The Social Innovation Podcast thoroughly enjoyed its conversation with Dr. Farshad Shishehchian, the Founder and CEO of Blue Aqua International.  Blue Aqua combines the art and science of farming to build a sustainable, new world.
Some of the topics that Dr. Farshad covered:
  • Born in Iran/Azerbaijan
  • Obtaining a Ph.D. in shrimp farming
  • Fishing versus farming and the importance of replacing what is caught
  • If we want to tackle food security, we need to eat Tilapia
  • Why salmon and shrimp dominate the finance of fishing
  • Ecosystems below 10,000 meters
Other titles we considered for this episode:
  1. I Always Introduce Myself as a Farmer
  2. Your Lobster and My Lobster Are Different
  3. We Know More About Our Solar System Compared to the Ocean
  4. Human Being Is a Very Confused Species
  5. I Had a Lot of Chicken at Home
  6. There Are a Lot of Unknowns

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Michael Waitze 0:02
If there’s no interruption, it’s not a podcast…Anyway, are you ready to go?

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 0:06
I’m ready.

Michael Waitze 0:07
Let’s do it. Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Social Innovation Podcast. Today we are joined by Dr. Farshad Shishehchian, Group CEO and founder of Blue Aqua International. Dr. Farshad. Thank you so much for coming on the show. How are you doing today?

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 0:24
I’m fine. Thank you very much. It’s hello to you from Singapore. from

Michael Waitze 0:29
Singapore. It’s great to have you here. And before we get into the main part of our conversation, can we give our listeners a little bit of your background for some context?

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 0:38
Okay, I always introduce myself as a farmer, i am a shrimp farmer and fish farmer. But in reality, I’m a businessman also. So I have I have done my education in aquaculture and shrimp farming. I got a PhD in shrimp farming. I did some, you know, businesses study in the Kellogg in the Chicago. And I’m doing business for past 30 years and our farm of water to warriors. So I wear two hats.

Michael Waitze 1:10
What was it like going to Kellogg

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 1:13
was okay. I mean, it was not a very long course it was like about eight, eight months to one year was the executive management course. And I just polished my knowledge, I believe because it was a lot of experience there. So when you go and listen to these excellent people that they teaching the business, so you know that how to just tidy up your your knowledge in your head. So you organize it?

Michael Waitze 1:37
And is your family always been in farming? Or is this something that you chose explicitly to do? Because it was

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 1:42
just interesting to you know, you’ll be surprised to know that I grown up in a city that we had a winter with a minus 30 minus 40 degree where and I was born actually in Iran. I was in the north part of Iran in Azerbaijan. And then all my young hood you know, I am a Persian and we push in and Azadi. So that area, we see fish like only like in the river sometimes. And no aquaculture since. I mean until I really get to the university I never aware of you know, really like some farming and all those but we were in a farming of the like fruit vegetable. I had a lot of chicken at home, we had a horse cow shape. So those kinds of things, but not really aquaculture.

Michael Waitze 2:38
So interesting. So how did you get interested in aquaculture? Sorry, I’m, while you’re talking. I’m looking at the map of Iran and Persia and trying to figure out there is no ocean around it. Is that true? Do I have that right?

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 2:51
Yes, and no, we have we have in the north of Iran. There is the largest lake in the world is a Caspian Sea. So basically the best copier the best copier in the world come from there.

Michael Waitze 3:04
That’s right. Or your husband, John as well. So yeah, fair enough. Yep.

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 3:07
Yeah. So and then in the southern part of the we run this all across the, you know, southern border is the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. So yeah, there are, you know, some in the old days, there were a lot of fishing activity and a lot of fishermen, but aquaculture, not really. But I really, you know, get into this because when I wanted to go to the university, my father ever, I mean, always he wished that I were, you know, a doctor of the medicine, and I didn’t do that. So I went and study instead, zoology. Then I did my master in marine biology, and I did my PhD in aquatic ecology, which was more of my focus was on the shrimp farming. So I study in Malaysia, because I had a choice of between going to the California University of San Diego, study ocean Marine, biological oceanography, or I do basically farming study in Malaysia. So I chose the farming, because that was my passion. But prior to that, I did, you know, work and lobster and oysters, and shrimp, you know, came in later, but I have done many years of farming. And I think, you know, it’s my whole professional life span understood.

Michael Waitze 4:34
This is such a great story. Tell me what you like when you were studying for your PhD and also undergrad and your studies while Junior studying about shrimp and lobster was studying about the reproduction of them at scale, or like, what were you exactly studying? I’m super curious. And let me tell you why. When I was a little boy, I grew up on a peninsula and I mean, a really small peninsula. So the bay side of the peninsula faced the Boston Harbor and obviously the ocean side I literally fronted just this massive part of the Atlantic Ocean and my dad’s friends were lobster fishermen. So we were just a round lobster all the time, to be fair, and I’m just curious like what you were studying what you learned about you know, shrimp and lobster and fish.

