By Annabel Boyer
The time for change in seafood is now, says Monica Jain, co-founder of Fish 2.0. Her reasoning? The emergence of five underlying forces that are driving the need for business innovation in the seafood sector globally.
These include the effects of climate change, the global pressure on fish stocks, product globalisation and online sales growth, a growing health-conscious middle class, and the rapid expansion of aquaculture. She says this puts the seafood sector in a sweet spot, where it is both ripe for disruption and starting to see innovation. Her comments were part of her address at the Fish 2.0 Regional Innovators Forum in Brisbane in April.
Fish 2.0 is a global connection platform created to bring entrepreneurs in the seafood sector together with investors. Since its inception in 2013, it has grown to operate as the linchpin for a pool of more than 500 investors and 500 entrepreneurs around the world.
Fish 2.0 runs a series of competitive ‘tracks’, including the Australia and Pacific Islands track, culminating in the opportunity for participants to present to a serious audience of investors in the US, at an event held in Palo Alto, California.
“At the event, there is over $12 billion of investment capital in the room looking to invest,” Monica Jain says. “The reason for this is that investing in seafood just makes sense.
“For Australia, there are opportunities. Australia has a number of unique species, a large coastline and marine resources, and strong environmental and regulatory frameworks.”
The FRDC has partnered with Fish 2.0 to provide innovative would-be entrepreneurs from Australia’s seafood sector with access to global business development expertise and investment opportunities linking research and development to commercialisation opportunities. Together with the US Department of State and the Australian Government’s Department of Innovation, Industry and Science’s Accelerating Commercialisation program, the FRDC has sponsored Fish 2.0 to run the Australia and Pacific Islands Fish 2.0 track.
This includes of a series of workshops and pitch sessions held in Melbourne and Brisbane in 2018 and 2019, as well as in the Regional Innovators Forum in Brisbane held in April, 2019.
Many of the participants in the Brisbane events have also been nurtured through the FRDC’s Fish-X program, which schools participants in start-up science to test whether their ideas hold water at an early stage.
At the Regional Innovators Forum in Brisbane, 20 entrepreneurs presented bite-sized pitches outlining their case for investment, partnerships or cooperation, across three sessions. Ventures seeking investment spanned vastly different businesses in both size and scale, reflecting the diversity of seafood in general, but also giving a taste of what Australia has to offer, from abalone to seaweed aquaculture, freshwater crayfish and scampi caviar.
The day also included several panel discussions exploring issues such as opportunities for investment in seafood, value-adding in the food supply chain and the key ingredients required for innovation and investment. Insights included the value of a collaborative mindset and getting to know your end user. Discussions pinpointed challenges such as the fact that many seafood producers fail to see themselves as food producers (a space in which there is enormous opportunity) and the fragmented nature of the seafood product and supply chains.
In the last pitch session of the day, presenters included those who have qualified through Fish 2.0’s online process to compete to attend the Global Innovators Forum in Palo Alto in November 2019.
Kath Long presented on behalf of TomKat Line Fish, a husband and wife team who have developed a fully recycled and recyclable box for transporting fish that replicates the temperature stabilising properties of polystyrene, while being sustainable and able to be flat packed.
Sam Harrington, an environmental technologist from the Climate Foundation, pitched on the prospect of marine permaculture arrays designed to reduce ocean surface temperature and draw down carbon.
Michael O’Shea from Aquaculture Supplements sought investment to gain patent and regulatory approval for the processes and formulations of supplements used in aquaculture. The day also included pitches from representatives of Pacific nations, who were sponsored by the US State Department to participate.
Participants at the Regional Innovators Forum will be advised in August whether they’ve progressed to the next stage, to be held in November 2019 in California.
FRDC RESEARCH CODE: 2017-219