This article is part of TechNode Global’s partnership with CEO Roundtable Podcast and Asian Investors Podcast hosted by David Kim wherein we publish the revised transcripts from the podcast’s interviews with inspiring entrepreneurs and experienced VCs. This edited Q&A is based on the show’s original transcript. For the full interview, listen to the podcast here.

Mike Velings and his wife, Amy Novogratz, run Aqua-Spark, a Netherlands-based sustainable aquaculture fund that has attracted $148 million from 190 investors across 29 countries. They include ImpactAssets, a Bethesda, Maryland–based donor-advised fund, which enables individuals to park their contributions in profit-making impact investments before ultimately distributing the money to operating charities, and the Louis Dreyfus Company, the commodities giant controlled by billionaire Margarita Louis-Dreyfus.

Aqua-Spark is a global investment fund (Utrecht, the Netherlands) that makes investments in sustainable aquaculture businesses that generate investment returns while creating positive social and environmental impact. The fund invests in enterprises that are working towards the production of safe, accessible aquatic life, such as fish, shellfish, and plants, in a way that does not harm the health of the planet.

Velings is the co-founder and the driving force behind Aqua-Spark, combining a healthy financial profit with environmental and social impact. A lifelong entrepreneur, Mike has spent decades jumpstarting a range of successful businesses. Among other ventures, he co-founded Connexie, which has helped catalyze a professional employment industry across the Netherlands. In addition, as a very active investor–he has helped build tens of different companies in a vast array of sectors, from software to fintech to organic farming.

He believes in the potential for business to create durable solutions to complex world problems. In 2011 he started dreaming up a way to transform the aquaculture industry through the right type of investment and in 2014 Mike officially launched Aqua-Spark. With Aqua-Spark Mike sits on the Boards of Calysta, Proteon, Protix, Sogn Aqua, Hatch Blue, and Fisher Piscultura, where his focus is growth, strategy, and furthering sustainability.

Mike serves on several boards and is a member of the Conservation International’s Leadership Council as well as an Honorary Global Marine Fellow.


How did you and your co-founder Amy Novogratz come up with an idea to launch Aqua-Spark fund?

We met at’s floating ocean conference ‘Mission Blue’ in 2010 in the Galapagos Islands. We wanted to do something together that would have a long-term, lasting effect on ocean conservation and ocean health. In our exploration after Mission Blue, through interactions with a diverse group of stakeholders and NGO’s, we came across aquaculture and the unique opportunity for global positive change.

Tell us more information about Aqua-Spark, the size of the fund, the number of portfolio companies, and some examples of portfolio companies.

Aqua-Spark, pending its current valuation cycle, has an AUM of approximately €270 million ($311.37 million). We expect this to grow to €3-5 billion ($3.46-5.77 billion) by 2030. We have 24 companies in our portfolio. We aim to grow our portfolio to 50-60 companies over time. Examples of companies are Calysta, Protix, Sea6, and eFishery. We expect–no guarantee–IRR’s of >20 percent net of fees.

What is the investment thesis, e.g. deal size, geographic markets, the stage, social impact, etc?

Our mission is to move the aquaculture sector towards sustainable, healthy, and affordable production with comparable or better financial returns.

Our strategy is to build a public, global, synergistic portfolio of 50-60 companies across the aquaculture value-chain demonstrating that sustainable practices are delivering better returns for all stakeholders.

We operate like a long-term holding company, continuously attracting additional capital for growth. We typically initially invest early, at a series A type stage. We intend to build long-term partnerships with teams of entrepreneurs and intend to support their companies all the way to maturity, creating value for our investors and creating a continuous flow of dividends.

Who are the LPs and investors in your fund

We have approximately 250 investors from 38 countries across the globe–a mix of individuals, family offices, corporations, and institutional investors.

What problems are you solving and intending to solve with your investment activities?

We intend to solve a range of issues, such as reliance on fishmeal from wild-caught fisheries, unsustainable feed ingredients, reducing reliance on antibiotics, increasing transparency, introducing new, better technologies, and enabling lasting biodiversity, etc.

What is the future of aquaculture, and fish farming?

The aquaculture sector, when well done, has the potential to be the most resource-efficient and healthiest food system available to mankind. We believe the global aquaculture sector, compared to 2015 levels, has the potential to triple by mid-century.

Do you have any investments in Asia? any long term plan to invest in Asia, given that fish farming is fastest growing in the region?

In Asia, we are currently invested in Singapore, Thailand, India, and Indonesia. Some of our portfolio is active in other Asian countries as well. For example, Calysta is building a commercial production plant for single-cell proteins in China.

What is the vision of your fund and long term plan

We intend to grow our invested capital to approximately €1 billion ($1.16 billion) and our AUM to €3-5 billion ($3.46-5.77 billion) by 2030, with matching positive impact.

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