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 5:16
I mean, a very interesting question. I mean, when you talk about like human you studied like zoology right I mean, zoology is a subject that it’s it’s so wide. I mean, like you’re looking at all that because we have to buy right we have three kingdom we have animal and plant they are the largest kingdom of the you know, all the creative that living on the Earth, but when you look at his animal kingdom, it’s so giant. So when we studied zoology as a as a degree student, and we really study everything. I mean, like, you know, our courses was like, including from taxonomy to physiology to you know, you just name it. When we had everything we really never had a focus on anything special. But I remember I had to do like a final year project. And I did my final year project on the lobster but when we talk about lobster, your lobster mylaps are different very you’re coming from those other like a basically cool water lobster main lobsters. Yeah, main loves. They have cloth. Yeah. When I say the lobster, we’re talking about tropical lobster. Like we call them. I mean, the species is I mean, the genus is upon in origin. So this, these are like a trope, I’m sure now you’re living in Thailand, you can see a lot of lobsters that colorful, we have different species, we call it versicolor. Or polyphagous. You know, the oldest species, there are tropical lobster, they are the lobster that mostly leave in the coral reef. But also lobster is different. So but they’re all lobster. I mean, like, tasty.

Michael Waitze 6:55
For sure. So this is what I want to know, the right like when you talk about farming of people are so used to this idea of like farming cattle, right? Or farming sheep, they can see it like they can feel it. They know it, you know what I mean? Yeah. And they don’t think anything of it. Right. And they like, at some point, people started talking about free range chicken, because they knew that the chickens that they were eating, were farmed, and nobody seemed to care at all. And we can go into chickens a whole different story, right? We can talk about, but that’s a different sort of true. But when we think about farming of awkward cultures and awkward creatures, we just think of it differently. I don’t.

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 7:32
Yeah, he’s, it’s, I mean, your question is absolutely correct. You know, when we, this is what I tell to a lot of people, you know, like one of my job, I give a lot of talk among the farmers or among the businessman, scientists. So I always say, aquaculture, and you know, in particular shrimp farming, it’s very, very different type of farming, because, okay, just give an example of a chicken. So if the weather is hot, for chicken is hot for you, and me, chicken and human, they have certain common sensing and feeling, we all can feel the heat, we all can feel the cold, we can feel the, you know, the pollution, whatever. But when you talk about fish and shrimp, you don’t understand anything, that the environment that is surrounding these animals, the water is totally different. I mean, we have no sense of understanding of pH, except for example, you put your hand inside the acid, we don’t have a sense of, I don’t know, alkalinity, or DPI, or Yeah, so these are the, these are the very important and the water contained, or effected by much, much more higher number of the physical and chemical and biological parameters, that when you look at the, you know, I mean, you know, the animal, the living on the land, it’s it’s much higher, you know, maybe like 10 times more, because there are many, many different facts. And the water environment is very uniform, in one sense that it’s, you know, it’s make it totally different for us to understand the sense and the feeling of this fish and shrimp and living.

Michael Waitze 9:18
It’s so interesting. Like, I went scuba diving for the first time, you know, obviously 20 or 30 years ago. And I remember that feeling of being underwater and just thinking 70 something percent of the Earth is like this, and I’ve never been down here before and through. It was almost like it felt like being in space, but it really felt like I was in a completely different place. Do you know what I mean? Absolutely. And you’re right, like, if I moved from here and just go up to like the seventh floor of a building, which is let’s say five meters or 10 meters high. Nothing in my life changes nothing. But if I go five, or 10 meters below the surface of the ocean, the pressure everything’s different though. Exactly.

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 9:59
I mean, I love diving in My hobbies are diving. So when you go underwater, you know every meter you are going down, you will see a different, you know lifeforms. Yeah. And, and a different feeling you’re right. You know, like, if you go down like, I mean, we usually you know try not to go without any special equipment more than 30 meter down. But if you are lugging a 50 meter 60 meter is definitely you know, you know, the things are different animals leaving the pen, and this creator in the water, they have been really adopted to the environment, you know, and, and I believe the oceans and the seas, they are the environment that human has less knowledge compared to our solar system, then we know more about our solar system compared to the oceans.

