Aquaculture Innovation Challenge selects winning innovation

Expert judges’ favoured Entobel as the innovation with the most potential in the finals of the Aquaculture Innovation Challenge. Entobel uses food industry waste as feed for the production of black soldier flies, a native insect throughout Vietnam.

These plentiful insects are then used to produce fish-feed, as well as fertilizer. The jury said that Entobel “has a really good business approach, has been proven to be successful in the world already and is part of the race for a sustainable protein supply”. The winning team received the $10,000 cash prize and met with investors, both of which will help them scale up their business.

The winner was chosen by the jury team, each of whom selected their 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice of innovation that they believed had the greatest business and impact potential. Gaetan Crielaard, representative of the Entobel team, said, “I’m very happy, obviously. For four years in Vietnam, I’ve been working on this project… [the team] all worked very hard and will be happy when I come back to the factory and say we won. This will help us to run the pilot for a few more weeks or months, allowing me to focus more on fundraising to build this factory. The plan is quite ambitious. While we want to start with one factory, the goal is to build more, first in South Vietnam, then the North, and then other tropical countries with a focus on Southeast Asia, but [eventually] Africa and South America. We believe that what we have built here is really relevant for tropical countries.”

A new generation seeking solutions

Integrating public-private partnerships to jumpstart new solutions contributed much to the success of the challenge. Carl Richter, the consul general of the Dutch consulate in Ho Chi Minh, said, “This is basically what we do as governments. We try to inspire and help start-ups, organizations that are run by young bright people to come up with new ideas and solutions for challenges.”

The urgent need for new solutions is clear. Arie Veldhuizen, the agricultural counselor, warned that “in 40 years we have 10 billion people in the world and we have to feed them. We can’t do it the way that we do it now, we have to do it in a sustainable way… these kinds of initiative are really helping to get this done.” He felt this project was unique because it combined start-ups, innovation, sustainability and helping the small-scale farmer. Nguyen van Khanh, from De Heus, one of the AIC’s core partners, commended the professionalism and organization of the AIC, saying that it gave industry professionals and investors access to some great innovations. It allowed them to choose from some of the best innovations to apply to aquaculture in Vietnam, and “many farmers and companies can learn from it”.

Preparing for future success

Over the last few days, the finalists, with the support of coaches both in Vietnam and remotely, have been practicing and preparing their pitches. Dana Roelofs, who has a background in the financial sector and was one of the coaches present, said that she really noticed vast improvements in all of the teams from the boot camp. That both the flow of their pitch, how they could convey their ideas, and their confidence grew over the three-day session. Her last message to all of the finalists was that fundraising is a long-term game, that they have to be persistent and be patient and wait to find partners with the right fit in order to accomplish their goals. During the match-making session, there was a lot of interest shown in the ideas of all of the participants. The hope of Seafood Trade Intelligence Portal, Solidaridad and Fresh Studio, the organizers of the AIC, is that this interest grows into new partnerships that will shape and improve the aquaculture sector in Vietnam in the near future.

The organizers were happy with the success of the first Aquaculture Innovation Challenge, as well as the presence and participation of so many industry leaders. It’s only through open collaboration that we can continue to face the challenges involved with sustainably feeding our growing population.