COURTNAY – Manatee Holdings Ltd is in the best position for expansion, looking to remain at the forefront of a long-term, profitable industry.
“We are championing a sustainable model of aquaculture,” said Eric Gant, owner, Manatee Holdings.
For Gant, the journey to create long-term business opportunities in aquaculture began in 1988 when his company became concerned with the “dive fisheries” in BC. The management of the fisheries, according to Gant, relied on unrealistic methods to determine the natural recruitment, or the rate at which a species, like geoducks, sea cucumber and urchins, naturally replenish their populations.
“We focused on creating solutions that did away with ‘guesstimating’ natural recruitment,” he said. “And for ways to address the problems found in the traditional methods of food production in aquaculture and agriculture that cause excessive mortality.”
The results are now giving Manatee a competitive advantage in its industry.
“Our model of polyculture encourages the coexistence of different species and produces a healthier food with greater profit in ways that are beneficial to the surrounding ecology.”
Gant explains for example, that sea urchins tend to feed on the hold-fast or root of seaweed causing the rest of the weed to die before propagation. The reef then becomes barren and the urchin dies from malnutrition.
“Manatee’s methods protect the holdfast so that the system becomes both sustainable and supportive of the the ecological health of the reef,” said Gant. “We call it the Feed Line Urchin Ranch.”
Currently, Manatee has a 90-hectare tenure that is approximately 25 per cent seeded with cultured geoduck clams. Mined down by the wild fisheries, the area is being replanted back up to its natural density by Manatee with cultured geoduck seed raised from broodstock taken from the same general vicinity.
“When fully seeded, it will have about $100 million in inventory and will gross in excess of $10 million per year and produce a healthy product in a sustainable and environmentally beneficial manner.”
Gant explained that this approach is a low density, extensive polyculture production model rather than the more destructive high density, intensive, monoculture approach that destroys or damages the surrounding ecology.
“In both agriculture and aquaculture when any species of plant or animal is raised at too high a density, you end up with a recipe for disaster, including an artificial concentration of predators and parasites preying on the farmed species.”
“Sea stars feed on juvenile sea cucumbers by the millions,” said Gant, “Adults can outrun the predator, but not the young.”
Manatee has created nurseries for the juvenile seed that are made of recycled bags of oyster shells placed on the bottom of the ocean where the sandy substrate meets the edge of the rocky reef.
“When the juveniles grow to a size where they have to leave the safety of our nursery refuge, they can hide under the seaweed growing on the reef of the urchin ranch. They then feed on rotting bits of weed dropping from its protective canopy and on the pseudofaeces of the urchins.”
Gant said that once the sea cucumbers are large enough to venture out onto the sandy substrate they also get to feed on the pseudofaeces of the geoducks.
Gant believes that Manatee’s food production model will replace collapsing traditional fisheries and aquaculture systems that tend to damage the surrounding marine ecology and which produce a less healthy human food.
For the right investor, Gant said that Manatee is offering up to 40 per cent equity, for up to $20 million, in both its fishing and aquaculture businesses.
“What’s attractive about this opportunity is the investor would get immediate access to the wild fishery stocks that we are harvesting, and more importantly, secure long term access to our aquaculture production.”
He added that Manatee wants a beneficial business relationship with an investor who respects its mandate to create the most environmentally beneficial food production operation on land or sea, anywhere in the world.
“Our investor will recognize that resource depletion will continue to have a detrimental impact on the food supply unless we create sustainable models of food production. This is where the real profit will be found in the future.”