Sustainable Fish Farms Using Advanced Technology
Jason Heckathorn, United States
Antigua Forum 2016
Jason Heckathorn came to Antigua Forum 2016 as an entrepreneur with big challenges. As CEO of Forever Oceans, he was leading the transition of a sophisticated technology from a Fortune 500 defense industry giant into commercial mariculture. The firm was building a new type of fish farm focused on warm water species that could be autonomously farmed in the open oceans in an environmentally friendly way. The implications—increased food production, more economic development, lower environmental impact—were huge.
Jason connected with the Antigua Forum thanks to Art Chait, then-president of the event and a mentor at Stanford University’s StartX Accelerator. Jason was already working with Stanford’s StartX to spin off Forever Oceans from its Fortune 500 parent. In speaking with Art, it became clear that the potential global impact of Forever Oceans, and the political and economic challenges the firm faced, made it a great candidate for the Antigua Forum.
Jason needed advice. How to build a base of international finance partners? How to grow the business in a global market with political and economic risks that vary dramatically by country and region? How to sell the model to investors as well as host governments?
With help from his facilitator, Jason shared the firm’s business opportunity, its values of economic and environmental sustainability, and its challenges. The feedback came from many directions. Dan Grossman, an entrepreneur and board member at Atlas Network, pointed out that Forever Oceans had been focused on ventures in developing countries with warm waters, yet there could be value in pursing ventures in countries with strong rule of law. Along with other participants, they analyzed the politics and economics of business in regions as diverse as the South Pacific, South America, and Northern Europe. Then they dug deeper, conceiving and outlining a demonstration center for potential finance partners to see their innovative model without distracting on-going operations.
Less than a year after Jason came to the Antigua Forum, Forever Oceans launched a new demonstration center and its first European operations. Both have been big hits. Now the firm can give potential partners a clear picture of the technology and its possibilities. One of the new partners, Rodolfo Milani, was part of the group of participants advising Jason at the Antigua Forum. His group subsequently became the finance partner for Forever Oceans in a major Central American country. Two more operations are launching now.
Food security is a global challenge that will require decades to address. Forever Oceans has a great first-mover advantage, but every venture and every market presents its own challenges. Fortunately, the Antigua Forum equipped Jason and his team with a set of global relationships, from New Zealand to Ecuador and beyond, and ideas on how to make the most of the political and economic challenges that lie ahead.
“Time and expertise are always in short supply. The incredible thing about the Antigua Forum was that I could get both—productive time, working with experts from across the globe—all in a single location.” – Jason Heckathorn, United States