Aqua-Spark invests in first aquaculture industry accelerator program

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

'If we really want to make sure this value chain develops properly, it also makes sense to invest in and help develop an accelerator program' © istock
'If we really want to make sure this value chain develops properly, it also makes sense to invest in and help develop an accelerator program' © istock
Dutch investment fund, Aqua-Spark, which has sustainable fish farming as its goal, has invested in Hatch Accelerator 1.0, the first-ever incubator type program for the aquaculture industry.

The funding from Aqua Spark, the amount of which was not disclosed, will be used to support the development of a group of eight aquaculture startups between April and June 2018, with the objective of nurturing them through to commercialization.

While Aqua-Spark typically focuses on the growth stage of Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs), Hatch was created with the mission of investing in early stage aquaculture businesses.

Mike Velings, one of cofounders of Aqua-Spark, explained to us this slight change in direction for the fund:

“Our focus is normally on a slightly later stage when companies already have proof of concept and we can help them scale up. Over the past few years, we started to realize that there is very little for companies at a much earlier stage, or those only in the ideation phase. Our goal is to invest in the whole value chain of aquaculture from feed ingredients to milling to farming to technology, all the way to the consumer. So we thought that if we really want to make sure this value chain develops properly, it also makes sense to invest in and help develop an accelerator program that actually gives these companies an extra nudge in the back and some extra help to really get to the investible level.” 

Hatch cofounder, Carsten Krome, said having Aqua-Spark co-investing brings a lot of credibility to the program. “It is a pioneering fund in the aquaculture space. The ecosystem and network that Aqua Spark brings is extremely valuable.”

Velings added that the Dutch fund wants to make sure Hatch is “here to stay”​ for the long term.

“We intend to keep supporting it, and to help develop the holding company and all the future cohorts; so, for us, this initial investment is only the first of many.”

Feed related start-ups

Krome said the final cohort is still awaiting sign-off but that, potentially, there are both direct and indirect fish feed related start-ups – either technology or raw material focused firms - in the first eight internationally located companies selected for the incubator.

Cargill has also got behind the Norway based accelerator program, as a partner. “We signed the deal with Cargill last week. It is very exciting. It will be our main partner on the nutrition size. Cargill will bring advice, market access, it will help in terms of facilities and expertise, and it will do that in return for access to a lot of innovation – there are a lot more companies in our pipeline than the eight we have selected [for the first cohort],”  ​the Hatch co-founder told us.

Thus far, Aqua-Spark has €57m ($70.2m) under management, dedicated to investments in the aquaculture industry that will make fish farming sustainable. The goal of the fund is to grow to €1.5bn assets under management (AUM) by 2025. It currently employs 13 people and is looking to grow its team to between 30 to 50 employees within 5-10 years' time.

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