African integrated tilapia farmer Lake Harvest will get the first slice of a new Sub-Saharan African aquaculture fund launched by Aqua-Spark at the end of last year.
The Netherlands-based sustainable aquaculture investor is making a $7 million (€6.1 million) investment alongside the Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries NORFUND, to drive growth in Lake Harvest's farming operations in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Uganda.
"Aqua-Spark has a long-term investment approach towards sustainable aquaculture and, with its new fund will focus on Africa in particular," said Lake Harvest CEO James de la Fargue.
"We look forward to working with the Aqua-Spark team and benefitting from both their knowledge and their ecosystem of sustainable aquaculture companies."
Aqua-Spark's subsidiary fund is focused on building infrastructure through vertically integrated farming platforms that support and stimulate outgrower programs to ignite the growth of a wider aquaculture sector, embedding it in local and regional African economies.
Together with Aqua-Spark's existing investments in Africa and farming investments still to come, Lake Harvest will function as one of the key platforms that Aqua-Spark Africa will help build.
Lake Harvest is already producing at a significant scale, and this will accelerate Aqua-Spark Africa's plans, the company said.
"Lake Harvest is a well-established brand for African tilapia with strong footholds in various countries across Eastern and Southern Africa," said Mike Velings and Amy Novogratz, co-founders and managing partners of Aqua-Spark.
"Aqua-Spark's investment model is an ecosystem in which our investments contribute collectively towards a more sustainable and accessible aquaculture industry."
With this investment, Aqua-Spark joins African Century Group (since 2008) and NORFUND (since 2013) as shareholders in Lake Harvest. African Development Bank has ceased its shareholding now that the company has attracted long-term investors.
Lake Harvest is one of the largest integrated tilapia operations in Sub-Saharan Africa, with sustainable tilapia farming operations in Zimbabwe, Zambia (both in Lake Kariba) and Uganda (Lake Victoria), and a distribution network in eastern and southern Africa.
Aqua-Spark has invested in 24 complementary SMEs since 2015 and has €275 million ($313.8 million) in assets under management, dedicated to investments in elements of the aquaculture industry. The goal of the fund is to ultimately make sustainability widespread and profitable enough that it becomes the only way to farm fish.
Tilapia to play 'key role' in region
In September, the group announced the launch of a new fund dedicated to aquaculture in sub-Saharan Africa in the hope that it can bolster the industry to the level required for large investors.
The Aqua-Spark Africa Fund will initially close at $50 million (€42 million) and grow to $300 million (€253 million) over the next 6-8 years, said the company.
The fund will focus on the entire aquaculture sector in the region, but tilapia, Aqua-Spark believes, will play a particularly important role in meeting a growing need for fish in the region, whose population is set to increase from 1 billion to 2 billion by 2050.
While current demand for fish stands at 10 million metric tons per year, it is thought that by 2050 demand is likely to increase to between 16 and 29 million metric tons.
"Even if alternative proteins start playing a larger role, we at Aqua-Spark believe that aquaculture production will have to accelerate. We’ve identified tilapia to be the fish to do so," said AquaSpark. "It’s scalable and it’s healthy, sustainable, and affordable."