David Tze addressed the Fish 2.0 panel of judges last November at Stanford University in California, US with a unique insight. As a venture capitalist for 12 years, Tze knew what it’s like to be on the other side of the table. Tze co-founded and ran Aquacopia, the world’s first dedicated aquaculture investment fund. After a string of successful investments, Tze decided to close the fund in 2016 and look for a target in which to become a majority investor. His choice was NovoNutrients.
NovoNutrients’ business pitch sounds like utopia. The company says it has perfected the process of capturing carbon dioxide emissions from heavy industry, destined for the Earth’s atmosphere, and diverting them into a reactor to make high-quality protein suitable for feeding fish. Tze’s proposal, if successful, would reduce global pollution and hunger in one swipe.
If this sounds too good to be true, agri-business giant Cargill sunk hundreds of millions of dollars into Calysta, a similar Silicon Valley biotech start-up to NovoNutrients, that will use a similar process to produce single cell protein (SCP) from methane. Where Calysta and Cargill propose using a fresh gas source, Tze said the same can be achieved from industrial emissions.
“It is possible to produce something that is the equivalent or more available than fishmeal at a production cost equal to or less than soy protein concentrate,” Tze said. “We’ve got pretty good awareness among investors who are focused on aquaculture. More of our outreach and education involves other investors.”