An entrepreneur who made a fortune from founding and flipping a publicly-traded pet insurance firm says Nova Scotia has great potential for producing “high impact” cat and dog food — and he’s investing heavily in the province to prove his point. In 1998, Mark Warren set up Pethealth Inc.
In 1998, Mark Warren set up Pethealth Inc. Sixteen years later, with the company entrenched as the second-largest pet insurer in North America and the world’s top distributor of microchips for retrieving lost pets, Warren sold Pethealth for a reported $100 million.
Now Warren — along with longtime Pethealth CFO Glen Tennison — have registered Dockside Pet Products and Services Inc. in Nova Scotia.
The company will turn blemished, misshapen and unsightly fruits and vegetables that don’t make it to supermarket shelves based solely on esthetic flaws into food for pets.
Warren told the Chronicle Herald that Dockside’s food will hit shelves in Canada in late spring or early summer. The product range would be mainly high-protein “mixers and toppers” for consumers to add to dry kibble and other standard pet meals, to boost nutrition and improve flavour.
For canines, the range would include a granola-like additive to sprinkle on food, a ramen noodle and a ravioli pasta — all of it made from ingredients including cauliflower, blueberries and lobster shells, Warren said. And for cats, biscuits made from fish and other seafood. Several broths are also being developed, he said.
Warren said other ingredients include crickets, an easily-digestible and environmentally-sustainable source of protein.
Dockside will produce the food at three unconfirmed sites in Nova Scotia, said Warren, who recently moved to Chester after spending summers there for the past two decades.
He said Nova Scotian farmers and fruit growers were plowing mountains of fresh surplus food back into their fields — even though it was perfectly suitable for eating, he said. The fishing industry was also not utilizing all of its catch.
Warren said Dockside products will use whole male capelin fish as it is undervalued and often wasted because the females are preferred for their roe. Also, the cauliflower used will be purchased from the nearly 50 per cent of each crop deemed ‘unacceptable’ for human consumption because the size or colour of the florets doesn’t meet cosmetic retail standards.
The same holds true for misshapen or undersized blueberries, lobster shells as a byproduct of processing fresh caught lobster, and other sustainable fish safe for daily consumption like pollock and tilapia.
Warren is currently criss-crossing the province to sign up farms and fishers to supply a steady stream of “rescued fresh food.”
And he and Tennison have bought a 48-per-cent share of Windsor-based cricket farm Midgard Insect Farm Inc. from Joy Hillier.
Warren, Tennison and Hillier are also collaborating closely with Bible Hill-based Perennia, the province’s non-profit accelerator for farmers, fishers, food producers and growers. Hillier is working with Perennia researchers to improve her cricket protein, while Warren and Tennison are aiming to test other protein sources such as seaweed.
“We’re experimenting also with apples, carrots and cranberries,” he said.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first business in the pet food, treats and meal mixer space that is using 100-per-cent rescued fresh food and/or sustainable products.
“We have only scratched the surface of what this could do to bolster the environmental sustainability of both the North American pet industry and Nova Scotia’s fishing and agricultural sector. Beyond wasting food, this is about water waste, too. Sixty thousand gallons of water per acre is used to grow cauliflower, for example.”
Warren plans to make Nova Scotia the centre of research into rescued fresh food and sustainable products in the pet industry.
Eventually, Warren wants to take Dockside’s products to India due to its large population and a growing middle class that’s increasingly owning dogs as pets, he said. Also, none of Dockside’s products include beef, which is a big deal to many in India who eschew bovine-based food for cultural and religious reasons, he said.