Michael Waitze 10:51
Interesting. Yeah. And in a way, like, we’re always going this way. Yeah, you don’t I mean, I’m pointing up as opposed to going down. Right. All right. Yeah. And for some reason, people are like, way less scared of getting in an airplane and crossing the Atlantic than they wouldn’t be. But you know what I mean? Like, it’s super easy. So

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 11:08
true. True. True. Very true. Very true. So the oceans and seas, they have a lot of secrets that we haven’t really understood it.

Michael Waitze 11:17
Yeah. But how about the food aspect of this? What percentage of food do you think we take globally? And I don’t know, like, I just thought about this, but like, what percentage of the food globally Do you think we take in relation to in relation to beef and chicken and vegetables and fruit and stuff like that? Do we mean take out of the ocean?

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 11:33
Yeah, but like, like normally, like in the, like, high consuming country that they have seafood like maximum, like, don’t feel country only like they can eat like per year, like 6070 kilogram of seafood. But average, you know, like about 20 kilo less than 20 kilogram per head per year, which you compare this one with a beef and chicken is a very small portion, and what you say is correct, you know, 75% of the, it’s covered by the sea. So this is what I always say. So basically means my opinion, 75% of our food should come from the ocean. Interesting. You know, still not we are not there. And you know, it’s gonna take a long time. I mean, eventually, when the human population increase, because of competition on the land and the resources, we have to move back to the sea.

Michael Waitze 12:24
But then why do we hear about overfishing?

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 12:28
True? Okay, because not everything we catch we eat. You forgot one very important point that many of the fishing that happened

Michael Waitze 12:37
and didn’t forget it. I just wanted you to say it. Oh, okay. No, because

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 12:41
a lot of people think that Oh, are we catching a lot of fish, whatever. Love fish that we catch. In fact, it used to fit the other animal. Yeah, you know, the land base and the other aquaculture animals. So like many of the fishes that we are catching today, they use for the fish meal, or production of the feed for the augers. And also, you know, like, put it this way. We have beef industry, we have chicken industry. And we have talked about fisheries, we have fisheries. So imagine a farmer that having a cow in his farm or having a chicken. So every cycle, they slaughter this animal they replaced, they have a breeding place. So they breed them, bring it back and start to grow them again. But when we do fishing in the ocean, we don’t do that. We leave it to the nature. So you’re catching so much, but the ocean and the nature does not, you know, have that capacity that replays in the same speed. But if in a chicken farm, you have 30,000 chicken in the chicken house, you take them out you put 30,000 Check. But in Destiny, we don’t do that. So of course, eventually we’re gonna have, you know, less fish in the sea.

Michael Waitze 14:00
So then talk to me about the farming aspect of this. Is that what farming is? Or is that partially what it does? Because do you feel like every time you tell that little part of the story that people most people had never even thought about that before? Yeah, true. Do you know what I mean? We’re like, because they don’t think because they see a cow. They know that like their baby cows there and baby chickens, the chicks, right? But nobody thinks about like a baby tuna.

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 14:22
Yeah, correct. That’s very true. I mean, aquaculture has like few aspects, which we always see aquaculture only produce food for us. But aquaculture has another I think spected which is we call it Stock Enhancement means we can grow anymore and release them to the to the sea or to the ocean or to the lake. This happens some parts of the world for example, like just now we talked about Caspian Sea, right like for for the you know the estrogen fish that we catch them for the caviar. This animal can live for up to two 100 years old, you can get Yeah, they can grow, they can live up to 200 to under 50 years old. And they can be so huge, they can really, really grow up to a few 100 kilograms, they are actually a sort of a dinosaur. If you look at them, they are not a bony fish, okay, they are like really close to the shock. So, like in a country like Iran and some other neighboring country of Caspian Sea, there are centers that the the catch me like when they when they catch the fish, they rather than sell the caviar, they try to, you know, get a fingerling from that, and they do the breeding. And then they release these animals to the sea. Or we do have some other places they try to do Stock Enhancement, but there is one factor that sometimes our knowledge because you see, aquaculture, it’s very different than poultry, or swine or ruminant, because in aquaculture, to my last count, we have about 260 Plus species that we can grow. And there are more much more than that in the sea, that we don’t have the technology and knowledge, how to do the breathing. I mean, you’re talking about lobster, believe it or not. For lobster, it’s still we don’t know how to do the breathing. Really, there was one company or one university in Tasmania, they managed to close the loop for the lobster. But generally, many of these species, we don’t know how to do breeding, we just know how to catch the toe even you want to replace the you know, stop, you won’t be able because you don’t have the knowledge and technology.

Michael Waitze 16:41
Sorry, just my brain is just working overtime today trying to catch up to this. In like I said to you like for years, I lived by the Atlantic Ocean, a lobster and never thought about how they got replaced. And I think this is probably common for most people who eat seafood, as you said, Do you think there’s a convergence that more people will eat things out of the ocean as they get wealthier? In other words, do you think that there’s an economic aspect to this as well?

