Fund launched for African aqua­cul­ture

Fish Farmer - - News -

AQUA-Spark, the Dutch based aqua­cul­ture in­vestors, an­nounced a $15 mil­lion Africa fund on the first day of the World Aqua­cul­ture So­ci­ety con­fer­ence in Cape Town. In part­ner­ship with Msingi, an East African in­vestor, the fund will fo­cus on tilapia and cat­fish pro­duc­ers, and will in­vest in all as­pects of farm­ing.

Aqua-Spark’s Amy Novo­gratz, launch­ing the fund dur­ing a sem­i­nar on fi­nanc­ing African aqua­cul­ture, said she and her part­ner Mike Vel­ings were look­ing for ad­di­tional in­vestors to come on board.

The aim is to build in­fra­struc­ture ‘for a thriv­ing sub-Sa­ha­ran aqua­cul­ture sec­tor’, and help pro­vide farm­ers ac­cess to global mar­kets and to Aqua Spark’s port­fo­lio of com­pa­nies, which in­cludes feed man­u­fac­tur­ers.

Aqua-Spark is the only in­vest­ment fund in the world ded­i­cated to aqua­cul­ture, said Novo­gratz, and it con­sid­ers thou­sands of ap­pli­ca­tions be­fore de­cid­ing which com­pa­nies to sup­port.

It al­ready backs a tilapia farm in Mozam­bique and has in­ter­ests in In­done­sia and in an In­dian Ocean sea cu­cum­ber farm, among oth­ers.

Novo­gratz said they have a net­work of 50 ex­perts around the world, in­clud­ing WorldFish, to ad­vise them and they give fund­ing to ini­tia­tives that are es­tab­lished and sus­tain­able.

‘We’re look­ing for feed con­ver­sion rates be­low 2.5, min­i­mum chem­i­cals and an­tibi­otics only when fish are ill…we don’t be­lieve in high CEO salaries and think ev­ery­one should have fair pay.

‘We come in when you’ve proven your model and want to ex­pand,’ she said, ac­knowl­edg­ing that most fish farm­ing com­pa­nies in Africa were ‘at too early a stage for us…we don’t yet in­vest in early, early stage farms’.

How­ever, when Aqua-Spark brings in more part­ners to the Africa fund there may be dif­fer­ent think­ing on what to in­vest in. The fund would be up and run­ning in 12 to 18 months, said Novo­gratz.

World Aqua­cul­ture 2017 was opened by South Africa’s fish­eries min­is­ter, Sen­zeni Zok­wana, who said his gov­ern­ment recog­nised the im­por­tance of aqua­cul­ture and the part it must play in food pro­vi­sion.

‘We with­out doubt want to high­light the role of this sec­tor in eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, elim­i­nat­ing poverty and re­duc­ing in­equal­ity.’

He said ac­cess to ser­vices, such as fi­nance and vet­eri­nary help, was the main con­straint to growth in the in­dus­try.

‘We hope that by host­ing the con­fer­ence, so­lu­tions will be brought for­ward in how we ad­dress th­ese chal­lenges,’ said Zok­wana, in­sist­ing that in the right en­vi­ron­ment, aqua­cul­ture in Africa can achieve its po­ten­tial.

The sec­tor has come un­der the spot­light since South African Pres­i­dent Jacob Zuma launched Oper­a­tion Phak­isa last year, a de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme that in­cludes aqua­cul­ture.

World Aqua­cul­ture 2017, at the Cape Town In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion Cen­tre from June 26-30, at­tracted around 2,000 del­e­gates.

A full re­port from the con­fer­ence will ap­pear in the Au­gust is­sue of Fish Farmer.

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