Thue Holm, Ohad Maiman form AquaFounders Capital to invest in the future of land-based aquaculture
Former Kingfish Company CEO Ohad Maiman and former Atlantic Sapphire CTO Thue Holm recently announced the formation of AquaFounders Capital, an investment company that will concentrate on three sub-sectors pertaining to land-based aquaculture: farming, software, and hardware. In a joint interview with SeafoodSource, Maiman and Holm discussed their reasons for forming AquaFounders Capital and their goals for the firm.
SeafoodSource: Both of you just made it through to the other side of your previous ventures, having gotten RAS systems built and producing fish. Why start over with a new project?
Maiman: It feels like a natural progression. I think the macro trends for land-based are possibly even more favorable than they were five or 10 years ago with taxation in Norway and potential bans on net-pens in Canada. So the forces requiring a new solution or a new source for seafood have only gotten stronger. And the sector has gone through that next stage of development. What five years ago was a need to show proof of concept and proving you could grow a high-quality fish to market in a land-based system has now evolved into the next phase of reaching scale and profitability. In some ways I feel like this is a simpler challenge. To actually prove we could do it was difficult, and now comes the next stage of maturing the technology to scalability and better economic viability – that's what every new technology sector goes through. Think of windmills or solar panels or [electric vehicles] – at some point, when the proof is there, the key focus shifts to efficiency and cost. If you compare it to net-pen farming, RAS is probably where it was 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago. But when you look forward, there will be a leader on the farming side, a leader on the hardware side, and a leader in operating systems. These are the three sub-segments we're looking at to effectively support the industry and help facilitate and build those future consolidated leaders.
SeafoodSource: What are the origins of AquaFounders Capital and general thesis of it?
Holm: We are basically hedging that the industry is heading towards significant scale, and there will be some companies that can understand what it takes to mature this industry and take the lead, and we intend to identify and enable them. There are lots of opportunities for the companies that do this right, between farming and technology and hardware services, where we think there's a significant upside. Overall, land-based farming continues to grow and projects are coming online. With net-pen farming limited, it’s either offshore, or land-based that need to fill the gap. That said, land-based technology is not only limited to full grow out- last year, 36,000 tons of post-smolt production came online, and if you're a technology provider, if you're a solution provider, this becomes additional upside. By focusing on hardware, software, and high value farming, AquaFounders Capital enables a wide exposure to the land-based farming sector across the value chain.
SeafoodSource: How do you describe AquaFounders Capital?
Maiman: Advancing the future of land-based aquaculture, focused on opportunities in its three critical sub-segments. There are obviously opportunities in other places, but we will stick to what we know best. Europe and North America are the …
Photo by Cliff White/SeafoodSource