- Aqua Bridge is one of the entrants in Flying Colours, a competition for UAE-based start-ups. The competition offers SMEs the chance to win flight tickets worth Dh100,000 on Emirates Airline.
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Being a nation that prides on its coastal heritage, fishing is a deeply embedded tradition in the UAE’s culture. However, increased demand for fish as a rich source of protein over the years has resulted in significant depletion of fish stocks.
Recognising the growing market demand for sustainable aquaculture-produced fish, Dubai-based start-up Aqua Bridge was set up in 2017 to support local fish farmers to produce high quality, competitively priced, safe and delicious fish using sustainable technology, while preserving the environment.
The firm focuses on marine fish farming and hatcheries to support the local aquaculture industry and reduce the dependency on imported fish.
According to the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, the average annual seafood consumption in the UAE is nearly 226,000 tonnes, while the UAE’s local fish catch from natural fish stocks in the Gulf is a mere 70,000 tonnes, forcing the country to depend on imports for more than 70 per cent its seafood. Fish from aquaculture is about 3,255 tonnes.
Aqua Bridge aims to empower the local aquaculture industry, as well as boost small farmers and coastal fish workers, developing seafood productive capacities of all actors in the UAE. Of the 13 registered fish farms across the UAE, Aqua Bridge is supporting 11.
“We are working with local farmers to help develop climate-resilient, sustainable small-scale fish farms. We support them with the provision of technical know-how, husbandry and bio-engineering machinery procurement and fingerlings (juvenile fish),” says Mohammad Tabish, the Indian CEO of Aqua Bridge.
National food security is key part of the federal government’s plan to improve quality of life in the UAE, and increasing the efficiency and competitiveness of locally produced food products is one of its 10 strategic initiatives.
The interest in the industry has grown in recent years and culminated in the establishment of the Sheikh Khalifa Marine Research Centre in Umm Al Quwain. The first phase focused on producing fingerlings (juvenile fish), which was used for restocking programmes in the Gulf and the sustainable development of aquaculture in the UAE.
“We were the first operators of the facility. The contractual task was to produce 20.2 million fingerlings of local fish – the biggest commercial production of local species in the region,” says Tabish.
Aqua Bridge is working with several government entities in the UAE, including Dubai Municipality, the Ministry of Presidential Affairs and the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, to increase production from fish farms in the UAE.
In 2018, Aqua Bridge had an annual turnover of Dh3.8 million and employs about 30 people across several projects across the country.
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