On Monday, Nov. 24, Mote Marine Laboratory’s President & CEO announced the sale of the nonprofit organization’s Siberian sturgeon and caviar production operation to Southeast Venture Holdings, LLC (Seven Holdings).
“This sale marks the first major private business spin-off from Mote research and achieves a major goal for the Laboratory’s 2020 Vision & Strategic Plan,” said Dr. Michael P. Crosby, Mote President & CEO. “Mote’s strategic priorities focus on translating and transferring the information and technology produced by our diverse research enterprise in order to not only support long-term conservation and sustainable use of our marine resources, as well as to enhance ocean literacy among the public, but to also serve as a foundation for creation of new economic engines for Southwest Florida.
“This is a great example of how basic research in the field of sustainable land-based aquaculture has led to innovative water recirculation technology that can help sustainably feed the world and help to expand employment in our region.”
Seven Holdings will integrate the fish and caviar operation into its Healthy Earth brand of sustainable foods businesses. Seven Holdings General Partner, Christopher Cogan, will serve as Healthy Earth’s CEO. Healthy Earth was established to develop commercial-scale operations across the entire sustainable foods sector from natural feed supplements and safe biological replacements for harmful chemical pesticides and fertilizers to sustainable aquaculture and agriculture production.
“Through the domain expertise of our partners in areas such as aquaculture, aquaponics, microbiology, farm management and food distribution, we are developing responsible and commercially viable alternatives to how sustainable foods are produced and sold,” Cogan said.
The sale of Mote’s sustainable sturgeon and caviar production operation will include an agreement for research commercialization and investment into Mote’s ongoing sustainable, land-based recirculating marine and freshwater aquaculture research at the 200-acre Mote Aquaculture Park in eastern Sarasota County. The investment will significantly increase Mote’s ability to continue and expand scientific studies needed to discover and improve sustainable technologies for growing seafood for human consumption and restocking declining and depleted fish species in the wild.
The sale brings to fruition the initial research investment Mote made in sturgeon aquaculture back in 2001, said Dr. Kevan Main, Manager of Mote’s Marine and Freshwater Aquaculture Research Program. “Mote made an investment in sturgeon aquaculture operations because we wanted to demonstrate that growing fish for food could be done using environmentally sound systems and practices that would also be financially feasible on a commercial scale,” she said. “Over the years, Mote has led the development of recirculating aquaculture technologies and has demonstrated that these systems are both environmentally sound and financially feasible to operate. Now, the Siberian sturgeon farm is ready for the next step in growth that this agreement with Seven Holdings will bring.”
Seven Holdings General Partner Russell Vernon called the company’s purchase of Mote’s Siberian sturgeon operations a strategic opportunity for Seven to establish a base of operation and collaboration near its corporate offices to plan and grow aquaculture and aquaponics ventures. “In addition to bringing investment capital to the Farm-Raised Sturgeon and Caviar operations, our firm also includes an impressive lineup of advisors and investors able to bring their business acumen to the operation. By bringing in best commercial practices, marketing expertise and resources, we can help Mote fully realize its original vision. And, just like Gatorade did for the University of Florida, this will provide an ongoing source of funding for Mote’s aquaculture research programs.”
“The sale of Mote's sturgeon and caviar production venture is the first step toward significant future expansion of commercial sustainable aquaculture in Sarasota,” said Arthur Armitage, former Chairman of Mote’s Board of Directors overseeing Mote's Sturgeon and Caviar operations.
Steve Queior, President & CEO of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, said the sale will continue to help diversify the region’s economy. “Innovations like this one, which brings Mote’s world-class research out of the Lab and into the marketplace, are just the types of partnerships we envision to help strengthen Sarasota’s economy. We see great potential for future partnerships between Mote and the business community.”
The sale of the Siberian sturgeon operation is just the first step in what will be many more partnerships with private sector entrepreneurs, said Mote’s Dr. Crosby. “We are in the process of evolving our City Island campus into an International Marine Science, Technology and Innovation Park,” he said. “Mote’s basic research addresses the grand challenges facing marine conservation and sustainable use. At this new technology and innovation park, we will be able to partner with private sector entrepreneurs from all around the world. Imagine an international marine science collaboratorium here in Sarasota that can build on Mote’s 60-year history and 24 distinct research programs, including biomedical, microbiology, immunology, coral restoration and ocean engineering, to also improve quality of life in our community and produce new spin-off businesses that support our Southwest Florida economy.”