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Largest blue economy impact fund closes amid tough fundraising environment

Published: 17 May 2024

Ocean 14 Capital Fund I, an impact fund investing in the blue economy, has announced it has reached a final close at just over €201m.

plastic bottle floating in the sea ocean water pollution
The Ocean 14 Capital Fund I is investing in firms that reduce plastic waste pollution, as well as into other parts of the blue economy | Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

Ocean 14 Capital has announced it has reached a hard cap of €201.3m for its first fund aimed at driving investments into the sustainable and regenerative blue economy in support of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 14 -Life Below Water.

Speaking to Impact Investor, Chris Gorell Barnes, founding partner of Ocean 14 Capital, said the fund had managed “to sneak in another €1 million from a high profile high net worth investor” the company had been in talks with but could not name, who joined institutional investors Nestlé, HQ Capital and The Green Earth Impact Fund – managed by Schroders and BlueOrchard – in a final funding round which raised €45m.

Ocean 14 Capital said its fund is the largest thematic fund to target the blue economy today. It invests in entrepreneurs and businesses in the areas of aquaculture and alternative proteins, and those reducing plastic waste pollution, protecting ecosystems and marine flora, and ending overfishing,

Risk concerns

Gorell Barnes said he was extremely pleased to have reached final close in what he saw as one of the hardest fundraising environments in a long time.

“The blue economy is a relatively new thematic. There aren’t any follow-on funds at the moment. Big investors want to see how funds perform and teams develop before committing to a second generation fund. There is also less appetite for risk in funds targeting the blue economy than those targeting, for example, investments in climate infrastructure or climate tech,” he said.  

Ocean 14 Capital highlighted figures from the OECD, which has projected a doubling of the ocean economy from 2010 to 2030, to reach $3trn and employ 40 million people.

“For a first-time fund addressing a novel thematic, to reach [a] hard cap with the support of some great LPs is testament to the trust accorded to our team and our deep knowledge of the blue economy. As the most underinvested of the SDGs, it is also encouraging to see that the blue economy is finally starting to generate investor appetite”, he added.

Plastic upcycling

Gorell Barnes said the fund had invested just under €80m thus far across 14 holdings, most recently into Novelplast, an Irish mechanical recycler which has developed a manufacturing process to upcycle post-industrial and post-consumer polyester fibre and other forms of polyester material that its website claims will save thousands of tonnes of the material from making its way to landfill.

It does this by blending polyethylene terephthalate (PET) flakes, mostly from recycled PET water bottles, and thread, a by-product of plastic manufacturing, to create a pelletised PET material it has trademarked as Revive. Revive can be reused in a range of applications, such as in the production of man-made fibres or strapping bands for use by the packaging industry.

“Noveplast brings a unique manufacturing process to the upcycling of post-industrial and post-consumer polyester by making it into high quality PET pellets. Their impact is two-fold. As well as helping to reduce carbon emissions from the manufacturing of virgin plastic which has a direct link on the ocean due to the fact that the ocean is our largest carbon sink, they also stop the leakage of plastics into the environment, which can end up in the ocean,” added Gorell Barnes.

Gorell Barnes said his team aimed to invest into 24 to 30 companies once fully invested.

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