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IntraFish NYC Seafood Investor Forum blog: Recap a day of powerful presentations, dynamic panels

Top execs from the global seafood industry and investors are gathering in New York City for the 2016 IntraFish Seafood Investment Forum -- Check out our live coverage here.

Thursday, May 19, 2.53 p.m EST

Two sides of the Chilean investment coin

During the Investing in Seafood panel discussion, there were opposing viewpoints on the Chilean salmon sector.

Steven Chambers, senior analyst of Anavon Capital, said the last few years has been tough and the recent "algal bloom was bad for an industry that is already reeling."

The sector's fragmentation is unsustainable for the industry and "potentially that's changing," he said. He added the sector could become "investable" if the industry restructures to control the biological situation, which could ultimately mean consolidation.

In talking about Chile's potential, he referenced the Norwegian salmon sector which, several decades ago, consolidated, "which created Marine Harvest."

Henning Lund, head of seafood equity research of Pareto Securities, agreed with some of Chambers' points.

"Chile needs to change the regulations in their farming," consider consolidation and there may be a "big re-evaluation of Chilean assets."

However, Thor Talseth, portfolio manager of AMERRA Capital Management, said they're not spending a lot of time on the Chilean salmon sector.

"It's sad to see the banks and authorities, collectively, have been able to practically destroy an industry that should have flourished

and I don't see that changing anytime soon," he said.

-- Kim Tran

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Thursday, May 19, 2.09 p.m EST

AquAdvantage salmon better for aquaculture

With growing populations and the need for more protein options, AquaBounty CEO Ronald Stotish spoke on the financial impacts of AquAdvantage salmon and what makes it ideal in several farming methods.

He gave the example of land-based, contained aquaculture systems, which come with high costs to construct and maintain because salmon growth is long term.

"However if you can speed up how fast the salmon grows, it becomes more economically viable," he said. "These fish are ravenous eaters." They eat three times more and grow three times as fast.

He also raised the point of profit opportunities with building these facilities closer to consumption centers, which could also reduce carbon footprint and costs of transportation.

Breaking news: As Ron was speaking, IntraFish broke the news that AquaBounty's GM salmon was just approved for sale in Canada.

Click here for the full story.

-- Kim Tran

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Thursday, May 19, 1.53 p.m EST

GM salmon 'as safe' as conventional salmon

Last November, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved AquaBounty's new Animal Drug Application for the production, sale, and consumption of its AquAdvantage Salmon, an Atlantic salmon that has been genetically enhanced to reach market size in less time than conventional farmed Atlantic salmon.

AquaBounty CEO Ronald Stotish reiterated the positive aspects of his product, mentioning several FDA findings.

"Under the conditions we included in our application -- production of an all-female, sterile population -- the FDA found no significant adverse effects on the environment," he said.

The FDA also found no biologically relevant difference between AquaAdvantage salmon and conventional Atlantic salmon, indicating that it is as safe to eat as Atlantic salmon.

-- Kim Tran

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Thursday, May 19, 12.26 p.m EST

Calysta, Cargill shovel ready on new facility

Calysta has an ambitious few years ahead of it surrounding its feed protein FeedKind.

It's a natural non-GMO protein souce, "a completely traceable, direct replacement for fishmeal in every respect," said CEO Alan Shaw

Calysta partnered with Cargill to build its first commercial plant to be built in North America.

"We will be announcing shortly where it will be built," said Shaw.

The production facility will produce more than 200,00 metric tons of FeedKind protein each year to be produced at commercial scale and will bring in more than $350 million (€312 million) in expected annual revenue.

-- Kim Tran

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Thursday, May 19, 12.10 p.m EST

Chilean salmon sector needs to step up

Marine Harvest CEO Alf-Helge Aarskog raised issues in the farmed salmon sector in Chile.

"Some of the issues we have no control over," he said, offering the example of volcanic eruptions and the recent algal bloom.

"But there is room for improvement" that the sector can influence.

He said "if the biology in Chile is not going to improve, then maybe it's time to reduce production" there.

-- Kim Tran

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Thursday, May 19, 11.49 a.m EST

Will consumers pay for sustainability?

Ian Smith, CEO of Clearwater Seafoods, raised a concern in addressing demands in the marketplace.

Consumers want healthy food, want to know where their food comes from and "our retail and our foodservice partners tell us the same thing ... but they don't want to pay more for it," said Smith.

You don't become more sustainable and traceable for free, but retailers and foodservice companies don't want those costs passed to them as they say they can't pass that on to the end user.

David Wagner, VP of seafood merchandising for Wegmans Food Markets, added that for consumers, "it comes down to price. They don't want to pay more" yet consumers demand that retailers source responsibly.

"The consumer affairs department is our fastest growing department."

Wagner said his customers are posting pictures of Wegmans' seafood products asking, what is this product, what is this species, why are you sourcing from China or Thailand?

