How I Got Into Aquaculture


My journey into aquaculture was not smooth. I did not hear about the business and immediately fall in love. Like most people, I had many questions and reservations. I couldn't see how the business could be profitable and the people involved used terminology I simply did not understand.

But there was something about the idea that kept me going back. This is the story of how I turned into an advocate for aquaculture.

My Introduction to Aquaculture

I was first introduced to aquaculture by a lawyer I knew in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). He knew someone who was starting an aquaculture business, and he thought I would be interested. I was.

After watching an in-depth presentation, I thought the whole idea was ridiculous. It was complicated, expensive, but it was innovative and I love investing in new ideas that nobody else believes in. So, I did some research and went back for another meeting.

The second meeting confirmed almost all of my concerns. Despite my desire to be involved, there was almost no investment potential, so I could not warrant any further involvement.

Five minutes before the end of the meeting, everything changed. The presenter mentioned they had received an email from a famous restaurant in Spain requesting 200 pounds of live lobster a week. The cherry on top of the cake was that they didn't care how much it cost.

That was when I saw a glimmer of possibility in aquaculture. There was a shortage and shortages need to be filled. I knew from my experience in wine that demand is everything in consumer commodities and if you can sell the most valuable seafood, you will make money.

I went away for two months and did my due diligence. My first question was how did a business in Spain find out about an up-and-coming business in the BVI? I found out that it was through a friend of a friend of a friend.

This revealed just how hard it was going to be to buy seafood in the future. This was an immediate business opportunity as well as one for the future.

I then met some people who were already working in the industry. I spoke to some lobster fishermen who told me that they needed to put out twice as many traps to catch half as many lobsters as they did a few years ago.

It was still a huge gamble, but it was absolutely worth it. I knew that now was a perfect time to learn how to grow valuable seafood.

It left me with one clear path; give it a go. We ran an aquaculture pilot trial in the ocean, which worked well. However, I had a moral problem with running a business using sea cages.

It is environmentally problematic, because there is no way to get rid of the waste that the fish produce. The waste builds in a single area which causes a host of problems for natural wildlife.

That is when I started looking at the possibility of running the business on land in tanks. Everyone said I was crazy because it was too expensive and it could never work because nobody had done it before.

More than anything, this drove me on. I love achieving the impossible.

I knew in the future we would be able to lower the cost of production on land using alternative energy, low-power pumps, and simple filtration. Although this technology wasn't ready yet, I believed that it could be with some more research.

I put all my time into this project because I knew that this method was going to be more environmentally friendly than any in use. Land tanks isolate the problems from the rest of the natural environment because they are an entirely closed system.

Additionally, running the business on land created jobs for fishing families.

I am friends with many fishermen and I know how much they are struggling to find jobs in this changing world. I wanted to create jobs in rural communities to help these families and make sure that they did not lose their income.

Despite all this, my main reason for starting this massive project was because it fit into my sustainability ethos, which dictates everything I do. You can only change from within.

If I am in aquaculture, doing excellent projects, I will create a shift in the way aquaculture projects are run. I hope this by setting an example, others will follow me, which will benefit the environment.

The Experience of Getting into Aquaculture

Getting into aquaculture is the best thing I have ever done. It is also the hardest thing I have ever done.

The first two years of the project absorbed my thinking time more than anything else ever has before or since. We were pioneering something that had never been done before, so we had to make some really fast and difficult decisions.

However, it is by far the most inspired I have ever been in any business. It is amazing to work and truly believe in what you are doing. Every break through was so exciting because everyone had told me it couldn't be done, and I was seeing that it could.

One of my biggest challenges was finding the right people for the job. The first few people we worked with lacked the vision and the work ethic to create a successful aquaculture business.

Another major challenge was that there just weren't enough experienced and knowledgeable people out there.

To accommodate this knowledge vacuum, I have learned and modified my approach to working with scientists. It been a challenge, but it has also been wonderful.

My Tips for Getting into Aquaculture

My first answer is don't; aquaculture is neither quick nor easy. It takes an average of five years before you really get anywhere at all.

This means you need enough cash to sustain yourself for that length of time. I recommend that whatever budget you calculate, double it, and if you can, triple it.

You also need to be aware of the fact that the product is a living breathing animal. If it dies before it is mature, you have nothing to sell, so you have to be incredibly careful every step of the way.

If you can be involved in a modular aquaculture business that has already been successfully monetised, with perfected R&D, go for it.

If you want to pioneer, I applaud you. However, you need a lot of money and a lot of time. The pay back could be zero or it could be 250 million dollars and you need to be prepared for either outcome.

My biggest tip is that you need to be completely invested. If you love sustainability, aquaculture, and if you can put your heart and soul into the business for five years, it's a truly rewarding and will improve the world we live in.