‘There was an instant wow factor’

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Pioneering, innovative and with global potential, those were three key characteristics of New Era Aquaculture that rang the bell for Peter Kersh when he decided to buy in to the business.

“I worked for Gripple for 10 years, becoming international sales director. That was great, I learnt a lot of good lessons, but I wanted to row my own boat,” says Peter.

One of the lessons was about creating demand for products that didn’t previously exist – products like the Gripple itself, an innovative wire joiner and tensioner whose uses have spread from agriculture to construction and further.

Peter was looking for a business to buy when he met New Era’s founder, Mark Wilson, at a business networking meeting.

“He was looking for expertise and investment to help achieve his vision for New Era,” Peter recalls.

Peter could see parallels with Gripple and was convinced when Mark took him on a marketing trip to show the giant flakes of nutritious fish food to a company that operates a holding facility for large numbers of ornamental fish.

“There was nothing like the big flakes in the whole world and when Mark showed them the flakes, there was an instant ‘wow’ factor.

Unlike most commercial fish food flakes – which resemble confetti more than anything else – a single flake of New Era’s pioneering product is about the same size as the palm of a hand, soft, has a natural marine colour and a slight, but not unpleasant smell.

The holding company instantly saw the size and nature of the flakes means they can be put in a tank to provide sustenance for fish for longer periods without causing any water quality or filtration problems.

They were hooked – and so was Peter.

New Era has come on by leaps and bounds since then. With Peter on board, the company approached more than 100 public aquariums and attended the major international pet show, Interzoo, in Nürnberg.

The company started out with, in Peter’s words “the smallest booth imaginable” and , seven years on, has one of the largest.

It has picked up a series of prestigious clients from the leisure park world, including Merlin Entertainment, Lego Land and Disney, winning a contract to supply the Dubai Mall Aquarium.

Only last year, New Era secured a contract to supply the world’s newest and largest oceanarium, the Resorts World Sentosa Marine Life Park, based in Singapore, where it is providing feed for 100,000 marine creatures, drawn from more than 800 species, which inhabit 60 million litres of water.

“We got the enquiry from Dubai in 2008, when we were in a single unit, selling boxes of fish food at a time,” Peter Kersh recalls.

New Era’s initial reaction to being asked to provide a quote for six tonnes of fish pellets was one of disbelief.

“We had been supplying an aquarium in Bristol and the curator there told us the enquiry was serious as they were just building an aquarium in Dubai, so we got on a plane and spent 10 days on a building site in Dubai,” says Peter.

“They had just started bringing the fish in and wanted it up and running quickly, so we helped them meet the time schedule. The first order was for two tonnes and now we provide them with seven or eight tonnes a year.”