SCOTTISH technology entrepreneurs Chris van der Kuyl and Paddy Burns have taken a 10% stake in Ace Aquatec in a deal that values the aquaculture technology specialist at £15.4 million.
As part of the investment, Mr van der Kuyl has joined the board of directors at Ace Aquatec, which is gearing up for a major international push. Based in Dundee, Ace specialises in technology to enable more efficient and humane processes in fish farming.
This latest round of investment comes on the heels of a deal completed in November, when Dutch investment fund AquaSpark took a 40% stake in Ace Aquatec. The remainder of the business is owned by co-founder Annette Pyne-Carter and her son Nathan, who took over the role of chief executive at Ace in 2012.
Originally set up in 1999, Ace Aquatic currently employs 14 people, and expects this to rise to 20 by the end of this year. It recently hired three new regional managers in Australia, Chile and Norway, the latter of which accounts for half of the world’s farmed salmon production.
Its products include acoustic devices that protect fish farms from predators, and humane electric stunning equipment that immediately renders fish unconscious before they leave the water to be processed. Ace is also set for the commercial launch of a biomass measurement system within the next two months.
Mr Pyne-Carter believes the latter, an underwater camera that provides unobtrusive indicators of fish health, has particularly good export potential. Among other things, the biomass measurement system lets farmers know when fish have reached their optimum weight, which allows feeding to be adjusted accordingly.
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About 25% of Ace Aquatic’s current annual turnover of £2m comes from overseas sales, a figure that is expected to rise as the company aims to double yearly revenues in the coming 12 months. “Aquaculture is set to grow even quicker post-Covid and is seen by many commentators as one of the key drivers to address the onset of a global food crisis,” Mr Pyne-Carter said. “As the industry grows, we are helping our customers support their own growth with the most sustainable and ethical products on the market.”
Mr van der Kuyl and Mr Burns run the games development group 4J Studios based in Dundee, which is best known for its development of Minecraft for console and handheld platforms. Mr van der Kuyl previously headed up VIS Entertainment, where Mr Burns was chief technical officer.
Mr van der Kuyl’s digital background will assist Ace Aquatic as it seeks to bring together its various technology platforms into a single package where farmers can access all the data on their operations.
“Ace Aquatic has shown phenomenal global growth and ambition and I hope we can help bring our technology expertise to this world-class organisation,” Mr van der Kuyl said. “Investing alongside management and an aquaculture specialist investor in Aqua-Spark gives us cause for great optimism and excitement for future developments.”
In the UK, Ace Aquatic works with customers such as Scottish Sea Farms and Loch Duart. It currently exports to Chile, New Zealand, Australia, the USA, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Greece, Germany, Denmark and Russia.