At WeAreAquaculture, we’re following the stories of inspiring women who have founded start-ups in the blue food and aquaculture space.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be featuring a new series where we find out more about the founders and their companies, their mission and vision, and how they see the future of aquaculture and blue food.
Kicking off the series is Sarah Carroll of MariHealth Solutions, a biotech startup from Cape Town, South Africa. We spoke to Sarah recently to find out more about her company and her journey as a biotech researcher-turned-entrepreneur.
Sarah Carroll, Co-founder and CEO, MariHealth Solutions
Location: South Africa
Year founded: 2021
Key innovation: Biomarker-based health monitoring for aquaculture
What’s your company’s mission and vision?
“We leverage biotechnology and proteomics to answer the “black box” questions in the aquaculture industry, offering vets, farms and aquafeed companies more granular biological insight into the impacts of farming operations and nutrition on fish health and metabolism. Ultimately, equipping them with the information needed to optimize farming and feed production.”
“We envision playing a key role in shifting the paradigm of reactive fish health management to a more informed, proactive approach, effectively ensuring the improved well-being of farmed animals.”
What inspires you personally in your work?
“To be honest, I never really wanted to start a business. I hate failure and when you hear the success rates of startups, it’s a little daunting to say the least. But I believed in the research our lab has conducted over the last decade or so, and I see the value and utility it can have in improving fish health and productivity management, especially since what we offer is a totally new approach to health assessments. And for me, universities should be commercialising valuable research, not holding onto IP, especially when that is one of the fundamental aspects to our evolution as a species.”
“So, going through the process of spinning out a company from the university, and tackling the wealth of knowledge in the business realm, really felt worth it to me if it meant I can be part of something that can take research and shape it into real-world applications.”
“It’s been a challenge, learning the ropes in business, but I have come to learn that I thrive on challenges, and I have ironically loved every minute of starting our company, learning, and growing with it and my business partner.”
“I’m inspired by several things in my work, mostly the challenge of building something from scratch, the pioneering nature of our work, as well as the plethora of knowledge and innovation that the aquaculture industry has and is experiencing.”– Sarah Carroll, MariHealth Solutions
“I’m inspired by several things in my work, mostly the challenge of building something from scratch, the pioneering nature of our work, as well as the plethora of knowledge and innovation that the aquaculture industry has and is experiencing. Every day is different for me, I am learning to wear different hats at our early stage, but I love being in a position where I get to learn something new about business, our work, the industry, and of course, myself.”
What’s unique about MariHealth?
“We are effectively filling a niche in the market by complementing current health testing, where the approach we use aims to shed more light on the “black box” questions in aquaculture. We offer a proteomics-based service to farms, vets and aquafeed companies, which essentially provides substantially more granular insight into the status of farmed fish and shellfish compared to current tests/assessments. This enables the fine-tuning of farming operations and nutrition to optimize production and ensure improved animal wellbeing.”
What opportunities do you see for the aquaculture and seafood industries in the coming years?
“I reckon aquaculture is experiencing, and will continue to experience, a proverbial (massive) wave of innovation, which will undoubtedly revolutionize the way seafood is produced.”
“Norway, as an example, is trialling new ways of farming salmon with off-shore open sea farms like Ocean Farm 1 that is spear-headed by SalMar, while FishGLOBE is developing enclosed farming units. Innovations like these seek to tackle the issue of sea-lice, which is a major issue in the salmon farming industry.”
“And with the advent of cell-cultured seafood (which, by the way, I don’t see replacing conventionally produced seafood) and alternative protein production for aquafeed, like BSFL, one can’t help but see how the aquaculture and seafood industries will be revolutionized.”
“I believe we will see a lot more technologies and solutions being developed to tackle issues in the aquaculture healthcare sector, particularly as the demand for fish protein continues to grow.”– Sarah Carroll, MariHealth Solutions
“On the health and animal welfare side, there are definite avenues for innovation, especially with the increasing (and unavoidable) prevalence of climate change, parasites and diseases. I believe we will see a lot more technologies and solutions being developed to tackle issues in the aquaculture healthcare sector, particularly as the demand for fish protein continues to grow.”