MADISON – Aova Technologies Inc., a startup company that produces animal feed additives based on University of Wisconsin-Madison technology and licensed through the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), has completed two key goals in its efforts to capture part of the $70 billion global aquaculture market.
With a focus on promoting its Big Fish product line, the company is expanding into Asia’s huge aquaculture market, which accounts for 92 percent of world production, via a new sales distribution agreement covering Japan. In addition, Thailand’s Ministry of Agriculture recently completed successful trials of Big Fish formulated for three of the world’s most popular species of fish stock for consumption.
“Aquaculture, the farming and harvesting of fish, seafood and plants in controlled water environments, is the fastest growing form of food production in the world,” says Bryan Renk, president of Aova Technologies Inc. “Today it is the source for nearly half of the fish consumed globally. In this growing and increasingly competitive industry, commercial producers are very interested in improving fish health and size while decreasing feed costs and time to market.”
Recently WARF demonstrated its confidence in its licensee’s product lines, business plan and market opportunities by joining with Merrick’s Inc., a leading producer of animal feed for worldwide markets, as an equity co-investor in Aova. Merrick’s, founded in 1959 and based in Middleton, Wis., manufactures Aova’s product lines at its facility located in Union Center, Wis.
“We feel that momentum is mounting at Aova and its business is on the verge of taking off,” says Craig Heim, WARF’s licensing manager for startups. “Along with our investment partner, Merrick’s Inc., we see great things around the corner for this young company. We are pleased to support a startup promising much value and founded by one of WARF’s and the UW-Madison’s most successful inventors, animal scientist Mark Cook.”
Big Fish, as well as Aova’s other and similarly named “Big” product lines designed as feed additives for birds, calves and pigs, is a powdered nutritional supplement made from chicken egg antibodies.
When added to livestock feed, the supplement improves the intestinal health of animals raised in controlled environments by calming the intestine’s immune defenses. The additive diverts a larger percentage of an animal’s metabolic resources to increase and accelerate its growth, while also reducing overall caloric demands.
“For commercial fish producers, the addition of Big Fish to their feedstock will increase daily weight gain and improve feed efficacy,” says Renk.
These are the key benefits of Aova’s platform technology, which was developed by WARF inventor and Aova Technologies founder Mark Cook of UW-Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
Cook’s technology utilizes laying hens to produce egg antibodies that are processed into a powdered food supplement. Aova’s food additive is an affordable, safe, nondrug formulation that is not absorbed by the digestive system and leaves no residual compounds in the animal.
Renk points to Aova’s recently completed distribution agreement with eAnimal for Japan as its initial method of entry into Asian markets. eAnimal will market Big Fish formulations in Japan developed for tilipia, catfish and other fish species, as well as the Big Pig and Big Bird product lines.
“I’m delighted to have WARF as a shareholder and supporter of our company. WARF continues to be a strong catalyst for high-tech growth in Wisconsin,” Renk says.
He notes that the funding from WARF will allow Aova to double its production capabilities and expand its reach into international markets.