4: Ranching in the Ocean with Phil Cruver of Catalina Sea Ranch, a shellfish aquaculture company


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Phil Cruver is the Founder and CEO of Catalina Sea Ranch (CSR), which owns the first offshore aquaculture facility in U.S. federal waters. This was a fascinating conversation as Phil tells the story of how he had to essentially build a new industry in the U.S. We cover a lot of ground in this interview. And when it comes to raising funding for a startup with grand ambitions like CSR, he has some wisdom from the 6 companies he’s started on how to allocate equity in the early stages of a company.

Get the full show notes here.

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In this interview, we cover:

  • [4:05] Introduction to the state of the U.S. seafood trade and offshore aquaculture. Spoiler: The U.S. currently imports about 91% of all its seafood, producing a $14 billion seafood trade deficit.
  • [8:40] Why you don’t see any offshore aquaculture in the U.S., or much aquaculture at all really.
  • [12:50] Risks and process for testing for bacteria and biotoxins in aquaculture and shellfish.
  • [27:19] The birth of CSR and how Phil hit the jackpot discovering that you didn’t need to lease federal waters, only to get held up on fundraising and State and local regulatory issues.
  • [31:45] Fundraising Part 1: Raising capital in aquaculture
  • [34:26] Fundraising Part 2: Strategic round and one of the smartest decisions Phil made in getting the big distribution players involved and on the Board.
  • [38:19] Advice: Spread around the wealth in the early days.
  • [41:07] Technology Part 1: Technology used to farm in the ocean.
  • [44:15] Technology Part 2: Tracking everything, monitoring in real time, technology used, scientists involved.
  • [48:47] Technology Part 3: $1 million NOMAD buoy, Ocean Internet of ThingsTM. Technology off-the-shelf vs rolling their own tech.
  • [51:57] R&D: Competitive research contracts with USDA and NOAA.
  • [58:45] Platform building, potential of genomics.
  • [1:02:26] The untapped potential of breeding in shellfish.
  • [1:04:04] Technology Part 4: Underwater drones: Blue Robotics.
  • [1:07:24] Where CSR is selling today, first harvest, branding.
  • [1:12:11] Advice for entrepreneurs.
  • [1:13:33] What’s surprised Phil the most building in aquaculture.

8 episodes