Why family investment groups are catching fish

Here’s an interesting trend - family investment groups are buying into sustainable fish businesses as global demand for aquaculture products increases substantially. And some see the sector as a useful way to grow their impact investment holdings.

Last month, Zoma Capital, the family investment office of Ben and Lucy Ana Walton - a wing of the family behind the huge supermarket group, Walmart - along with a New York City-based impact investment group called Encourage Capital set up a holding group called Pescador Holdings. The backers say Pescador is the first-ever sustainable seafood investment holding company. The announcement coincided with the acquisition of its first company, Geomar, a “shore to shelf,” sustainable seafood company based in Chile.

In the last 15 years, aquaculture growth has risen by approximately 9% annually...

Here’s what Melissa Cheong, Zoma’s chief investment office, said about the initiative: “Pescador will invest in best in class sustainable seafood businesses for the long term. We believe this sustainability-focused strategy will allow companies and ecosystems to meet their full financial and productivity potential by aligning the time frame of investments with the time frame of sustainably managed biological systems.” Zoma has invested an initial amount of $10 million in the holding group. The launch of Pescador has some other big cheerleaders, as the idea comes out of investment research funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and The Rockefeller Foundation as part of their Vibrant Oceans Initiative. 

Last week, Ferd, the Norwegian family investment office of Johan Andresen and his family, announced it had bought a 17% stake in Benchmark Holdings, a UK-listed holding company, which, since it was set up in 2000, has acquired a number of fish health and aquaculture stainable groups.

Ferd said Benchmark: “is uniquely positioned to contribute with sustainable and cost efficient solutions for improving fish health across aquaculture species.”

Others family groups clearly see the potential of the sector. Last year, White Owl Family Office, the investment office of the Canadian McArthur and Carrick families, who own a big transport construction group called Miller and McAsphalt Industries, acquired the Great Lakes Food Company, a Canadian fishing group.

Non-family backed private equity is also getting into the act. Three Spanish private equity funds - Portobello Capital, GED Capital Development and MCH Private Equity - have bought a number of Spanish and Portuguese fishing industry companies in the last 15 months.

World demand for aquaculture products has been growing strongly for some time. In the last 15 years, growth has risen by approximately 9% annually. Population increases, rising incomes and higher demand for healthy food have all driven demand.