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 17:08
Definitely, I think that if the seafood consumption, it’s increased by a few factor number one, of course, I mean, like the population increase, so you will be surprised to consume seafood or fish, I would use the word of the fish here because for example, if you go to Bangladesh, bank, Bangladesh is not a wealthy country, but they have one of the highest fish consumption in the world. Because Because Bangladesh has a lot of inland water. So people have nothing to eat rather than the fish. Okay, so like, you know, like behind your, your house, there is a small lake and there’s the kids go there and catch one or two fish and bring it home and eat. And that’s, you know, consumption of high, you know, fish, it’s nothing to do with the world. This is because that’s the, that’s the best source of the protein available for them. But in other country, like for example, I give you an example of China, or some other wealthy countries seafood, naturally consider as a luxury product as an expensive product depends on like, what what I mean, like we were talking about shrimp, lobster, abalone, all these things. So there is a two factor to increase the seafood consumption. One is the population and other one is the how wealthy of that, you know, people and nations. So when the buying power of the people goes up, the seafood consumption goes up. And naturally also when the population goes up, the seafood consumption goes up. That’s why we believe that the speed of the this increasing of the consumption compared to our production is much more faster, that we’re we are behind the production.

Michael Waitze 18:51
So yeah, I completely understand that. Can we talk about this in the context of shrimp? I feel like one of the things that I’ve heard a lot of particularly since I’ve been living in Thailand for the past decade is that Thailand is one of the largest shrimp farmers and one of the largest shrimp exporters in the world. Right through it was it was yeah, sorry. Thank you very much for correcting. I only know what I’ve been told, right? And what I read for sure. Yep. But if that’s the case, does that mean that we’ve figured out how to breed shrimp and if we have figured out how to breed them, maybe you can talk like at scale, about what the shrimp industry or the food industry, the Asian aquaculture industry looks like, from a high level so that people can get a better understanding because frankly, I don’t think most people understand how that works. And we can be specific about Trump. I think it’ll just make it more relevant for people if that makes sense.

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 19:37
I mean, like in the whole world, you know, when you talk about aquaculture, naturally, we have two species, that they they draw the most attention and the most, you know, the profitability confirmed one is the solid month and other one is shouldn’t

Michael Waitze 19:52
really, yeah, really, it’s that it’s that bifurcated? It’s just like exactly, it’s salmon and every other fish and then shrimp and every other To the crustacean,

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 20:01
exactly go ahead. So, you have Salman and you have shrimp. So, the whole industry really divided in between these two and there are other things I mean like of course we have freshwater fish shortly but we are talking about financial gain, you know like this the two species, I mean like you can the carp is carp and tilapia has very very high productivity, but because of the low value usually in the UC is a scientist and researcher, they work on the species that they can produce something and most likely they can you know, get some financial gain or some site some companies they can make something out of that imagine if you develop something for carp or tilapia there is not there is not very interesting industry there in terms of you know, profitability, but when you talk about Solomon and shrimp so these are two species Salman is very advanced for for very simple reason that Solomon farming is usually in the past and currently had been in the European countries that lucky major Norwegians Norway spend a lot of money and research for the Solomon nutrition genetic growth you know everything system culture system so that’s why the salon industry is extremely advanced compared to shrimp industry okay because in salamander a lot of money like you know government put a lot of money researchers that will come to shrimp Yes, shrimp is widely practiced from Western Hemisphere today’s the numbers so you can see everywhere but because shouldn’t happen usually in the countries that they are less developed compared to the for example Norway. So imagine like, like Indonesia, I mean, you look at the capacity and capability of the educational system in Norway and all like Indonesia or in Thailand, of course, they there are more money for research in Norway compared to for example, Thailand. So that’s why the industry for shrimp in these countries has not been really you know, grow so fast in terms of the technology except like the farmers they just do their own part. Okay, so then look at the shrimp industry is big we consume human consume yearly if I’m not wrong, based on my last check like is about 6 million tonnes stream and majority of this it comes through the aquaculture Okay, let’s see you know like you go back to the history of shrimp film

Michael Waitze 22:33
can I be clear about this when you say it comes through aquaculture you mean it comes through farmed shrimp as opposed to just like shrimp growing in the ocean or growing in a river? No, no, no, no farmer farming farming does that kill Yes, because this is so interesting. Does it change the love the nutritional level of the shrimp if it’s farmed versus whether it’s naturally grown or doesn’t matter?

