Today, 25% of seafood consumed in Europe comes from aquaculture, but only 10% comes from EU aquaculture. There is a huge growth potential. Aquaponics Iberia benefited from the EU BlueInvest mentorship programme to develop its business. The aquaculture sector in Europe consists of around 15,000 businesses in Europe, mainly small or micro-enterprises in coastal and rural areas.
A young Portuguese start-up growing fish and vegetables at the same time
Aquaponics Iberia is a young Portuguese start-up revolutionising the food system through efficient aquaponics with its locally-grown, fresh, and sustainable fish and greens. Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics, enabling cultivation of plants and aquatic animals in a recirculating water environment. While the fish waste product nourishes the plants, the plants in turn purify the water in a closed and dynamic system for the fish to grow healthily. The benefits are two-pronged: healthy and sustainable food production and a lower environmental footprint.
Aquaponics Iberia approached BlueInvest for funding support for its Fish n’ Greens project, to set up a state-of-the-art facility in the Torres Vedras region, close to Lisbon. Fish n’ Greens is an aquaponics urban farm aimed at transforming the growing food needs in European cities. This facility is planned to include the company’s fully functional hi-tech aquaponics production system, a food store, a training room, guided tours for school groups and general consumers, a café?, a processing unit, renewable energies and a production capacity to generate 45 tonnes of fresh certified fish per year, together with 130 tonnes of fresh vegetables.
Perfectly in sync with the Farm to Fork strategy, this project’s unique sustainable ecosystem has the potential to increase Europe’s food chain resilience in case of possible crises.
How the EU has helped the company develop its business
With plans to have units in more than 8 European cities in the next 10 years, Aquaponics Iberia had a bumpy start, facing objections from investors regarding the location in main cities, high rent and dependence on municipalities as well as consumer preference for saltwater fish.
This is where the BlueInvest mentorship programme came into play, helping Aquaponics Iberia to revamp and redevelop its business and marketing model. The company revisited its strategy and decided to put large facilities outside the city and have smaller food units and stores in the cities, with small demonstration units for consumers to view. This strategic review eventually helped the company reach a stage where it is getting more attention from public administrators and potential investors.. For instance, the Mayor of Torres Vedras Municipality has shown keen interest in Fish n’ Greens becoming the main fresh food supplier of the public schools’ canteens of the region (around 11,000 students).
BlueInvest also helped Aquaponics Iberia towards concretising investments.
The BlueInvest programme definitely helped us reach more investors — it seemed like a small step then, but now we are very close to receiving funding, and that is an accomplishment in itself.
says João Cotter, CEO and Co-Founder of Aquaponics Iberia.
With €4.5 million required to set up their first aquaponics integrated urban farm, the current challenge continues to be funding: 40% of the amount has been raised so far and the remainder is in talks with investors.
Securing the necessary investment would enable Aquaponics Iberia to concretise the Fish n’ Greens project and to provide a solution for local, fresh, healthy and sustainable food, bringing together blue and green economy to transform food in European cities.
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- Publication date
- 25 October 2022
- Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries