Ocean 14 Capital invests in MITO S.r.L as part of its European bivalves platform strategy

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25 August 2022, London. Ocean 14 Capital, a private equity company focused on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14): Life Below Water, has entered into an agreement to invest in MITO S.r.L (“MITO”) a leader in the breeding and hatching of clams. The Fund will be making an initial investment of €2.8 million.

MITO, created through the O14C transaction, is the consolidation of clam hatchery and nurseries in Italy and the Netherlands. The company is co-founded by Gianluigi Lago, Paola Landri and Maurizio Varagnolo, industry veterans with deep expertise in breeding and farming of Veneridae clams. MITO, resulting from the merger of Societá Agricola Ecotapes Italia S.r.L, Delta Futuro Societá Agricola S.r.L, and Ecotapes Zeeland B.V., initiates operations producing more than 300 million clam seed juveniles ready for stocking for the Italian market.

MITO integrates bio-secure hatchery operations in the Netherlands with local nursery centres in the core Italian market and, supported by Ocean 14 Capital Fund, has an ambitious growth plan to increase its operational capacity to 2 billion of seeds annually over the next few years. The Ocean 14 Capital Fund plans to invest an additional €5 million investment to scale and grow the business further, as part of its European bivalves strategy, creating another scalable, regenerative and sustainable protein platform within the Blue Economy.

“It is incredibly exciting to begin this journey with MITO – benefiting from and simultaneously accelerating the great and highly impactful work that Gianluigi, Paola and Maurizio have developed for years” said Katherine Elbert, Investment Analyst and co-Investment Lead for MITO at Ocean 14 Capital, the Fund’s investment advisor. “We couldn’t have arranged a better starting investment for the Fund’s European bivalves strategy. Similar to what happened to oysters, a strong supply of viable hatchery seed is key for the sustainable development of the industry,” she added.

“O14C has been a great partner for us and we are very excited about the opportunity our partnership will capture,” says Gianluigi Lago, MITO’s Chief Operating Officer. “With their investment and support, MITO will soon lead the supply of hatchery clam seed in Europe,” added Lago.

Ocean 14 Capital’s strategy for the European bivalve industry aims to bring capital, technology and best-practices to this often-overlooked sector of the European coastal economies. “With a total aquaculture production of more than 30,000 tonnes1, the clam industry in Europe is one of the best opportunities for the Fund to invest in. It shows well who the Fund is as O14C, and its purpose,” says Francisco Saraiva Gomes, Founding Partner and Chief Investment Officer of the company. “It’s a great protein, with a superior production system, highly leverageable through technology and convergent with coastal conservation, of which we know a lot, and where we are able to develop superior partnerships with the industry leaders. It’s a great impact growth thesis: the team is fantastic, we’re building at book value, and MITO’s sales are overbooked,” he added.

MITO is a high impact investment case for Ocean 14 Capital. Alongside nutritional benefits, clams are an exceptionally efficient, low impact protein. As filter feeders growing in the sediment of natural lagoons, clams require no feed, fresh water or antibiotics, and almost no physical infrastructure. As a result, clams produce less than 2kg of CO2 per 100g of protein, versus the European average of 13kg per 100g of animal protein, and 50kg per 100g of beef protein2.

In recent years, the European production of clams has declined due to lack of wildly sourced seed, as well as the abiotic stress and disease, resulting in a spat mortality rate of over 50%3. MITO supplies high quality clam juveniles that increase the production of low-impact and low-carbon protein by increasing the availability of clam seed, displacing farmer’s dependency on wildly sourced stocks, while simultaneously decreasing their mortality in grow-out and protecting the environment within the lagoon, which take pressure off the heavily overfished wild clam populations.

1 FAO: Global Aquaculture Production Quantity (1950 – 2020) for Ruditapes philippinarum and Venerupis decussatus

2 Internal analysis based on Kyung-Il Park et al. 2012, LCA of Scottish Mussels and Oysters, NZ LCA of Mussels and Clam, and Nemecek and Poore (2018)

3 EIT Food: Delta Futuro: Shellfish Juvenile Sustainable Production Model