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 22:54
Truly at salmon yeah it’s Salmaan maybe because we see stays a catcher you see Salman is a coldwater fish. So for Salman you know, when they are in the nature they have access to much much more you know, more natural food so that’s why the natural catch Salman from the ocean or from river basically they are they have most probably better color, you know, meat color or they have a better maybe better nutritional profile, I would not be able to really say 100% is a significant difference. But because of the the way that you know Salman is a cold water, so I need more lipid compared to the tropical fish. So it’s really different. But when it comes to shrimp, I wouldn’t say really there is a difference. I think it’s very seldom people can say this is a cultural shrimp or this is the you know, see catch you know, or like a catch from the sea or whatever is more or less they are seeing okay, but when we look at the shrimp shrimp history is not very long. I mean, aquaculture for shrimp, it just goes back to 1970s around those days. So it was a it was a very very you know, interesting guy in Japan I mean it’s it’s very interesting trim breathing started in Japan and be the species that today nobody know how to do it. Me like only I think my company and there are some people in Japan that they are doing that species is a Japan Icarus is a core mushroom is the most expensive room. But there was

Michael Waitze 24:30
what’s it called in Japanese do you know?

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 24:33
They call it karma? Could you maybe Oh my be okay. Oh my but yeah, so this call My way is assuring that the first time there was a professor Fuji Naga, he was the one that managed to basically close the loop mean he started from the egg and he ended up in the adult. And from there the Taiwanese When you after the Japanese, this technology somehow goes to Taiwan because the professor Fuji Naga has a friend that his son is my very good friend. In fact, he was in Singapore just last month. He and him basically like as a family, they moved to Taiwan to do the farming in Taiwan, because Taiwan those days as a better environment compared to Japan. So they started in Taiwan. And if you look at all the shrimp industry, leaders, they are all from Taiwan, but the Taiwan do today, you know, the temperature and love, you know, difficult difficulty. They couldn’t really continue for so long. Because all days when people do farming, they didn’t know really how to take care of the environment. So when they do the farming, they just harvest the shrimp and the pond button was dirty. So they just put it aside so slowly, slowly this waste pile up and okay, the situation get that and then the Taiwanese take this technology, move to other countries in Asia, they move to Malaysia and then they move to Indonesia, but somehow Malaysian did not really take this story so serious, because of many difficulty they have on the you know, getting the land and all those things. Then they move to Thailand, right? Okay, so when they move Thailand, of course they didn’t use the mushroom coffee mushroom is a Coldwater Shrimp. So what they practice the shrimp that is available locally was a tiger shrimp. Yep. Okay, so they use the tiger shrimp or pinos monotone. So, the pronounce monotone was the one of the earliest species that has been culture in the Asia. So those days, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and India. They grow tiger shrimp, even in China also. And then in the other parts of the world, we had Ecuadorians Mexicans, and they started to do their one AMI, the white trim that today in all over the world become like a number one culture. So there’s two different you know, species that they have two different behavior. Monotone is the benthic shrimp. More on the Vendee you cannot do intensification for monotone. But despite, you know the white shrimp, it can be in intensify, can grow into much, much more massive, you know, biomass, higher biomass. And then in I remember in 90s, early, early 2000, late 90s started to introduce this to the Asia. So many countries resistance Thailand was the first one came in, and then we had Malaysia, then slowly, slowly, the last one was India came in, why were they resisting? Because it’s an extra tick is fishes. The one army is not really a species that commonly you can find it this part of the road. So basically they brought it from South Africa, South America. So that’s how the whole industry switch from Tiger to the one AMI,

Michael Waitze 28:08
which is now the most cultured or the most far metric in the world.

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 28:13
Exactly, exactly. And the rationale behind that was that’s what the production global production is start to increase, because when you do monotone or tiger shooting your biomass, it is maybe only 25% of what you do with a

Michael Waitze 28:29
white trim. What does that mean the biomass,

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 28:33
biomass means your productivity for example, if you have a if because for shooting we call it per square meter. So if I can produce monotone in one square meter, say, say one kilo or two kilo for one army, maybe I can go for five kilos below seven kilo. Yes. So that’s why this is switching from the species to species is pushed the global production much, much more higher. So big players in the world, like Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the late part India, they enter to this. And China of course, China is a large produce producer, but China don’t export because they eat everything they produce. So that’s why you never see Chinese name, as an exporter. Chinese is always important. So that’s why you see this push the global production much more higher. But nowadays, some farmer moving back to the tiger shrimp because they see problem with a one arm so like, it’s a very dynamic history, we have insurance, and it’s not very old. It’s not really very old.

