Making a splash in the specialist fish food market

New Era Aquaculture 'COMPANY FOCUS'Coulman Street Industrial Estate, thorne, Doncaster'Peter Kersh MD
New Era Aquaculture 'COMPANY FOCUS'Coulman Street Industrial Estate, thorne, Doncaster'Peter Kersh MD
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Fish are faddy feeders – they need the right combination of oils, carbohydrates and vitamins to be in peak condition.

What’s more, the combination changes, depending on the species and whether they are carnivores, herbivores or omnivores.

Get the combination right and you’ll see the difference in both the fish – particularly if they are brightly coloured ornamental fish – in the water and in the aquarium filters that are keeping it clean.

Ask the founder of Doncaster-based New Era Aquaculture, Mark Wilson. He should know.

Mark is a self-taught scientist with decades of practical and academic experience in the field of aquaculture, specialising in what everyone used to refer to as tropical, but are more correctly described as ornamental fish.

Twenty years ago, Mark developed the first hatchery to commercially breed Clownfish – the multicoloured fish made famous in Walt Disney film Finding Nemo – starting out at home with the help of his wife, Debbie, who also has a technical background.

Mark rapidly discovered that the only specialist feeds around were designed for fish farms that needed species like trout to put on as much weight as possible to get them ready for the pan as quickly as possible.

However, there was nothing in the way of a balanced diet for Clownfish, to keep them in the underwater equivalent of “bright eyed and bushy tailed,” and in peak breeding condition, while also helping to ensure they could live as long as possible.

So, he set about developing his own specialist feed. The fish thrived, and so did his business, as enthusiasts showed they were prepared to pay a premium for fish that not only looked healthier, but also weren’t depleting the wild stocks in the sea.

After selling his business, Mark went on to work on scientific projects around the world, investigating how species bred and kept themselves alive.

That experience led him to establish New Era, with the vision of creating the world’s leading supplier of diets to large, professional aquariums and hobbyists.

The last three years have been “fantastic” for New Era, says managing director Peter Kersh, with the company winning new business from aquaria, independent pet shops and chains.

The company has also been expanding its Doncaster plant and taking on more staff, including experts like zoologist Tom Noble as sales director and David Grasby as marketing manager.

Despite that, Peter reckons there is still massive potential for further growth.

“There’s a £2 billion market worldwide for fish food and just under half of it is in the United States. We have a distributor out there and we have made a good start, but there is huge scope and we are not even scratching the surface yet.

“There is a big growing market in China, the Far East and Japan, where there is both a big aquarium and hobby market. When people start building big aquariums, the hobby market follows.

“Brazil is the next market to expand and there is scope for new products and further innovation.”

n Opinion: Page 8