Atman Group investment in Taprobane Seafood to lift Sri Lanka’s vannamei production
Colombo, Sri Lanka-based private equity and investment firm Atman Group has committed to a strategic investment in Taprobane Seafood Group, which launched the first-ever vannemei shrimp cultivation program in Sri Lanka in 2019.
The Atman Group, formerly known as Kimin Holdings, concentrates on emerging investment opportunities across Asia and has previously invested in the hospitality, leisure, agriculture, real estate, and renewable energy sectors. It includes famous Sri Lankan cricket players Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena as investors.
“We are delighted to partner with Taprobane Seafoods, the market leader in aquaculture in Sri Lanka. We are confident this strategic investment will strengthen Taprobane’s foundation and further expand the company’s sustainable footprint into new markets,” Atman Group Head Nathan Sivagananathan said in a press release. “The company is on track to grow to USD 200 million [EUR 173 million] and the Atman Group is proud to be associated with Taprobane on this journey.”
Founded in 2010 by Timothy O’Reilly, Dilan Fernando, and Sathya Rathnayake, Taprobane Seafood operates 15 processing facilities in Sri Lanka’s north, which was the epicenter of Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war. It employs more than 2,000 women processing blue swimming crab and specific pathogen-free vannamei shrimp, which it began farming two years ago – the first Sri Lankan company to do so – in response to a global shift in preference to vannamei from black tiger shrimp.
During a recent visit to Taprobane’s original shrimp farm in Mannar, Sri Lanka, the Atman team “was highly impressed with the company’s sustainable practices and its impact on local communities, especially war widows and the disabled,” according to Sivagananathan.
The Atman Group investment will go toward transitioning Taprobane’s shrimp ponds to circular tanks, which O’Reilly, the company’s managing director, said will increase productivity, reduce energy use, and decrease risk.
“We are pleased to have partnered with the Atman Group as a strategic investor in our company,” O’Reilly said. “We believe this partnership will enable us to further access investment pipelines and potential strategic partners in the future, whilst leveraging on the group’s reach in key strategic markets. Taprobane Seafood and the Atman Group can look ahead with optimism.”
Taprobane also recently secured Cheng Niruttinanon, the executive chairman of Thai Union, as a director and board member. Sangakkara, Jayawardena, and Sivaagananathan will join Niruttinanon on Taprobane’s board following Atman Group’s investment.
Prior to the Atman Group announcement, Taprobane Seafood Group, obtained three-star BAP certification for its Taprobane Sea Food seafood-processing plant, Taprobane Frozen Food shrimp farm, and Taprobane Frozen Food shrimp hatchery. With the certification, Taprobane has become the first Sri Lankan company qualified to offer three-star BAP shrimp, which O’Reilly said could further open the U.S. market for Taprobane’s products.
O’Reilly told SeafoodSource it had been “hard work” to get permission to begin SPF vannamei production in Sri Lanka, but that government approval came just in time to take advantage of a surge in global demand for vannamei shrimp. And with Taprobane hitting the sustainable limits of the blue swimming crab fishery in Sri Lanka, adding vannamei production has given the company financial security and a base for growth.
“Vannamei has enabled us to scale our business, help run our 15 processing facilities at full capacity all year, and create more employment opportunities,” he said. “When I look around at our competitors throughout Asia, I feel we are way out in front especially with delivering on sustainable and socially responsibly-sourced seafood. And what’s cool we can back it up with third-party audits and certification.”
O’Reilly further confirmed to SeafoodSource Taprobane will be entering a joint venture with Seafood Group AS, a Norway-based company backed by Asbjørn Drengstig, Martin Gausen, and Jon Gausen.
“This new venture will be focused on the development of intensive eco-friendly shrimp-farming,” O’Reilly said. “This will be a mega-scale circular tank farm in the former conflict area in northern Sri Lanka. The project will produce 4,000 to 5000 metric tons [of shrimp] per year. State-of-the-art, completely eco-friendly [facilities] with a significant solar component.”
O’Reilly said more information about the JV will be released in mid-December.
Photo courtesy of Taprobane Seafood