Tight restrictions and big appetites promise tidy profits if farms can iron out kinks
Full farming of bluefin tuna, which starts with getting the fish to spawn in a completely artificial environment, is finally showing signs of becoming profitable.
Investors are responding accordingly, pushing up the stocks of companies that develop technologies for artificially hatching eggs and fattening fingerlings to maturity. These companies include Feed One, a major feed supplier, and seafood companies Kyokuyo and Nippon Suisan Kaisha, or Nissui.
Demand for fully farmed tuna will doubtless grow in the coming years as stocks of wild tuna are dwindling fast. Before really taking off, however, a number of technical hurdles need to be addressed.
The first step in full bluefin tuna aquaculture is the most challenging — hatching fertilized eggs from fish born through artificial insemination. This is far more difficult than growing captured fries to adulthood, but in 2002, Kindai University managed to accomplish this.
Maruha Nichiro, a Tokyo-based seafood supplier, became the first company to commercialize full tuna farming in 2015. Since then, a handful of companies have entered the business.
In October 2014, feed suppliers Kyodo Shiryo and Nippon Formula Feed Manufacturing — an affiliate of trading giant Mitsui & Co — merged to create Feed One. The new company has since partnered with Kyokuyo to start farming and is poised to ship its first batch of fully farmed bluefin in November.
Meanwhile, Nissui plans to make its first shipment this winter.
Japanese players are leading this uncrowded field, and growing expectations for full tuna farming are lifting the stocks of these companies.
Feed One has soared 94% from the end of 2016 on Wednesday. The company is expected to benefit also from rising demand for its tuna feed. Kyokuyo shares have spiked 34%, while Maruha Nichiro’s surged 10%, outpacing the Nikkei Stock Average’s 9% climb.