FISHY CHIPS

More Eyes Than a PEI Potato.jpg

As I reported a couple of days ago on Facebook, AquaBounty Technologies Inc. recently filed its financials for the year ended December 31, 2017. It wasn’t good news – it had a net loss for the year of $9.3 million, up from the previous year’s $8.5 million loss.  Its share price has also dropped from a high of $30.50 to $2.56 (March 12, 2018 closing price) and I’m sure investors are getting increasingly nervous.

I know I’ve been a little hard on Aquabounty lately, so I was thinking how I might help them from completely “tanking” (fish pun intended) and it suddenly hit me: Fishy Chips!  In fact, my idea has the potential to kill two proverbial genetically-engineered birds (or  GE-fish and GE-potatoes) with one stone.

You see, Simplot Inc.  is one of the largest private food corporations in the world ( #61 on Forbes America’s Largest Private Corporations List) and is currently facing an amazingly-similar conundrum as Aqutwo headed fish and potato.jpgabounty. And as we like to say in the brave new world of biotech food creation and marketing, two heads are definitely better than one!

To mix a few metaphors, you could say that the cards are lining up nicely and the stars are all falling into place for this innovative new entrepreneurial start-up idea I came up with.  I’m certain if I can get a buy-in from the two companies it will take off big-time and become a phenomenal success. Patents are pending, so I can’t go into too much detail, but I’m far too excited not to share at least some of my initial ideas and blueprints, including a verbatim transcript of part of a meeting I recently had with an Aquabounty Senior executive pitching my idea, which I think went well.

But I want to  first offer a bit of background on why my latest brainstorm may very well be the ticket that gets both Aquabounty and Simplot on the fast-track to financial success with their latest GM products,  and wins widespread acceptance of their respective genetically-engineered varieties of fish and potatoes from ordinary run-of-the-mill Islanders.

The Fish

Canada has risked a lot in being the trailblazer (the only country in the world actually) approving both the production AND consumption of genetically-engineered animals. That means there are no longer any regulatory barriers preventing Aquabounty from selling GM fish to Canadians [Fun Fact: Despite being owned by a U.S. company (Intrexon) the United States has so far refused to approve GM fish for sale to Americans, which means we (Islanders and Canadians) will get exclusive access to the GMO launch of Fishy Chips.]

The Chips

In 2016, Canada approved another  new genetically-engineered product from another American-owned corporation, JR Simplot…. a “non-browning” GMO potato called “Innate”.  And as luck would have it, Simplot has been growing about 5 acres of Innate “trials”  in PEI for the past three years. And Innate will likely be grown commercially in PEI this summer.  So with GE Salmon growing to maturity in Rollo Bay, and Innate Potatoes coming on stream soon, the timing couldn’t be better for Fishy Chips.

Simplot’s new potato is especially suited for my fishy chips idea.  As Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada explained to a CBC reporter after Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued regulatory approval:

“An issue in the chip wagons and fast food industry and restaurants is that if you want to use potatoes to peel them or cut them you have to do that almost immediately before they’re served or store them in water so that they will not turn brown,” explained MacIsaac. “I’ve talked to some people in the U.S. who have done this. They can actually cut the potatoes the day before, the night before and they’re still very appealing to the consumer, and they look good and taste good.”

The Conundrum

But alas! both Simplot and Aquabounty have an obvious image problem with the general public: quite simply, people don’t want to eat their genetically-modified food.  When you’re selling food that people don’t want to eat – well, that’s a recipe for disaster for the bottom line.

The good news is that both Simplot and Aquabounty are already half-way to finding a solution, thanks to our Canadian government, because they can sneak their genetically-modified food onto our plates given that the federal government doesn’t require them to label it as genetically-engineered food.

The rationale that both our government and GM companies rely on to trick us into eating GM food makes perfect sense – if you buy into the premise that Canadians are not smart enough to realize that GMOs are good for them.  By not having to label GM food, corporations like Simplot and Aquabounty are able to help Canadians eat what’s good for them even though they won’t realize it when they do.  It’s a new twist on an old saying, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you!”  With no GM labels and stupid Canadians, that axiom now becomes: “What you don’t know will HELP you!”

But now the big problem is with food retailers, who have become a major food-chain bottleneck for the GM corps.  Consumers are asking retailers if the food they are selling is genetically-modified (because it doesn’t have to be labelled) and retailers are compelled to answer those questions honestly. The vast majority of the largest food retailers like loblaws and Atlantic Superstore and Sobeys have decided it’s just not worth the hassle and risk – because once they realize they’re GMOs, consumers won’t buy them – so they have announced that they will not be selling genetically-modified fruits, vegetables or fish.

