Buy-valves: Massachusetts farmers grow online oyster business

Global Aquaculture Advocate
  • Lauren Kramer
  • December 11, 2017

Fish 2.0 winners Real Oyster Cult tightens consumers’ connection to the sea

Oyster farmers Rob Knecht and Sims McCormick opted to cut out middlemen and wholesalers with Real Oyster Cult, their fledgling online oyster business, and deliver their briny shellfish direct from farm to consumer.

Five months in they’ve shipped close to 500 boxes (containing 20 to 100 oysters each) to 46 different states. When they walked off with a $5,000 prize after pitching their business to investors at Fish 2.0 (for a New England seafood business with high potential for scalability and a strong branding strategy), it was the ultimate recognition that they’re on the right track.

“We work seven days a week on this business and it’s nice to get recognition from the industry that validates what we’re doing and how we’re doing it,” Knecht told the Advocate. “That was even more important than the $5,000!”

Knecht began farming oysters when he and his wife bought Sailor’s Bay Oyster Farm in Duxbury, Mass., in 2009, and has since spent the last eight years reflecting on the supply chain and his oysters’ end destination. Their customers were mostly wholesalers, who held a lot of sway in where the product ended up.

“We had friends who owned restaurants and were excited to get our product, but at certain times of year they couldn’t get it, even though we had plenty to sell,” he said. “We found it frustrating that our wholesalers were dictating supply and demand. And we’d heard stories about some wholesalers taking product and trying to sell it under a different brand name, which creates traceability and transparency issues.”

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What people are saying about Fish 2.0

