Founder Focus: Blue Aqua Food Tech
Food waste feeding insects, insects feeding fish, fish feeding people.
Blue Aqua Food Tech wants to be the company to start that sequence, with the founders working now to get the perfect formula to maximize insect growth. The concept is strong enough that Blue Aqua Food Tech recently won the Stella Zhang New Venture Competition at the University of California Irvine’s Merage School’s Beall Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Social Enterprise.
Stella Zhang is cofounder of Sunstone Management, along with husband John Shen. She also is a UCI graduate. Sunstone put up $100,000 in prize money for the New Venture Competition.
The overall win gives Blue Aqua Food Tech co-founders Hamoon Shishechian and Parham Mansor Safain (who are brother-in-laws) another $10,000 to continue their research and development.
Shishchian was joined by Kendyll Trenary, Blue Aqua’s chief operations officer, and consultant Agustine Pimentel at the challenge presenting the Food Tech concept. All three received their Master’s degree from UCI this spring.
The trio also will be at the Sunstone University on Thursday, June 30, to talk about their experiences.
Shishechian is, in a sense, joining the family business with Blue Aqua Food Tech. His family owns and operates Blue Aqua, one of the largest aqua-culture operations in Singapore. Shishechian and his cohort conducted research last year there while attending classes via Zoom.
“One third of the fish caught in the ocean are used to make feed, fish meal,” Shishechian said. “We’re researching alternatives, and have settled on insects as the protein..”
He noted that fish meal has increased in price by more than 30% recently, making the concept more viable. But growing and grinding insects can be expensive too.
That is unless the growth medium is free.
“We’re collecting organic waste,” Shishechian said. “We’re working with Dnata Airport Services, which serves Emirates Airlines. Eliminating food waste has become an important issue around the world.”
Shishechian said his team still is perfecting the mix of food waste, with he and Trenary heading to Singapore days after the Sunstone University appearance. Eventually, Shishechian said, he wants to bring the company back to California.
“The weather is much better, “ he laughed. “And we’re dealing with a food waste issue here. We’ve already talked with the USDA
“Eventually, our goal is to feed livestock,” he added. “We can offer a cheaper alternative.”
Blue Aqua Food Tech is the featured company at the inaugural Sunstone University. Similar to the Sunstone Academy for investors, the University is designed for university students and university startups/entrepreneurs. Sunstone CEO John Keisler will open the event and Zhang will share her journey as well.
“This year, Stella came to talk to the class (before the competition began),” Shishechian said. “I think she wants to keep it in the family… Hearing her was pretty inspiring.
“We’ve learned a lot every time we’ve been in a contest, been with Sunstone,” he added. “It’s been a great experience. It’s a great culture.”
Pimentel, who was a member of the 2021 winning team at the Stella Zhang New Venture Challenge, said the connection with Sunstone will be a great benefit for Blue Aqua.
The June 30 event is open to the public. For information, go to www.eventbrite.com/o/sunstone-management-48082234993.
About Sunstone Management: A Financial Times (FT) Americas’ Fastest Growing Company
Sunstone Management, with the Sunstone Venture Capital Fund, is a diversified private capital firm located in Southern California that invests in diverse early-stage technology entrepreneurs who demonstrate the promise to build great companies. We believe in the aspirational power of southern California to attract and inspire the most sophisticated investors and the most ambitious entrepreneurs in the world. We deliver new and exciting opportunities for economic growth through the creation of innovative public-private-partnerships, and our unique experience across government, education, and private sectors.
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