Michael Waitze 29:40
So where are we going? And what role does it play? I just feel like there’s all this noise off to the side about food security. Right and food availability and overpopulation versus overfishing, which means there’s not going to be enough food. But I still feel like if I listened to what you’re saying we’re so like really early days and trying to figure out how to read aquaculture

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 30:05
we are confused as a species you know that a human being is a very confused species leaves in one hand, we talk about food security in one hand, we don’t want to eat everything you know we say you know like in Singapore I am a Singaporean, I live in Singapore we have a huge food security problem here. So when you go and tell Singaporean, would you eat tilapia Would you eat cut is a no no, no, I don’t like that. It stays muddy. But there are two angle of looking at this. When I say we are confused because if you’re hungry, you eat everything. Yeah, pretty much you won’t be choosy. You know you don’t need to say I don’t like this. I liked it. So this aspect of in aquaculture, but chicken and beef, chicken and beef, but because in aquaculture we have a choice. So you have the choice of growing grouper, sea bass, tilapia, carp, shrimp, or red grouper or salmon or trout, you can do many things. But of course, each species come with a different tastes different flavor, different like and dislike. Okay, now, when we talk about food security, you really, really want to tackle food security, you have to grow tilapia.

Michael Waitze 31:20
But what is tilapia? I don’t even know what it is. Tilapia is

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 31:23
a fish.

Michael Waitze 31:24
Yeah, I get that part. But like,

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 31:25
It’s a freshwater fish, which is originally from the river of the Nile in Egypt. There are many, many different species nowadays. In Thailand, you live you, I am sure you have it many times, but you never noticed what

Michael Waitze 31:40
I read. So people are already eating this. They just don’t know it. Yeah. And they don’t

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 31:43
know what’s right. So tilapia is a freshwater fish. And some people I have a friend he called tilapia as the chicken of the sea. He really doesn’t grow in the sea, but is a fish that has very high tolerance of salinity. It’s very very hard the fish can grow in anything can grow in zero water. Zero salinity can grow in 13 PPT can grow in a very low quality water can grow in a high quality water. So what I’m trying to say that if you really want to tackle food security, we have to go for species that easy to grow. They can have high biomass or high productivity and cheap. Cheap means affordable. Alucard catfish exemple, look a catfish in Vietnam is a breeding fish. You can grow 700 metric ton of fish in one hectare. I mean, no fish can get close to that kind of biomass. A lot of people don’t like to eat.

Michael Waitze 32:41
But why does it taste bad?

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 32:43
I mean, like, it’s a fish that is not a bony fish. There is no scale doesn’t have scale. And if the fish has a good protein, it’s okay. But what I want to say we are choosy and picky on what we want. So if you talk about food security, food security, it’s it goes really, really in aquaculture what you want. But when you talk about like, I call it high value aquaculture. When you talk about the high value species, we talk about grouper. Everybody grow grouper is expensive fish, shrimp. Shrimp never meant for food security? To be very honest with you. I mean, shrimp is a luxury food. I mean, you can say that I grow shrimp. And I want to take the word hunger. It doesn’t work like that. But there is another angle to look at this. So who does the farming? A farmer? Why do farmers do farming? Because for the financial gain, so if I grow something that I don’t have a profit on that, why I have to do that, right? So you see there are different different angles of looking at. That’s what if I grow tilapia I’m the most gonna sell one kilo $2 $3 or $4 a kilo. So I’m not making money. But if I grow grouper, I’m gonna sell it the $20 a kilo. So I make a profit I grow shrimp, I have a short cycle I can sell $7 $8 farm gate, I have good profit. So you see there is always war between production, profitability, easy culture, accessibility. So these are all these things play very important role until a country or a nation come and decide what I want to do with my food security.

Michael Waitze 34:34
How to shrimp become a luxury food. It seems like very easy. You said the cycle to actually create it into breed it is actually short. Why is it more expensive than tilapia?

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 34:47
Number one reason because shrimp productivity compared to tilapia is much more or less. Number two shrimp is one of the most difficult species to grow over insect. Yes, it’s very difficult

Michael Waitze 34:59
It’s expensive to do it, but we know how to do it.

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 35:02
We know how to do it, and the expertise and the knowledge and know how to do this shrimp farming is widely available. But the rate of the success is just like, you know, you make one cycle, you lose two cycle, you make two cycle you lose one cycle, you know like is it, you won’t find that, really, you have very seldom a good farmer that they can do all the way around, you know, good. You know, that is all without failure. Even though biggest

Michael Waitze 35:29
event, the biggest room producers in the world, still miss production cycles, because it’s that hard to do.

