In 2006, scientists made a dire prediction: the stock of almost all species of seafood would collapse by 2050. Without a major revamping of the incentives that promote overfishing, no more sushi, no more tuna sandwiches, nothing.
The result has been that, over the past few years, a growing group of companies and activists have actually banded together to change the way the industry works. The winners of the 2013 Fish 2.0 competition, a challenge for sustainable and responsible seafood startups to present profitable business plans, represent some of the best.
Blue Sea Labs, the startup behind "I Love Blue Sea," offers an online platform for fishermen to sell seafood directly to consumers. The company also has created logistics software that helps fishermen find the cheapest and most efficient methods for selling their products.
As the first prize winner, Blue Sea Labs took home $40,000. "We're putting it back towards the business, more sales, more producers, and more consumers educated about what's happening with the oceans," says CEO Martin Reed. While Fish 2.0 offered winners the opportunity to pitch in front of potential investors, Blue Sea Labs isn't taking on investments until at least next year.
Cryoocyte, the $25,000 second place winner, is working on technology that can freeze fish eggs, giving fishermen the ability to produce seafood all year round—and potentially to create a genetic egg bank to preserve species. Dmitry Kozachenok of Croocyte tells Co.Exist that it's too early to talk more about the idea publicly. The company was also a finalist in the MIT $100K business plan competition.
Third place winner Ho’oulu Pacific received $10,000 for its idea: aquaponics systems that let people grow fish and vegetables together in their backyards. The startup envisions this supply of healthy food as an antidote to the obesity epidemic that plagues the Pacific Islands. Ho'oulu has piloted 53 different types of systems that produce over 40 kinds of vegetables, fruit, and fish.
Just days after the competition, Mike Velings, one of the Fish 2.0 judges, launched Aqua-Spark, an investment firm dedicated to sustainable aquaculture, along with cofounder Amy Novogratz. Maybe there's still a little hope for the seafood industry yet.