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The Impact Investing Podcast

Jan 20, 2016

Amy Novogratz is a Managing Partner of AquaSpark - the world's first aquaculture-only venture investment fund.  Founded in 2013, AquaSpark invests with a focus on sustainable aquaculture businesses around the world. The small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) they invest in are working toward the production of safe, accessible aquatic life - such as fish, shellfish and plants, as well as innovations in fish feed and technical systems; all which operate in ways that do not harm the planet's oceans. The funds investors value the fact that each investment aims to create triple impact—specifically, each investment is chosen for its potential to generate significant financial returns while also activating positive environmental and social outcomes.

Specifically, Aquaspark chooses SMEs that meet the following three principles of sustainability;

  • Economic sustainability—the business generates enough cash to be able to reinvest in its own growth and provide an equitable return to its stakeholders;
  • Environmental sustainability—the business sets high standards of environmental management and seeks to maintain or enhance ecosystem services; and
  • Social sustainability—the business creates jobs, reduces poverty, empowers the underserved, and helps to strengthen communities*;

Their investments start at $250,000, and the fund purposely does not seek controlling stakes in thier investments. The team at AquaSpark prefers to be a minority investor holding between 20-49%, alongside other investors. Every business they invest in is a reflection of their trust in the entrepreneur to lead their companies’ development and growth in the most effective way.

Prior to AquaSpark, Amy was the Director of the TED prize for 8 years, leading more than twenty global collaborations across a broad spectrum of sectors, including healthcare, education, science, technology, conservation, art, and activism.

On top of her work at AquaSpark, Amy is also working alongside Sylvia Earle and her project “Mission Blue.” The project aims to educate the world on the importance of ocean conservation and how much we depend on the marine ecosystems and how important they are to our planet’s survival. As well, the overarching goal of the Mission Blue project is to establish a global network of protected areas in the ocean - Hope Spots – special places that are vital to the health of the ocean – through the creation of a global network of marine protected areas to safeguard 20% of the ocean by 2020.”

As some of you may have figured out by now, I'm wildly bullish on aquaculture. In the past it has been associated with environmental harm rather than doing good, but as our climate changes, our fisheries are subject to the "tragedy of the commons," and our resources decline - aquaculture is becoming a necessary solution and one that can have many positive impacts while limiting the negative. It is projected that we will need to increase our food production by 60% by 2050 to feed a world population of 9.5 Billion people. Current agriculture methods aren't going to - and can't - make it happen. We're going to have to start looking to the ocean. This mean conservation, strict regulation, and innovative ways to grow and harvest aquaculture related products such as kelp, shellfish, sea cucumbers and fin fish.  If you are an early stage investor or interested in investing in food systems or environmentally conscience companies - aquaculture is an area I would look long and hard at.

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