How Does AquaHarvest provide Sustainability & Leading-Edge technology? – Video Transcript
Earth Overshoot Days, the measure of the resources we consume, and currently as a planet, we consume all our resources that we can produce in the single year by August 2nd, as of 2016. And if we all live like we do in the US, we’d be consuming all those resources by March. So, it’s not a sustainable picture. And AquaHarvest is a company that’s come up with a way to produce, as it says in the video, up to four million pounds of fish or vegetables in the same time and space that it takes to grow one cow.
We’re a startup company, we’re a for-profit company, and before I pass the microphone over, I just wanted to give you some other stats and figures, give you some perspective on the state of this sector. So one of the easiest ways to capture that is to ask you to imagine or visualize all the food that mankind has produced over the last 8 thousand years, that’s consizeable. We need to be able to produce that same amount again but with less available land and resources in the next 40 years. So it’s massive. And agriculture is massive; it employs over a billion people globally. It takes up nearly 40% of all the land, available land on the planet. It’s a block of land, the size of South America for the crops that we consume and Africa for the livestock and crops they consume. And commercial fishing takes up four times that space, so it’s not very sustainable. It’s the greatest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, consumes 70% of the accessible fresh water on the planet, our oceans are past peak. Ninety percent of the world’s ocean, fisheries are either collapsed or fully or overexploited and in the US we import 91% of our seafood, which doesn’t help the carbon footprint or bode well for food security and also because where those profits are going overseas it’s not benefiting our economy as much as it could.
It’s our vision at AquaHarvest, we have a distributed agriculture model where we have multiple, smaller, suscalable aquaculture farms across the country. We use technology in that smaller footprint to actually drive better margins and profits than our competitors. And in addition to that, it offers us an opportunity to leverage that distributed model for social good. We developed our system; it uses 5% of the land, 5% of the water, harvests in half the time, has 100 times the bio-density and half the carbon footprint of conventional farms. So, it is really a sustainable play.
In fish farming, many fish farms rely upon the same technologies that the Romans and the Assyrians developed thousands of years ago. And the changes have not been adopted, the technologies that they have adopted, although there are certainly exceptions to the rule—but many of the technologies come from another industry—wastewater treatment, and then they’re applied and stacked together and used for aquaculture. It’s not that they’re not functional, but they’re expensive, they’re not specific for aquaculture. And I just saw that there was an opportunity to really dive into what is the right technology. And then, in addition to that, to look at what are the things that are barriers for the company. So we reduced a lot of the moving parts and we focused our efforts on, as Brian said, on cutting our operational expenses and our capital costs so we could scale. And we looked at other barriers as well. So for example, skilled staff in this particular field in the US is difficult so we needed technologies that could get around that and help centralize our expertise and have a standard product or a standard production unit, if you will, that could be replicated and repeated again and again because it was just so much easier to manage.
And in this space, most people just acquire fish farms and everyone is different and unique and needs its own set of engineers and Ph.D.’s to operate. So, to make ourselves scalable we wanted to do away with that. In essence, our technology uses gravity to use water. We do use some pumps and again, they’re all very efficient and low head. We use bacteria to process the waste from the fish. They process it in situation so it cleans the water for the fish, converts harmful nutrients into less harmful nutrients and then eventually nitrates into nitrogen, for example. But, using that technology and then—there’s so many technologies we do use—I mean we use different filtering processes, we’ve filed IP to—one of the barriers in the industry is people need baby fish and they’re usually only available seasonally and so it’s six to eight weeks a year you can get baby fish, and then that’s it. So we developed a technology where we basically freeze the fish, keep them cold, and we can get a year’s supply in six weeks. So that allows us to continuously stock and improve our inventory turns. So we have four to eight times the inventory turns of other producers, which helps. And there’s technologies like that where we shortcut processes that existed in the past or pretty much anything that focuses on reducing capital costs or operating costs, and that makes us very efficient.
We’re, you know, between being your typical commercial business and being an impact business, and we see ourselves as an impact business. So it opens that door for us more so than other companies. I think, most of our investors are looking at it for us from a sustainability perspective. It’s a buzzword, it’s important, it’s critical, there’s supply gaps coming, all kinds of things. But in addition to that, I think part of my vision is really it’s an education platform. So if we set a standard, others have to follow that standard. And because of that distributed approach that we have, it gives us an opportunity to reach many communities.
The technology we use is called a land-based technology. There’s zero dumping. There’s no dumping off the site. We don’t need to dump into waterways. It’s a re-circulating aquaculture system so we recycle the water, that’s what the bacteria helps us to do—recycle and reuse the water. The only water losses that we have are from the actual the water content in the fish and evaporation. So it’s the cleanest form of aquaculture by far and it’s expensive too. It’s not as cheap as just digging a hole in the ground and dumping chemicals and fish into it and growing fish. But because of the increased densities that we are able to get and the faster cycle times, it actually costs less to produce on a per kilogram basis. And the fact that we can grow it anywhere, whether we’re talking the Arctic or the Sahara, as long as we have access to water. So it’s very clean from that perspective. As a matter of fact, the FDA don’t even check for bacterias and other viruses that are common in other forms of fish farming. The only things that they check for are if there were some hormones used or somebody tried to use antibiotics or something like that. So it’s far safer from a bio-risk perspective as well, which is another important fact for the method we’re using.
In terms of the social good and the social impact, we have offers to develop in other parts of the world. We have an obligation both to ourselves and the success of the company to establish ourselves first in the US before we become too spread too thin, too many projects in too many locations. We have visions for things that we’d like to do in some of the hardest hit parts of the world. But for the most part, we’re focusing on, our markets are largely outside of the major metro markets, so we look for areas that are socially or economically disadvantaged. Obviously from the impact side, the triple bottom line perspective, you’re helping supply jobs to the local community, we use local distributors so we’re not processing it, we’ll have local processors, local distributors. Again it helps to stimulate the local economy and mitigate that economic leakage, particularly when we’re thinking about 91% is imported in seafood. There’s an educational aspect, and that goes beyond being a fish farm. It’s just something that doesn’t really cost much and we see it as a long-term benefit.
And if you want to flip it around and give it a value-add from an investment perspective, it’s about developing our brand. And so, doing talks at the schools, we’ve already done some or talking about sustainability, interpretive tours of the farm and people understanding how food really grows and what’s better and what’s not. There’s an educational component and, in essence, the product is fresher and it tastes better, it’s healthier for you, and for our buyers, it costs them less, there’s less shrinkage. For example, a particular species that we’re growing in Florida, it gets here into Miami, it comes here four to five days old, almost half its shelf life gone. So there’s a lot of shrinkage, and a lot of loss and stuff thrown away. So I think the benefits that we see are social on the economic side, on the educational side. The fact that we’re gonna be supplying more fish, land-based fish, grown in the USA and not harvested out of the ocean, by default is the best way to protect the ocean’s fisheries.