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 35:37
I tell you something, in shrimp farming, if you are the biggest, you’re the loser. This is what we have learned. Tell me why the farm is bigger, your chance of losing is much more high. That’s why you won’t find in our industry as successful big shrimp farm, the cause? Okay, let’s go back to something very basic. I mean, when I say farming, I always say farming is the combination of the art and science. So means a good farmer for shrimp must be a good artist, and good scientist. Why but I mean by Yeah, because because not everything returned in the book, there are a lot of unknown to this industry, that you only learn through the experience you want read it in a book, not everything written in the book that you can go is not a recipe that you want to cook chicken curry, and you’re gonna have all the ingredients there and just you mix it and make it even you want to go chicken curry by book you won’t be successful. So you see, I mean, shrimp farming has a lot of a lot of unknown, you know, factors that you only know by experience. I mean, I have a project in my company, we are working on developing an AI system for farming. And we work with Amazon. And you see, we were talking about this that, okay, let’s see how we can develop this software, how they can develop this, this program, right? Then we have a lot of challenge, because at the end of the day, you need to train this mention all the possibility that can happen but it’s not mathematic. It’s not like two plus two is four, you shouldn’t farming sometimes two plus two become six. This depends on the situation, something is good. And something is bad depends on the situation. Something wrong, something wrong on that situation. So that’s why this, this brain has to learn a lot of possibility on the different condition to be able to run the farm without a human record. Without you need a human. So that’s to go there. All those unknown factors, as I say is the I call it art because I mean go to environment like artist. So I need to have a lot of experience to learn how to take your imagine like I have an ammonia problem. So sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s bad. Sometimes it’s easy to fix. Sometimes it’s difficult to fix, but the fact that you have ammonia is ammonia, you say like how to take

Michael Waitze 38:14
what role does artificial intelligence play? Like what are we trying to do with artificial intelligence in the context of shrimp farming or aquaculture farming?

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 38:24
I mean, there are not much has been done in this. You just brought it up. No. Yeah. Yeah, I think not that much has been done in this industry. To use AI or, like we are like, early in the automation, it

Michael Waitze 38:39
feels really early, right? Like, what do you think if a company like Amazon, you said is coming in to try to study the impact of artificial intelligence on the farming of shrimp? Like this is super interesting stuff? Yeah.

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 38:51
Yeah, we have been, we have been talking to them in Singapore, and they are interested we want to do but to be very honest, gonna have gonna take long, long time. Sure. But if we can do it, my vision is this. I can bring a shrimp farm to the Mars, we can bring our culture to the another planet, and I can just put my robot there and do it. But but the goal is, it’s going to be a, you know, a massive challenge because we need to, as I say, to predict all the possible combination of all the problems and you know, troubleshooting, that is what is happened you see, like imagine you can have most probably tomato farming with artificial intelligence, because tomato farming is so simple. You just plug the seed into the soil and just water it and add fertilizer just really grow. I mean, it just like everything done. But you can do that with shrimp. That’s not going to happen or even fried fish. As I say, Salman is so advanced, but yet, we have not reached because the combination of The factors that exist in the water is much, much, much more higher than what you have on the just just on the land,

Michael Waitze 40:10
or the fish and the shrimp evolving as well, in the sense that we’re not just trying to keep up with the ability with the with the ability to replicate the fish or to breed them. But also keep up with these sort of minor and subtle changes in the fish as their natural surroundings change as well. Does that make sense? Like their own adaptability to their natural environment, makes them maybe more resilient in their own reproduction? And since we don’t understand that completely anyway, that those changes, make them more robust as opposed to what’s happening in a farm.

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 40:46
That some some species Yes, definitely, like, for example, this goes back to capability of the species, we talk about tilapia, as I say, they are very robust, they can really, really tolerate different salinity, different temperature, different environment. But we do have some species that they are very sensitive, like, for example, coral, group, or red group, these species are so sensitive, you can’t really, I mean, with a small changes in something, they may die. So it really goes back to I’ll give you a small tip on that. You see, whatever fish that lives in a coral reef area that we grow. They are very, very sensitive fish. That’s the reason they live in coral reef. I mean, you are a diver you have seen coral reef area is very clean. Yeah, there is no there is no pollution there is nothing. So imagine like all the group was there. Like this, this group or some species of fish that they live there a really require very unique environment and nutrition. I mean, this is just my lame and take on how we can do but you look at Shrimp, shrimp is the species that is a benthic. So he’s at the bottom of the sea. Yeah. So bottom of sea can be you know, 3030 Low organic matter talks right there. Yeah, they can, they can tolerate a variety of the changes. So and we have a species that like they are sensitive to the temperature. So that’s what when we divide aquaculture industry, we want to put a category there, we can say cold water, tropical water temperate what we can see, like, you know, like freshwater brackish water, see what we can look at by the species, you can say shellfish, bony fish, so like, every one of them, I mean, because it’s a fascinating, you know, industry that you do have access to so many different different species. And each one of them has their own requirement. And, and every species need a lot of research from nutritional requirements to the breeding to the I don’t know, disease management, the environmental requirements with a look at why we cannot do lobster breeding because to what I know, after so many years, I mean, like lobster is the species that has some vertical migration. I think they need some some pressure factor by the water to make them mature or they can do breeding. So we don’t have that you know, like it’s not like some some factors that we don’t know. That’s why it’s very difficult.