-- Kim Tran

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Thursday, May 19, 11.39 a.m EST

All for one and one for all

Among talks of company consolidation in the industry, Ashley Bouldin, engagement planning director for The Food Group, raised the need for consolidation in seafood marketing.

"The seafood industry is lacking that one voice," she said. Other protein industries, such as beef and pork, "give consumers a standard message and they're communicating on behalf of all companies."

No one brand is going to be able to reach every consumer in a market, such as the US or European market. Currently, consumers get bits and pieces of industry information from one company or another, which can lead to misinformation and misconceptions.

"Together you can start to tell the whole story on how these things work and get the consumers over the mistrust they have with the seafood sector."

-- Kim Tran

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Thursday, May 19, 11.31 a.m EST

What can the industry do to increase seafood sales?

IntraFish posed this question to the Seafood Demand Panel, which consisted of David Wagner, VP of seafood merchandising for Wegmans Food Markets; Ashley Bouldin, engagement planning director for The Food Group; Gabriel Viteri, VP strategy & business development for ACME Smoked Fish; and Ian Smith, CEO of Clearwater Seafoods.

Viteri said education among consumers is a priority, which the others agreed.

Bouldin said the industry needs to "work together to make sure we get the message out there that wild and farmed is necessary and play different roles. There's a very negative perception right now and we need to even that out."

Wagner said the USDA needs to certify aquaculture for organics.

"It's a huge opportunity," he said. "Right now people walk away from farmed seafood. There's a lot of misconceptions."

Smith also honed in on education because consumers don't know how to shop for and prepare seafood.

"Also, we need to make it more convenient so that it's easier to shop and prepare," he said. "Consumers also want more moderate prices although I don't think that is going to happen."

-- Kim Tran

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Thursday, May 19, 10.12 a.m EST

Selling scarcity as Chinese demand grows

Clearwater Seafoods CEO Ian Smith said the wild species population is flat and "we are in many ways selling scarcity."

This will increase the value of Clearwater's products as Chinese demand grows.

"China is not only our largest single-country market but it's also the fastest growing market and our most profitable market."

He added, "We have more [Chinese] companies approaching us in that sector to distribute our product than we can handle right now."

Clearwater also has much growth opportunity in many other parts of Asia.

-- Kim Tran

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Thursday, May 19, 10.02 a.m EST

Firms need to grow, but grow smartly

Clearwater recently posted “record” Q1 sales and EBITDA and expects a solid second quarter.

"We feel we reached the tipping scale in total size of our company," said Clearwater Seafoods CEO Ian Smith. "It's one thing to grow your business and make acquisitions but it's another thing to manage them with extraordinary talent and produce extraordinary results."

He added it's key to successfully integrate acquired businesses into existing operations.

-- Kim Tran

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Thursday, May 19, 9.46 a.m EST

Vaccines over antibiotics

Malcolm Pye, CEO Benchmark Holdings, discussed reducing the industry's reliance on antibiotics by switching over to vaccines.

"We have about 60 products in our pipeline [to target] these new biological problems you're hearing about today," he said. Benchmark is developing oral vaccines and un-adjuvanted vaccines with new antigen technologies.

"We need these tools because it's difficult to solve problems with traditional vaccine techniques."

-- Kim Tran

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Thursday, May 19, 9.36 a.m EST

Africa emerging in fish farming

Aquaculture has a long developing road in front of it.

"Only a few species can be farmed today," said Keynote speaker Jeroen Leffelaar, managing director at Large Corporates Food & Agri.

He added there are technical limitations and marketing issues for aquaculture. However, there is potential in Africa.

Currently the two main aquaculture regions are Egypt with tilapia and Nigeria with tilapia and catfish

"There are excellent conditions for building an aquaculture industry. I think eventually Africa will become a major party in global aquaculture

-- Kim Tran

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Thursday, May 19, 7.30 a.m EST

Major seafood players congregate in NYC

This year's IntraFish Seafood Investor Forum in New York kicks off with a slew of panelists covering topics from investing in seafood and new aquaculture frontiers to fishmeal, oil and money.

There are panel speakers and attendees from top seafood and investment companies, including:

  • Marine Harvest
  • Bakkafrost
  • Clearwater Seafoods
  • Seafarms Group Ltd
  • Sino Agro Foods
  • Calysta
  • AquaBounty Technologies
  • Tinicum (Pontus Aqua)
  • Anavon
  • Amerra
  • Wegmans
  • The Food Group
  • Rabobank
  • Ernst & Young
  • Benchmark Holdings

Keep checking back here to follow our up-to-date, live coverage of what is being said. The forum is brought to you by Pareto Securities and Ernst and Young.

-- IntraFish Media

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Use #seafoodinvestor16 when posting to social media about the event.

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