Cuna del Mar, the aquaculture-focused investment group backed by Christy Walton, has purchased The Center for Aquaculture Technologies, or CAT, the P.E.I.-based research group.

The companies last week issued a statement saying that Cuna del Mar has bought all the shares of CAT for an undisclosed sum from Linnaeus Capital Partners BV, a Dutch investment group.

With operations in P.E.I. and San Diego, CAT is a specialist in researching the ways that aquaculture operations can improve their output through genetic improvement. The seven-year-old research organization also helps with the commercial development of innovative feed and health management products and services.

“Cuna del Mar is very pleased to be acquiring the CAT operations in the USA and Canada,” said Cuna del Mar Managing Director Robert Orr in the statement. “CAT has a tremendously talented team of people with unique capabilities, who are dedicated to making a difference for our customers and the industry as a whole. We are excited about the possibilities the future holds for this business.”

Cuna del Mar is an investment group dedicated to revolutionizing seafood production by focusing on open ocean aquaculture – that is, establishing fish farms offshore. Its vision statement says 80 percent of the world’s fisheries are near collapse and it wants to shift food production to sustainable operations that can produce healthy food without harming the environement.

It is backed by Christy Walton, the widow of John T. Walton, one of the sons of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart. The operations are headed by Orr, best known as the former CEO of Ocean Nutrition Canada, the Dartmouth-based food additive producer sold for $540 million in 2012.

Cuna del Mar owns a portfolio of aquaculture companies, including offshore fish producer Open Blue Sea Farms, aquaculture tech company Innovasea Land Systems, Mexican fish producer Earth Ocean Farms and oyster producer Sol Azul Maricultivos, also of Mexico.

By purchasing CAT, Cuna del Mar is receiving: a research hub in San Diego; and state-of-the-art wet lab facilities in P.E.I., which include Bio-Safety Level 3 containment for aquatic animal pathogens. (This is the second-highest of four bio-safety levels.)

“The Centre for Aquaculture Technologies is a high competency CRO [contract research organization] with a customer base across the global aquaculture industry and a key asset in the PEI BioCluster’s fish health and nutrition business sector,” said PEI BioAlliance Executive Director Rory Francis in an email. “We’re very pleased to see this “smart money” investment from Cuna del Mar that will enable CAT to achieve its full potential.”

CAT Chief Executive John Buchanan added: “We look forward to working within Cuna del Mar, a fund that clearly sees the potential for growth in the aquaculture industry.”