So GM food companies are now shrewdly focusing on selling their GM food to restaurants, hotels, food service companies, etc., places where the people buying the food are not the people eating the food, but are simply the companies preparing the food and serving it to other people.   It’s a bit like PEI Chef Michael Smith’s recent endorsement of GM Food while at the same time being careful to advertise and sell only organic food in his own restaurant (See: Chef Michael’s Baffling Endorsement of GMOs)

Some Canadians have already eaten genetically-modified salmon from Aquabounty without realizing it….we just don’t know exactly who, or where the food was cooked, served and eaten.  Attempts to find out who consumed nearly 5 tons of GM Salmon sold by Aquabounty in Canada in 2017 have been largely futile; however, since the food was imported from Panama, environmental groups matched federal import records of Salmon coming from Panama (where Aquabounty is currently growing out GE Salmon until it gets its PEI Rollo Bay facility fully up to speed) and were able to narrow the search to Quebec. But Quebec retailers either refused to sell GE Salmon at all, or sold it without labelling it as GE salmon from Panama, so where exactly it ended up, and who ate it, remains a mystery.  As the Globe & Mail reported:

” It could have gone anywhere, it could have gone to restaurants or hospitals or universities through food service companies.”

Is this what students eating at the cafeteria at UPEI, or patients at the QEH and other PEI Hospitals have to look forward to? Being spoon-fed GM food without realizing it?

It will be interesting to see if anything has been discussed about the possible sale of GM salmon from the Rollo Bay facility to Island institutions (especially those where the provincial government purchases food) in recent documents between the MacLauchlan government and Aquabounty.

I received a letter regarding my request for Aquabounty records from the provincial Access to Information Office earlier this week, and as you can see, I’ll be getting access to the documents (about 3,000 pages) in another a few weeks. Unless, of course, Aquabounty attempts to block release of that information, which I’m confident they won’t do, now that I’ve come up with this “Fishy Chips” idea, which I’m also pretty sure they’ll be really interested in pursuing:

best access letter.jpg
Whenever I get a chance to talk to the communications officer again,  that is…he’s not exactly a very “communicative” guy for being a communications officer!  I sent him a request for some information on January 21, asking whether Aquabounty has filed a new notification with the federal government to grow out GE Salmon at it’s PEI factory (something it is required to do) and I haven’t heard back from him on that issue yet.  I’m sure getting back to me just accidentally slipped his mind, so I re-sent that request this morning with a note asking him to kindly acknowledge receipt of my earlier request for that information… I’m thinking he’s warmed up to me a lot more since our recent meeting about my “Fishy Chips” franchise idea, so I expect a quick response this time around.

Letter to Conley.JPG

Breaking Update on Conley Correspondence

I was bang-on about the quick response this time around. After publishing this post, I checked my email and lo and behold, there was this response from Conley:

Conley

Ummm….so I guess that means something’s “pending”….or maybe not….but good to know their official policy is not to break the law by failing to comply with regulatory requirements!

The Pitch

[FROM THE TRANSCRIPT OF A RECENT MEETING THAT TOOK PLACE AT AN UNDISCLOSED LOCATION]

Me:   “uh um….Mr. Conley: With all due respect, I believe Aquabounty is going about selling genetically-engineered fish all wrong by distrusting the public and trying to sneak it onto our dinner plates.  People kinda resent being regarded as too stunned to recognize a good thing when it bites them in the face.  I believe there’s a far more effective and  ethical way to proceed.”

Mr. Conley: “Go on” (shifting in his chair and glancing at the clock on the wall).
Me:  “Rather than continuing to pursue a ‘clandestine” approach with the public – which you’ll have to admit is only further undermining the public’s confidence in Aquabounty, and is likely the main reason why consumers are so distrustful of Aquabounty and Simplot in the first place, I believe the time has come for both companies to embrace what you’re so proud of, and start trying a little harder to convince consumers that they should do the same. And I can help you do that with “Fishy Chips”!

Mr. Conley: “Fascinating…I’m listening!”

Me:  “Well, I’ve already come up with what I think is a pretty clever marketing strategy that will bring Aquabounty and Simplot out of the shadows and squarely into public focus.  You’re already both playing on our Mighty Island; yet, despite being bona fide members of our friendly, open, diverse and multicultural community, you keep to yourselves far too much, and operate in secret, which only makes the rest of us suspicious about about what you’re really up to.  Now that promoting diversity and accepting what we don’t agree with or like (no matter how irrational, weird or offensive) has become a central hallmark of our extremely Liberal culture, I’m guessing you can capitalize on that trend by repeatedly telling us you’re offended that we don’t want to eat your GM food.   Over time, that guilt will worm its way into our brains and work to your advantage.  And by properly and openly introducing yourselves to Islanders, you’ll be putting an end to rumours, dispelling conspiracy theories, and will finally start getting into the good books with Islanders.”

Mr. Conley:  “You may be right, I did get a nasty email from an obviously-uneducated but extremely passionate, suspicious and rude Islander the other day calling me a corporate scumbag”.   I just dismissed him as an idiot, but what you say intrigues me….tell me more.”
 