Michael Waitze 43:32
So interesting. Where does blue Aqua international sit in the value chain for all this stuff?

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 43:37
This a good question. I think like what we are doing we are actually having the whole chain in our business. So we we look at the nutrition we look at the breeding we have a hatchery. We have you know, our nutrition division, we do have our farm tech, that looking at the you know, farming, I have a patented system for farming. So I paid him to to system mixotrophic system and also like a closed loop, you know, farming or shrimp for shrimp for shrimp and can use for fish also, I’m allowed. When we talk about water management, it’s honestly it doesn’t matter. You know, whatever you put inside, then we do have a lot of interest on the Fishman replacement. Because fish meal is very important. It’s going to be bottleneck. We do trading of the seafood, because it’s very important. So we produce them we sell. So these are the items in the pot that we are involved. And we are looking to grow bigger on each one of them. We are expanding in terms of geography and everything.

Michael Waitze 44:41
Do you feel like the world is moving in your direction? Absolutely. You know what I mean? Like you’ve been at this for a while now. And now it feels like the world is starting to catch up and say, Okay, maybe there is a food security problem. Maybe the population growth is too high, maybe right? And we need to figure out better ways to extract things from the sea. I guess one more thing before I let you go? Do you feel like there are things in the ocean and in aquaculture that maybe we haven’t discovered yet that we would like to eat that are there? Do you know what I mean?

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 45:13
Definitely. I mean, I mean, definitely, definitely there are, you know, like, it’s interesting, you know, as I say, human is a very amazing species. You know, one of my personal hobbies that maybe one day we can have a podcast on that. It’s the alien. I believe in Alien. Okay, I believe definitely there are other other creative different parts of the world they are living

Michael Waitze 45:37
with other parts of this world. No. Other parts of the universe. Yeah, yeah, universe. I don’t think this is a strange thought. Just. That’s what I was telling you. I think that’s a normal idea. But yeah, go ahead.

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 45:51
Yeah, a lot of people don’t want to believe that because

Michael Waitze 45:53
just mathematically it has to be possible. No,

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 45:56
I absolutely. I mean, I, I am a bit even further than that. I believe that, of course, there are alien. And there are alien that even encounter with humans, they come and they can travel to our planet, they made us they see us they have been in this planet? Seems I don’t know, 10,000 years ago, okay. There are a lot of unknown as the same story, that a lot of people believe in the same things in the ocean. For example, if you go deep in the ocean 10,000, you know, meter down? Definitely, you know, it’s interesting, you know, we just recently found out that there are ecosystem below 10,000 meter means 10 kilometre below the, you know, surface, that this ecosystems leaving based on the chemo traffic, you know, life means they are using chemical as a, as a source of the energy chemical reactions. So we call it chemo trophic bacteria. And they are, you know, leaving, they have created this ecosystem, within that ecosystem, you have fish, you have shellfish, that are shrimp leaving the, there are fish leaving there, they have no access to the sunlight, right, because you’re talking about thinking, there is no way that the sunlight can reach there, there are lights, there are TV shows, not artificial, there are lights that are produced by sort of like some phosphor and I don’t know, like, it’s some possible sources of the light. And there are luminescence down, and there are species of fish this ecosystem, but it’s surviving below 10,000 meter. And just you imagine the pressure that in that 10,000 can smash and squeezed everything that we, we, we are aware of that, right. I mean, like, I don’t think so human can create any submarine that really to go to the 10,000 meter below, and it doesn’t get Smash, but these animals without having anything they are living there. And this this, this bring us a lot of, I think, really, really we have to be so, you know, naive. We think that there are no more under, you know, oceans definitely be there.

Michael Waitze 48:13
I just wanted to make that point explicitly. This has been fascinating. You definitely have to come back if this is the last time we talk. It’s a massive disappoint for me. Dr. Farshad Shishehchian, yeah, CEO and founder of Blue Aqua International thank you so much for doing this today.

Dr. Farshad Shishehchian 48:27
Thank you for having me. Really appreciate it. So enjoy the conversation. I wish you all the best. Thank you