ViAqua Therapeutics, a biotechnology company and developer of an orally administered RNA-particle platform to promote and improve animal health in aquaculture, completed a USD 8.25 million round led by S2G Ventures with participation from Rabo Ventures, The Trendlines Group Ltd., Agriline Limited, Nutreco, I-Lab Angels and Circle Investments LLC.
Disease management is currently the biggest issue facing the aquaculture industry, resulting in more than $8.5 billion in economic impact for the shrimp industry alone, according to an analysis from Kontali. To address this problem, ViAqua has developed a biotechnology-based oral delivery platform for the targeted administration of RNA-based solutions to improve disease resistance in aquaculture.
“Oral delivery is the holy grail of aquaculture health development due to both the impossibility of vaccinating individual shrimp and its ability to substantially bring down the operational costs of disease management while improving outcomes,” said Shai Ufaz, chief executive officer of ViAqua. “We are excited to bring this technology to market to address the need for affordable disease solutions in aquaculture.”
Shrimp, one of the most widely consumed seafood products globally, in particular, are very susceptible to disease due to their lack of adaptive immune systems, and there are currently no products available that address shrimp disease today. The company's first product is a feed supplement to enhance resistance to viral infections in shrimp, with the initial application targeting White Spot Virus (WSSV), which causes an annual loss of around $3 billion and a 15% reduction in global shrimp production. This solution will provide much-needed production stability for farmers while also creating the opportunity to increase production per farm without increasing disease risk.
“Aquaculture is critical for the sustainable supply of marine protein,” said Kate Danaher, managing director of S2G Ventures' Ocean and Seafood fund. “ViAqua's platform technology will enable the company to move beyond WSSV to address numerous other diseases in aquaculture while similar technologies are still years away from reaching the market.”
ViAqua produces its capsule products using commercial, industrial processes and is scaling production to take its first product to market. With plans to begin production in India at the beginning of 2024, the company has established a commercial partnership through a joint development and marketing agreement with Skretting, a Nutreco company, to bring the product to the market. While ViAqua is currently focused on shrimp production, the delivery technology has numerous applications in aquaculture and beyond, which the company is excited to explore
”We are truly excited by the potential of ViAqua's technology because of the value it unlocks for the planet and the farmers. Diseases cause mortality rates of up to 50%, which result in 25-30% of shrimp farms failing annually. This is tremendously unproductive and hurts a lot of livelihoods,” explained Shishir Sinha, investment director at Rabo Ventures. “Our bank's aquaculture specialists Gorjan Nikolik and Novel Sharma were impressed by the game-changing impact potential of having a solution for an issue that has plagued the sector for decades and can make a meaningful difference in the lives of the smallholder farmers, who represent 80% of supply.”