Me:   “Well, like I say, both you and Simplot have so far been operating in secret in PEI, which only fuels suspicion and conspiracy theories.  Why don’t you drop the pretense and tell Islanders you fully respect their right to know what they’re eating; but then quickly add that you don’t want them to miss out on a really great thing.  Tell them that you’ve teamed up with Simplot and the time has come for a GM “coming out” party,  which will be a pre-emptive move which I believe will get both you and Simplot out of the GM-pickle you’re in.

Mr. Conley: “umm…how would that work?  I mean…in practical terms?”

Me:  “Well, for a small royalty on sales, I’m offering Aquabounty and Simplot controlling rights in a three-way partnership to the “Fishy Chips” franchise (which I’ve already submitted for patent protection, so don’t get any ideas).  My role will be to conceive and executive an aggressive “open and transparent” information and marketing campaign.  I’ve already spoken with Wade MacLauchlan and he’s on board and figures he may soon be available to do voice-overs on radio and tv advertisements.  I’m envisioning a major launch in the Spring that will both announce and showcase these first-in-the-world amazing new high-tech food products appearing on the same plate: “Fishy Chips”!
Mr Conley:  “What would the launch entail?”

Me:  The theme for the launch will be: “It’s time to Come Out of the GM Closet” and the public will be invited to participate in a “Fishy Chips Pride Parade” weaving through the streets of downtown Charlottetown. There will be free “Fishy Chips” samples; cool floats; transgenic animal balloons; little bags of “fish-eye” marbles for the kids, etc.   And Aquabounty and Simplot can demonstrate to the public that “Fishy Chips”  is not only safe but delicious, with little restaurant-themed floats with Aquabounty and Simplot board members dining on yummy fishy chips meals.

Burns eating Fish

Then we launch a chain of “Fishy Chips” food outlets starting in PEI., right at the beginning of tourist season, that would quickly spread across Canada and (if the US or any other country in the world eventually decides to approve GE animals for consumption) to other countries as well.

Fishy Chips is sure to become the place where foodies fed up with flat and familiar fish frys will flock to feast their eyes on a fried feast of eyes: both fish and potatoes.  I’m still working on it, but I’ve come up with a few test slogans and catchphrases “Fishy Chips:  It’s not just “fast food” – it’s “fast and furious food” that only browns when you cook it!” with possible endorsements from some of the Fast and Furious stars like Vin Diesel.  And to help the franchise set itself apart from other “fast food” outlets, we can borrow a great idea from the PEI Heart and Stroke Foundation and use their acronym “FAST” as a mnemonic device: whenever that poor schmuck who has a stroke at least three times every evening during the supper-time news on CBC compass comes on with his daughter saying “Dad, the left side of your face is drooping….” people will be forced to think about Fishy Chips. Only instead of “F = Facial drooping;  A = Arm weakness; S = Speech difficulties;  and  T = Time to call emergency services; we’ll drill these acronymic equivalents into Islander’s heads:  “F = Fishy Fries; A = Aquabounty; S = Simplot; T =Treat.
Mr. Conley:  “But fish and chips are so unhealthy and fattening….how do we convince people to eat unhealthy, fattening food?”
Me:   “We don’t have to…they’re already eating it…that’s why so many people are fat…uh, I mean obese.  We just have to help them forget fishy chips is fattening.  Here’s a slogan to target those worried about eating too much deep-fried food (which I agree, is a large and [literally] continuously-growing demographic); “Fishy Chips: Where you never have to watch your diet – because our food will keep their eyes on it for you!”
And here’s a slogan to specifically target Maritimers:   “A nor’easter’s comin? Forget the storm chips – get some “Fishy-Storm-Chips”!

But this is the flagship slogan that’ll brand this franchise to PEI like the ropes securing  lobster boats to the wharfs in Rustico:

  “Fishy Chips: Where the fish have more eyes than a PEI potato”

I think the pitch went really well.  I think Conley got the message that it’s essentially all about proper messaging. He promised he’d get back to me soon.   He’d be crazy not to…..that is, if he wants to turn his company’s financial woes into “wows!” It’s really their only chance to make a go at it….trust Islanders to decide to buy their food knowing what they’re getting upfront.

 +++++++++++++++++++++

New Project Spoiler Alert: I’m also currently in talks with Monsanto executives about rebranding their message to help them sell more of their GM corn (with a built-in toxin) to kids.  Again, I’m telling them it’s all about embracing the unique features of their GM corn and capitalizing on the success of popular cultural trends and icons like the walking dead.  Here’s a mock-up of a movie I’m working on for them.  I’ll admit it,  the children are a little grotesque-looking  – but I can assure you that you and the rest of the audience will walk out of the theatre worshipping those creepy little kids as heros after seeing how they not only used the special powers they got from eating Monsanto’s GM corn to survive a toxic future catastrophe, but courageously go on to employ those same powers to save humanity from complete annihilation…to find out exactly how they do it….well, you’ll have to wait for the movie:

Stills from  the soon-to-be released “Children of the Genetically-engineered Corn”

Children of the geneticallyGM corn children

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