(photo credit: courtesy)
Let’s assume that you live in the Jerusalem hills or in arid Las Vegas and you
want to found a business to grow sea fish for food. Once upon a time, you would
have had to migrate to the coast or lakeshore. Now it is possible to raise fish
in the middle of the desert – even without a well for water – with plastic pools
like the ones in the backyard that children play in.
formerly a Foreign Ministry official responsible for technology and later an IT
entrepreneur, founded GFA Advanced Systems Ltd. (Grow Fish Anywhere) as an
interesting idea for a start-up. With several partners, he visited the Hebrew
University in Jerusalem’s Faculty of Agriculture, where Prof. Yap Van Rein
showed them the technology he invented.
“We were first asked what we had
to do with fish,” Gissin, adding that he and his colleagues persevered, dived
into the world of aquaculture and seem to be swimming in it quite
“We had heard about the collapse of fish stocks and the pollution
caused by the fish cages at Eilat,” Gissin told Globes. “We knew that pollution
was the number one problem for fish farmers.
“At the university, we saw a
project that verged on science fiction. Although there were only two fish tanks
of five cubic meters each, we could see that this was a pollution-free system
with full environmental controls. The challenge was to expand production to an
The two main pollutants that most trouble fish farmers
(and their coral-reef neighbors) are industrial waste and fish feces, both of
which damage marine ecologies.
“Our system is a closed system that
prevents contaminating the outside, creating a complete solution to the problem
of pollution from fish waste,” GFA CEO Dotan Bar-Noi told Globes.
company’s fish tanks are made from ordinary plastic, and the water is ordinary
tap water with salt added, he said. The sophistication is in the system to clean
the water of fish feces.
“This task is carried out by biofilters,
purifiers made from specialized bacteria that break down the nitrogen and carbon
compounds in fish waste and convert it into carbon dioxide and gaseous nitrogen,
which are discharged harmlessly into the atmosphere,” Bar-Noi said. “The
bacteria work round the clock, do not need electricity and are so efficient that
there is no need to replace the water in the fish tanks.”
from ordinary purification systems was not easy,” Van Rein said, “because the
water entering the system is completely different, as is the water leaving
The system can raise fish more quickly because its environmental
system fully controls the minerals in the water and its
“Wild fish stocks are falling, and our product can raise
fish almost anywhere, with high economic viability and without pollution,”
GFA raised more than $6 million in 2008. It used the
proceeds to build a semi-commercial pilot in Israel, which sells fish to the
local market as part of the company’s plan to accumulate real market
“The response to the fish was good,” Gissin said. “They are
the same as produce from the sea, except that there is no fear of
In early 2009, GFA set up a commercial project in upstate
New York, which raises bream and markets it locally.
“The system can be
adapted to any species of fish by controlling the temperature, acidity and
salinity,” Bar-Noi said.
Van Rein said he was worried by the current
condition of wild fish stocks.
“There are only 90 million tons of fish in
all the world’s oceans and lakes, and whole species face extinction,” he
Gissin said there was no cruelty to fish in raising them in small
ponds rather than in the open sea.
“We keep their density at ordinary
levels, since the fish swim in schools,” he said. “As for waste, fish don’t like
swimming in it, as happens in current fish farms. As we understand it, the fish
are actually happier in the new conditions.”
In October, GFA raised more
than NIS 18m. from a Dutch fund that specializes in marine
“This investment was a vote of confidence in the technology and
in the team,” Bar-Noi said. “We will use the proceeds to set up full fish farms
using the company’s method. We hope that, in future, an evergrowing proportion
of fish will be raised with our systems, which do not harm the environment and
provide fresh fish close to consumers.”