MyBlueCity is going digital | Interview #20 | SEAentia
SEAentia – Bringing sustainably produced meagre to your table!
Ana Ferreira (BioMarine Community Manager)
With an exponentially growing population, more sustainable sources of food are urgent. Moreover, and specifically regarding seafood, consumers are demanding not only more sustainable sources, but also more diversity, traceability and biosecurity. To answer this need, we bring you SEAentia - a Portuguese startup that aims to produce meagre, a very well accepted and nutritious fish, in a more sustainable way. During MyBlueCity 2018 we got the chance to know the founders - João Rito and Nuno Leite - and they shared with us their main achievements and new projects!
The story behind Seaentia
Right at first sight you can feel the enthusiasm and passion that both João and Nuno transmit when talking about their startup – SEAentia. João explained us how it all started – “After I began my Ph.D. in fish nutrition, in 2012, I traveled much more often and did an internship in Vietnam. This experience woke me up to a reality that was very different from the Portuguese one, mainly on the ability to transfer knowledge (science) into the industry. With this and facing the fact that there is a lack of jobs in aquaculture, me and Nuno decided to join efforts and build our own business”. Since the first idea, a lot has changed to achieve what SEAentia is today – “Until we finally created SEAentia, a lot has changed after long meetings and brainstorming with our partners. At last, we realised that the way the world is being fed is not sustainable and there are simple solutions that can solve this problem. So, we decided to play an active role on that and created SEAentia, which is now located in Biocant, Cantanhede, with operations in Peniche”.
The team is composed by João and Nuno, both founders of SEAentia and specialized in food nutrition and Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) technology. To support the team there is John Jones (the leader of a research group in Biocant) and Sónia Rito (professor at Coimbra Business School and responsible for Seaentia’s financials). Behind them they have great institutions such as the School for Tourism and Maritime Technology in Peniche, Docapesca, the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA) and LandIng Aquaculture, a Dutch company expert in RAS designing and engineering.
An aquaculture solution that goes beyond sustainability
SEAentia’s approach aims to go way beyond sustainability, as João explained us – “We aim to bring to the market the first meagre ever grown in a RAS, combining quality, traceability, biosecurity and sustainability in the same product. We will implement a system operated with very good and respectful practices that will present seafood consumers with the most sustainable, fresh and safe seafood they will ever find!”. And how will they do this? João quickly explained – “Our system allows us to guarantee animal welfare, by avoiding diseases, parasites and contaminants without using any antibiotics or other chemicals (increasing biosecurity) and using feed from sustainable sources. Finally, all the excess nutrients in the water are reused for growing lower trophic level organisms and/or are cleaned by our biofilters”. However, the team wants to take it even one step further – “As this system has a high energy demand, we will have our rooftop covered in solar panels, making the system energetically self-sustainable!”.
Overcoming important challenges
Dependent on long-term returns, high capital investment and specialized staff, the aquaculture sector it’s not an easy one, especially for newcomers! Moreover, and as João explained – “There is the need to develop a proper pilot project (proof of concept), to test and adjust the system before advancing to a bigger scale. Skipping this step has led many investors to mistrust aquaculture businesses, due to failure afterwards. For us, it’s crucial to do this step to gather important data. However, it highly increases the time of ROI (Return on Investment) and the capital needed”. Nevertheless, the team is prepared for these challenges – “Besides applying cutting edge technology that can decrease this timing, we have been working closely with important partners and investors for them to truly understand our project and its potential, to unblock these challenges”.
João explained us what this project entails – “The pilot project will include several scientific studies to assess the stress levels and ensure the best animal welfare and verify the nutritional value and the flesh quality, to be certain of our high-quality product. For this project we have already partnerships set with ESTM-IPL, IPMA, Docapesca and LandIng Aquaculture”.
After this, the team has already important plans – “Next in line will be the development of our own meagre hatchery to produce fingerlings throughout the year independently of their natural reproduction season. We have already the support from IPMA, Matís and Nofima for this project”.
Getting important partnerships on board!
The team is now looking for another round of investment to advance for the important Proof of Concept. For that, they have participated on the Blue Bio Value program, and attended the 2018 BioMarine Business Convention and MyBlueCity. João gives us the major outputs - “During the Blue Bio Value we’ve learned an astonishing number of things, mainly related to running a business. Moreover, we were one of the winning teams!”. Regarding MyBlueCity and the Biomarine Convention, the team made us feel extremely proud – “This was a very intense experience! I am very happy to say that some of the partnerships mentioned above were set during the Biomarine Convention, namely with Nofima. We had a face-to-face meeting with Oyvind, Nofima’s CEO, and he was so helpful by giving us important feedback on our project and visiting our stand. Also, other potential ideas were brainstormed regarding our Proof of Concept. It was great to have direct access to people we would struggle to meet otherwise! We really made the most of the event!”. And this is exactly what BioMarine stands for!
SEAentia’s main achievements and next steps
SEAentia’s efforts are starting to be rewarded as the team prepares for new and exciting challenges. João, for instance, just got invited to be a mentor on the Blue Bio Value program where he will share his knowledge and give his example of rigor and perseverance, much needed qualities to build a startup. Besides this, João shares some of the major achievements so far – “Winning the Mar2020 funds for innovation, which covers 50% of our Proof of Concept, was obviously very important to us. Blue Bio Value was a good milestone: first for being accepted in the program and then even more for winning it! Attending the most important events on the blue economy allows us to get important feedback and to increase our network and contacts. This shows the importance of partnering with networks such as the Biomarine Community, Blue Bio Alliance and Fórum Oceano”.
And, what about the next steps? João continues – “For the next 2 years, we want to start and finish our Proof of Concept successfully. We want to be considered a private company with a credible R&D activity in the aquaculture sector and a very high potential for business development and growth. We want to successfully implement our meagre hatchery and be able to secure investment for our commercial activity”.
Finally, in the long-run, the team aims to go even further – “We want to set the sustainability trend in the aquaculture industry and redefine the way people look at this activity due to our high quality and sustainable products. Also, we aim to globally implement a healthy business and spread it all over the world, creating jobs and helping societies solve their feeding issues”.
And you can continue to count with our BioMarine Community for support!
Want to know more info about SEAentia?
Click HERE or contact the team through the BioMarine Community!