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Devin D. Thorpe

Devin Thorpe

Aqua-Spark, First-Ever Sustainable Aquaculture Fund, Invests in Sustainable Sea Cucumber Farming Operation, Indian Ocean Trepang

Both food and deposit-feeders, IOT’s sea cucumber farms are alleviating over-fishing and creating jobs

Press Release – Utrecht, Holland (December 28, 2016)Aqua-Spark, the first investment fund focused exclusively on sustainable aquaculture, today announced an investment in the sea cucumber farming operation, Indian Ocean Trepang. The Madagascar-based company is the exclusive global licensee for an innovative patent on in-vitro fertilization of the Holothuriascabrasea cucumber species.

Sea cucumbers are in high demand in Asian markets, where they’re considered a delicacy. They are also deposit-feeders that clean the environment without requiring feed, and can even be used in land-based marine farms to mitigate effluent. For Aqua-Spark, which has invested in select land-based fish farms like Sogn Aqua and Matorka, this application and potential to scale is of particular interest.

Native to Madagascar, the Holothuriascabrasea cucumber species has fallen victim to over-fishing and has been listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation and is on its Red List. Indian Ocean Trepang’s breeding program is growing, and Aqua-Spark’s investment of $2.75 million will be put towards a new site – positioning the company to become the world’s leader in growing sea cucumbers. The plan is for multiple locations and countries, which could create hundreds of jobs and help alleviate poverty in remote communities. The company currently has 168 employees, with community projects in place that impact approximately 180 families.

“An investment in Indian Ocean Trepang is an investment in the future of sustainable fish farming and the survival of this species,” explains Mike Velings and Amy Novogratz, co-founders of Aqua-Spark. “They are at once helping to revive an endangered marine animal and providing a sustainable filtering method for fish farms, while also creating jobs in key markets.We’re thrilled to working with such an impactful company, and connect them with our network of farms and technologies.”

“We are thrilled to partner with Aqua-Spark, with whom — from the first moment we started an exchange — we found a team of experts and professionals who have a long-term view and understanding of aquaculture,” explains Thibault Giulioli, CEO of Indian Ocean Trepang. “With support from Aqua-Spark, we look forward to implementing our vision and rolling out our business model throughout the Indian Ocean.”

About Aqua-Spark

Aqua-Spark is an investment fund with a focus on sustainable aquaculture businesses around the world. The small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) in which they invest are working toward the production of safe, accessible aquatic life, such as fish, shellfish and plants. Aqua-Spark believes that committing to a long-term vision is the way to realize effective and lasting results.

Aqua-Spark launched in December 2013. Since that time, the fund has made 9 investments in 7 complementary SMEs including: Calysta, Chicoa, eFishery, Indian Ocean Trepang, Love The Wild, Matorka, and Sogn Aqua.

Thus far, Aqua-Spark has $27.25 million under management, dedicated to investments in elements of the aquaculture industry that will make fish farming sustainable. The goal of the fund is to grow to $400 million by 2025.

About Indian Ocean Trepang (“IOT”)

Established in 2011, Indian Ocean Trepang is an industrial aquaculture SME focused on sea cucumbers. Their operations provide fishermen in villages with a diversified and increased income while reducing pressure on wild fisheries.

It is a four-party system comprised of:

  • Fishermen villages, to which IOT subcontracts part of its production for maturing at sea. This generates a recurring income in addition to their traditional fishing activity.
  • NGOs, to supervise and train fishermen villages.
  • Universities, to help analyse the biological and environmental parameters so IOT can maintain and develop holothuriculture and its farms.

The final product — the dried skin of the sea cucumber –isa delicacy appreciated by the worldwide Chinese community.

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