  • Mitchell Presser - Freshfields US and Investor in Ag Tech
    Fish 2.0 is a fantastic forum, bringing together innovative and cutting edge ideas for the future of our most efficient source of animal protein
    - Mitchell Presser, Freshfields US and Investor in Ag Tech
  • Amy Novogratz - Aqua-Spark
    We really value participating in Fish 2.0 as both sponsors and judges — it has expanded and strengthened our network.
    - Amy Novogratz, Aqua-Spark
  • Brock Mansfield - Salmon Innovation Fund
    Participating in Fish 2.0 as a judge, mentor and investor has made connecting easy, at both the local and global level.
    - Brock Mansfield, Salmon Innovation Fund
  • Andrew Beebe - Obvious Ventures
    Fish 2.0 is a homerun event. The quality of entrepreneurs, co-investors and corporate players in attendance is off the charts. I can’t recommend it more highly.
    - Andrew Beebe, Obvious Ventures
  • Mike Velings - Aqua-Spark
    Fish 2.0 has brought us really interesting deals to look at, gives a good sense of challenges and opportunities in the global seafood sector, and is always a great time.
    - Mike Velings, Aqua-Spark
  • Frank McGrath - Oberon Securities
    Fish 2.0 shows my investor base vetted, prepped organizations at sane expectations and valuations.
    - Frank McGrath, Oberon Securities
  • Leigh Moran - Calvert Foundation
    Fish 2.0 is unique amongst business competitions in that investors are ready to invest and competitors actually get investment! That is all too rare in many business competitions
    - Leigh Moran, Calvert Foundation
  • Kate Danaher - RSF Social Finance
    Working with Fish 2.0 as an online judge and advisor has given us amazing exposure to great companies/pipeline but more importantly it has given us the opportunity to educate ourselves on the sector.
    - Kate Danaher, RSF Social Finance
  • Dane Chauvel - Organic Ocean Seafood
    Fish 2.0 helped us grow our business, but more importantly, it helped us optimize our business. We are doing more, and doing it better. I don’t believe we would have gotten here as quickly if we had not gone through the Fish 2.0 planning exercise.
    - Dane Chauvel, Fish 2.0 2013 Finalist (Canada)
  • Roxanne Nanninga - Tru Fish
    This was a great opportunity to pitch to a very relevant group of people. I made some very valuable connections.
    - Roxanne Nanninga, Fish 2.0 2015 Finalist (USA)
  • Sherry Flummerfelt - Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust
    I made some excellent connections, learned so much, and feel like our organization has grown considerably as a result of participating in Fish 2.0.
    - Sherry Flummerfelt, Fish 2.0 2015 Finalist (USA)
  • Mitchell Lench - Treetops Capital
    Awareness about sustainable seafood continues to rise, and impact investors want to support new initiatives in this arena, but it’s hard to find them. It was useful to see so many different types of sustainable seafood companies all in one place.
    - Mitchell Lench, Treetops Capital
  • Emmanuelle Bourgois - FairAgora
    Fish 2.0 competition has been a unique learning experience. It shaped the idea from a concept to a robust business model, boosted confidence in my entrepreneurship skills and is the real starting point of this amazing and innovative adventure.
    - Emmanuelle Bourgois, Fish 2.0 2015 Competitor (Thailand)
  • Alfred Kalontas - Alfa Fishing
    Fish 2.0 helped me understand my brand better. It helped me refine my business structure to represent my business brand.
    - Alfred Kalontas, Fish 2.0 2015 Finalist (Vanuatu)
  • Diane Durance - Harvest Food & Fisheries
    As a semi-finalist in 2013, I experienced first-hand how important it is to get your venture in front of investors who are knowledgeable and interested in your field. Fish 2.0 is the organization making that possible for entrepreneurs in aquaculture and sustainable fisheries.
    - Diane Durance, Fish 2.0 2013 Semi-finalist (USA)
  • Mike Betts - AgFunder
    Fish 2.0 provided a huge amount of value to the investor community in really getting exposure for and curating companies, that is super valuable. It's one of the best I have been to in the food and ag sector. Everything from the quality of the attendees and companies, the content, the engagement.
    - Mike Betts, AgFunder (USA)
  • What I liked about Fish 2.0 was
    the high-quality content and very well curated line-up of companies.
    - Investor, Fish 2.0 2015
  • Kelly Harrell - Alaska Marine Conservation Council
    For those in the fisheries world, Fish 2.0 has quickly become the go-to place for those interested in advancing cutting-edge business models focused on the triple-bottom line of social, environmental, and economic impact.
    - Kelly Harrell, Fish 2.0 2015 Finalist (USA)
  • Dr. Karsidete Teeranitayatarn - Green Innovative Biotech
    This made my company grow up and served as a springboard. We received interest and collaboration from around the world, including Fiji, Northern Canada, Alaska, Marshall Island, and venture capitalists from Silicon Valley.
    -Dr. Karsidete Teeranitayatarn, Fish 2.0 2015 Finalist (Thailand)
  • David Stover - Bureo
    It makes you kind of step back and look at what's actually going on, ... question what path are you on, where are we going ... in that sense, it's an extremely valuable process to kind of put things on paper and take a look at it.
    - David Stover, Fish 2.0 2015 Finalist (Chile)
  • Brett Haywood - Sea Quest Group
    Helped us look within and be able to convey our positive impacts, whether its socially, environmentally or resource based, and convey this to our markets and partners.
    - Brett Haywood, Fish 2.0 2015 Finalist (Fiji)
  • Andriet Tilfas - Hapmak Market
    It helped me connect with a lot of new business people around the world. Not only to help with our small scale in a remote island but to expand services because there are a lot of opportunities out there.
    - Andriet Tilfas, Fish 2.0 2015 Competitor (Micronesia)
  • This is the most professional event I’ve attended in this sector.
    - Investor, Fish 2.0 2015
  • Alan Lovewell - Local Catch Monterey Bay
    Fish 2.0 is a great way to expand your network. We learned about other fish businesses and opportunities for collaboration--that exposure is very hard to do on your own.
    - Alan Lovewell, Fish 2.0 2013 Finalist (USA)
  • Gary Ullstrom - Kuterra
    It’s not just a seminar, it’s the real thing – you’re pitching to real people with real money.
    - Gary Ullstrom, Fish 2.0 2013 Finalist (Canada)
  • Kit Barron - CapLog Group
    Fish 2.0 takes the fish by the fins and creates a much needed mechanism through which the right industry experience, innovative thinkers and financial backing can come together to move new ideas in seafood to market.
    - Kit Barron, CapLog Group, LLC and Fish 2.0 2013 Advisor
  • Ed Robinson - Acadia Harvest
    All the people we dealt with on the Fish 2.0 team were great to work with. We’d have no hesitation to do it again.
    - Ed Robinson, Fish 2.0 2013 Semi finalist and 2015 Finalist (USA)
  • Hoyt Peckham - SmartFish
    It changed the way I prepare for all sorts of investor interactions, and it greatly improved our success.
    - Hoyt Peckham, Fish 2.0 2013 Semi-finalist (Mexico)
  • Gary Beatty - Inland Shrimp Company
    People found us through the media around Fish 2.0 – people who want to have shrimp locally have gone out of their way to contact us.
    - Gary Beatty, Fish 2.0 2013 Semi-finalist (USA)