This project was successfully funded by a loan from Steward Regenerative Capital.
Circle Seafoods is building a mobile salmon processing barge to improve the economics for Alaskans and wild salmon fisheries.
When it comes to food production, nature knows best. Healthy and abundant ecosystems produce healthy and abundant food–for humans and all creatures. This is as true on land as it is in the sea.
Unfortunately, just as nearly every food production system on land is being pushed toward ever-higher economic efficiency through reductionist management and externalizing costs—resulting in confinement operations, pharmaceutical feed, and job losses—the agricultural systems of the oceans are following the same degradative path, most notably in the form of confinement salmon operations.
The flooding of the global salmon market by industrially-farmed salmon in recent years has been harming the fishers and fishing communities dependent upon the naturally-raised, naturally-fed, sustainably-managed wild salmon fisheries.
Circle Seafoods, led by wild salmon industry-veteran Pat Glaab, has a solution. Circle Seafoods will short-cut the existing system. By building a mobile processing barge—equipped with capture, grading, tracking, and flash-freezing equipment—out onto the waters where the fishers are fishing, Circle Seafoods can pay fishers a premium for their fresh-from-the-ocean catch before then flash-freezing the whole carcass to preserve quality for storage and transport.
Once the fishing season is over, Circle Seafoods brings the flash-frozen salmon to Aberdeen, WA for further processing and to deliver their top-quality salmon to market. Given Circle’s unique approach, they can process their inventory year-round, creating jobs during the traditionally-underemployed times of year for fishing communities, as well as delivering top-quality product in the off-season.
Circle Seafood’s vision is to have a decentralized, mobile, resilient business that incentivizes care over commodification, quality over quantity, and stewardship of a precious resource rather than the spoiling of it. We’re proud to support their efforts.
Funds from this loan will be used to construct and equip Circle Seafood’s first mobile processing barge.
This barge will help modernize the salmon industry by:
improving product quality;
capturing more value from the harvest (reducing the pressure on fish stocks);
significantly reducing waste from the process;
distributing the seasonal workload (and jobs) throughout the year;
providing more jobs to local fishing communities;
and making the whole wild salmon industry better able to compete with farmed salmon.
Circle Seafoods applies a “Regenerative ESG” approach to their business: reducing their carbon footprint and revitalizing fisheries; uplifting disadvantaged fishers; and creating a high-quality, healthy product for consumers.
Circle Seafood’s provides the following environmental, social and economic benefits:
Increases the income for all fishers by offering a premium price given their unique flash-freeze technology, which cuts production costs and passes along part of those savings to local fishermen. Circle’s first barge has the potential to impact over 8,000 Alaskan resident fishing businesses across hundreds of rural communities;
Increases year-round employment opportunities in economically distressed and rural communities in Alaska and Washington given Circle’s ability to process fish year round;
Reduces waste by cutting out inefficiencies in the supply chain.Their process of freezing on the water means that fishing boats travel less distance and freezing the fish whole allows them to use 100% of the carcass, eliminating much of the waste and respecting the salmon as a limited resource;
Increases industry resilience by reducing production costs and passing along savings to local permit holders. The seafood industry is Alaska’s largest private-sector employer, and salmon is a primary contributor to rural economies. By innovating and revolutionizing processing for wild-caught salmon, it increases the resilience of this important sector;
Provides direct fisher education on quality and thus income-enhancing practices for rural Alaska.
This loan to Circle Seafoods, Inc is a part of a New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) closing. NMTC is a federal program which attracts private capital into low-income communities by permitting investors to receive a tax credit against their federal income tax in exchange for making equity investments in specialized financial intermediaries called Community Development Entities (CDEs). Circle Seafoods, Inc has been awarded three allocations of NMTC. The transaction will feature one tax credit investor with $7.3MM in investment equity.The total deal size is approximately $27.8MM. NMTC transactions require a complex and unique loan structure, which is reflected in the following Underwriting Analysis. It is important to note that the security structure of this loan is different from Steward’s typical UCC-1 or first mortgage filings given NMTC structure requirements. Please be sure to read the New Market Tax Credit section at the end of this document to understand the risks associated with this loan.
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