Sustainability fund leads $1.7m investment in Kenya focused fish feed and farming platform

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Pictured are the three founders of Aquarech, a digital platform aimed at powering growth in aquaculture in Kenya © Aquarech
Pictured are the three founders of Aquarech, a digital platform aimed at powering growth in aquaculture in Kenya © Aquarech

Related tags Kenya Aquaculture

Aquarech, Kenya’s first fish farming platform, has closed an equity investment of US$1.7m to hire talent, acquire more feed, and set up infrastructure to support more vertical integration of its technology.

The investment was led by Netherlands-based global aquaculture investment fund Aqua-Spark, which has just shy of €500m in assets under management, with additional financing from Acumen, Katapult and Mercy Corps Ventures.

Aquarech is aiming to boost growth in aquaculture in Kenya as the country's first digital fish farming platform, enabling small and medium-size fish farmers, fish feed manufacturers, and fish buyers to trade and form trustworthy relationships. 

Founded in 2019 and led by Kisumu-based founder and CEO, Dave Okech, and co-founders James Odede and Joseph Okoth, the mobile app looks to streamline the production of fish farming, allowing manufacturers, farmers, and buyers to trade, buy, and sell quality aqua feed, as well as learn best aquaculture practices and how to improve their incomes.

The innovation provides vital production metrics such as feed conversion ratio, average daily growth, mortality rates and water temperature.

kenya aquaculture app aquarech
Feed manufacturers can list their products on the platform and access a larger number of fish farmers. © Aquarech 

The CEO said this financial backing and additional supports from investors will promote the growth of the mobile-enabled platform, which he said is bringing the various value chain actors together while remaining farmer-centric.

Kenya has the third largest economy​ in Africa, with a rapidly growing population, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Fish consumption is expected to jump from 200 to 300kt ​in the country over the next five years.

However, local fish farmers often face lack of resources and access to high-quality feed. Aquarech’s mission is to help increase production, improve small-scale farmer economics, and promote the overall growth of the aquaculture industry in Kenya. To achieve this, besides feed, the company provides climate smart precision fish feeding techniques, market access, technical training and financial access, including a 90-day credit period to pay for feed.

“Aquarech is committed to improving local livelihoods by supporting smallholder to medium farmers to become commercially and environmentally sustainable," said Christiaan Lensvelt, head of new deals at Aqua-Spark.  

Tilapia farming in Africa 

In 2022, those Dutch investors, alongside Norway's Norfund, ploughed US$7m into the Lake Harvest Group, a leading African tilapia farming group. 

One of the largest integrated tilapia operations in Sub-Saharan Africa, Lake Harvest has tilapia farming operations in Zimbabwe, Zambia (both in Lake Kariba) and Uganda (Lake Victoria) along with a distribution network in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Aqua-Spark previously announced it was launching a subsidiary fund​, valued at US$300m, to finance fish farming developments in sub-Saharan Africa, with a particular focus on tilapia farming. 

report​, commissioned by Aqua-Spark and published in 2021, addressed why and how farmed tilapia can and should play an important role in solving sub-Saharan Africa's challenge to produce sufficient food for its growing population:

“By 2050, demand for fish is likely to reach between 16-29 million Mt per year. Due to overexploitation, wild catch can’t be increased, and thus won’t be able to meet the additional demand. Even if alternative proteins start playing a larger role, we at Aqua-Spark believe that aquaculture production will have to accelerate. We’ve identified tilapia to be the fish to do so: it’s scalable and it’s healthy, sustainable, and affordable.”

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