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Getting Investors Excited About Sustainable Seafood

Environment

Getting Investors Excited About Sustainable Seafood

Monica Jain

Founder and Executive Director, Fish 2.0

Anyone who’s spent time in the sustainable seafood sector will tell you it’s a growing industry, full of creativity and innovation – one ripe for investments that will pay out in stronger economies and healthier oceans. 

People who work with responsibly caught fish, whether on the water, on the docks, at processors or in kitchens, know that sustainable seafood makes sense not only from an environmental and a community perspective, but also from a business standpoint. It’s the future of the seafood industry. So why aren’t the investments pouring in? For many investors, the opportunities are still unclear. The sector seems very opaque relative to other food sectors.

The seafood sector is different than other food industries. If investors want to put their money into a poultry venture, they know the four or five industry leaders they should talk to, and how to access the information about the sector they need to make a good investment decision. If they want to invest in sustainable seafood, they face a fragmented global supply chain made up of hundreds of thousands of producers (mostly small, private businesses) and a series of similarly dispersed processors and distributors. Most investors have little idea how to find and talk to the people who can help focus the picture for them. 

Fish 2.0 is about connecting the dots and the people to make this easier for everyone. Working through our unique global network, competition platform and events, Fish 2.0 participants collaborate to drive innovation, business growth, and effective practices and technologies that support healthy fisheries and oceans.  

Through in-person conversations, held while helping seafood innovators with their strategies, investors begin to understand what a fishing business looks like – the opportunities, the barriers and where there’s already momentum in the industry. But just as importantly, business owners learn what investors want to know, as well as how to communicate that information in a way that engages investors and moves conversations forward. This structure creates an environment where investors and businesses fill the information gaps for each other, paving the road to a thriving sustainable seafood sector and thus, coastal communities and ecosystems.

But the connections that investors and businesses make with each other through Fish 2.0 are only part of accelerating the sustainable seafood sector. The partnerships that develop are also critical. Business partnerships that support long-term growth and increase efficiency and profitability are exciting for investors. As two examples of Fish 2.0 partnerships at work: frozen seafood processor and marketer High Liner Foods is helping SmartFish, a sustainable seafood supplier in Mexico, improve its business strategies. In turn, SmartFish is sharing its experiences with Costa Rican sustainable fish supplier ARCAE. 

After only two competitions, we’re already seeing what a difference these partnerships and connections can make for sustainable seafood businesses. By closing the gaps between everyone from the fisher to the investor, Fish 2.0 allows both investors and businesses to find the structures and strategies that work for them. Both investment and innovation in the sustainable seafood sector grow as a result. 

The information gap in the sustainable seafood industry – for both investors and businesses – is big. But both parties are hungry to fill it. By building a network that helps them do that, we are starting to bring the necessary pieces together to create a thriving sustainable seafood market that can produce profits as well as protect our oceans and local communities.

Monica Jain is the founder and executive director of Fish 2.0, a Walton Family Foundation grantee, and one of the White House’s 2016 Champions of Change in Sustainable Seafood.

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