An aquaculture start-up is working with Farm491, the Royal Agricultural University (RAU)’s agritech innovation and incubation hub, to create the largest land-based production facility for shrimp in the UK.
Frustrated by the inconsistent quality and expense of buying seafood from across the world, two Cheltenham restauranteurs, Litu Mohiuddin and Rasel Mahmud, are creating a world-class indoor recirculating system to produce a reliable and affordable source of shrimp, initially for UK restaurants and retailers: Land Ocean Farm.
Land Ocean Farm will not only address the quality issue, but also the environmental impact of overfishing and importing seafood from across the world. With aquaculture one of the fastest growing food sectors in the world, it may also offer a diversification opportunity for famers as Land Ocean Farm scales the business and builds a network of satellite systems.
Pollution free seafood
Litu Mohiuddin, the Michelin Guide restauranteur and entrepreneur behind Cheltenham’s fine dining East India Café, sold in early 2020, and now owner of the Memsahib Gin and Tea Bar, explains: “Transparency in the fish supply chain is notoriously bad and there’s no telling its source, or whether harmful chemicals, antibiotics or hormones have been used in production or shipping. UK restaurants and retailers import 721,000 tonnes of fish and seafood every year, of which 78,000 tonnes are prawns and shrimps, often shipped from thousands of miles across the globe. The quality is inconsistent, often poor, and it’s expensive. By building the technology and the network to produce shrimps in a land-based and bio-secure environment in the UK, we can provide healthy, nutrient-dense and pollution-free seafood at an attractive price – financially and environmentally – for restauranteurs, retailers and consumers.”
Farm491, which is a vibrant hub based at the Royal Agricultural University, supports entrepreneurs and innovators like Litu and Rasel to help grow the UK’s AgriTech ecosystem and promote the adoption of new technologies in the future of food production.
An incubator rather than an accelerator, it supports entrepreneurs to dive deep into their business potential with access to expert talks, research and development, commercial initiatives, mentoring and networking. Farm491 also offers inspiring workspaces in three different styles from practical workshops to state-of-the-art hot desking.
Rasel, who has worked in hospitality for many years, says that working with Head of Farm491, Sarah Carr, has stimulated very valuable third-party discussion and insight:
“Sarah has been fantastic both putting wind in our sails and challenging us by asking the difficult questions. Farm491 has also been key to making introductions and highlighting relevant webinars, and we’ve come into contact with some really interesting people we wouldn’t have otherwise.
“Being part of Farm491 has now created a spider-web of connections which opens other doors, and with anyone you meet in the network there is an instinctive element of trust and seal of approval which helps accelerate mutual benefit. This is so important, especially for young entrepreneurs who haven’t yet built up that network.”
First plant in 2022
Working with leading aquaculture experts, Land Ocean Farm has evolved the technology and will be building its first plant in 2022, which will position it as the largest scale producer in the UK.
The biosecure system will operate using green energy from an anaerobic digestion plant to provide heat and power, whilewater is recycled many times over and any organic residues are returned to the AD plant creating yet more green energy.
Land Ocean Farm plans to partner with farmers looking for diversified income, to build satellite units for production and enhance the circular economy. For example, farmers can use excess heat from AD plants powered by farm waste, as well as use crop byproducts to make fish feeds and generate fish waste compost to add nutrients to their soil.
“Our success in aquaculture depends on others being successful with us, so we want to collaborate and create that success together,” says Rasel.
With their innate knowledge of the restaurant industry, Land Ocean Farm will sell mainly B2B as well as under its own brand to the consumer, developing, in time, pre-prepared, ready-to-cook and convenience products.