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Mito: frutti di mare innovation


Molluscs are perhaps not the first thing that comes to mind when talking about climate change, but the impact is very real. These marine creatures, a great source of protein and at the same time a key ingredient of local Italian cuisine, are becoming scarce, their numbers dropping fast.

“In 2014, Italian production was more than 75,000 tonnes. Today it’s less than 25,000,” says Paola Landri, biologist and one of the directors of Mito. “There are many reasons for this, we can’t really put the finger on one cause. Partly over-fishing, partly environmental effects, like new species in the lagoons, changing temperatures and salinity of the waters, pollution...”

But Mito is a company that has set out to change that. Working in the ideal climatic conditions of Italy in Goro at the estuary of the river Po, Mito has brought together a group of mollusc experts to boost production, powered by innovative technology.

“Our main goal is to supply seed to growers,” Paola explains. “Seed has been in decline for the past five years while demand for molluscs is actually growing because it’s a good source of protein. We’ve invested in hatcheries in the Netherlands, to produce the seed, and then grow it here and sell it to the Italian market.”

Mito has also introduced technology to the equation: “The biggest challenge in managing seed is the low survival rate. Predation - crabs for example - is very high. So, we need to give the fishermen a good size to sow in the lagoon,” explains Gianluigi Lago, who is a software engineer. “We introduced technology into seed growth, to monitor and control parameters like light and temperature, automatic feeding, and energy to maximise savings using renewables. We’ve been looking for example at energy consumption patterns to find the best approach to have a zero-impact farm, working with the University of Padova. We’re heading in the right direction.”

With the key ingredients now in place, Mito is looking to scale up the nursery in the Netherlands and grow the project in Goro. For this, they approached Ocean14, a venture capital firm backed by the EIF under the Investment Plan for Europe, that specialises in the blue economy and invested in Mito. “We approached them to help improve our organisation as a company,” explains Paola. “We want to be the best in Europe. We have the conditions, the customers, the market. So, we are learning from Ocean14 a lot of things to manage our company better and really make progress.”

Company:Mito (Italy)

Type of business: aquaculture

Financial intermediary: Ocean14

EIF financing: EFSI sub-window 1; Blue Economy pilot

For further information about EIF intermediaries in Italy, please refer to: http://www.eif.org/what_we_do/where/it

Note: Following the recent withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, we are updating the relevant EIF.org pages.


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