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Sustainable aquaculture, an investment opportunity still facing technological challenges

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The World Economic Forum released the New Nature Economy series that is made up of three reports which provide the fact base to the Nature Action Agenda (NAA) and helps business leaders and policymakers take informed action in contributing to a nature-positive economy.

The first report, Nature Risk Rising, produced in collaboration with PwC, explains how nature-related risks matter to business, why they must be urgently mainstreamed into risk management strategies and why it is vital to prioritize the protection of nature’s assets and services within the broader global economic growth agenda.

The second report, The Future of Nature and Business, identifies what transitions are needed to move towards a nature-positive economy and how businesses can be part of the solution, paving the way for new opportunities.

The report highlights the need for a fundamental transformation across three socio-economic systems, which represent over a third of the global economy and provide up to two-thirds of all jobs. These systems are: food, land and ocean use; infrastructure and the built environment; and extractives and energy. Together they drive the threats which endanger almost 80% of the total threatened and near-threatened species (on the IUCN red list). These systems, therefore, have a significant opportunity and responsibility to reverse nature loss. But they also have tremendous upside benefits to gain by embracing this transformation now.

Regarding aquaculture, the report states that “more and more fish are being produced through aquaculture: it represents almost half of global seafood production in 2016, up from a quarter in 2000. However, for the ocean and freshwater aquaculture to truly offer a sustainable solution, it still needs to overcome some productivity and environmental limitations. These challenges include the need to improve disease management, limit antibiotic usage, favor native species harvesting, scale sustainable feeds that do not compete for land or wild-caught fish, and improve the condition of production sites to avoid pollution.”

“Another large, significant opportunity is sustainable aquaculture, which could create an incremental annual opportunity worth $115 billion by 2030. The aquaculture industry is projected to almost double between 2015 and 2030, but in many ways, it is relatively immature. Technological improvements – such as in automated feed dispensing, water quality monitoring, improved waste management systems, harvesting and packaging — alone constitute a $20 billion opportunity. High-value sustainable aquaculture could grow as communities in emerging markets such as China adopt more sustainable diets. The internal rate of return from investing in sustainable aquaculture is found to be greater than 10%,” the report stated.

The third report of the series will be released in autumn 2020.

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