybe by inventing the future,” said Tom Gruber, a researcher, designer and entrepreneur who was previously co-founder, CTO and VP-design for Siri, the voice-activated intelligent assistant incorporated into Apple products. Another guest speaker, Neil Dave, project lead at X, the Moonshot Factory (formerly Google X), said the innovations they are looking for are typically found at the intersection of a huge problem, a radical solution and a breakthrough technology – all of which could apply to aquaculture.

Will fish farming’s future be fueled by technology, independent from marine animal ingredients? Which of the leading solutions – algae, insects and single-cell proteins or microbial meals – will lead the charge? The consensus held that all have important roles to play. Including fishmeal and fish oil, at least for the foreseeable future.

“If the majority [of these solutions] do not succeed, we’re in trouble,” said Mike Velings, co-founder and managing partner of Netherlands-based investment firm Aqua-Spark. “We’re finally seeing more and more initiatives pop up, whereas five years ago it was just a handful. But we have a long way to go, probably another decade out before we have meaningful volume.”

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