A Nova Scotia oyster farm is retooling its business model with the help of a novel financing method.

Sober Island Oysters is aiming to borrow $100,000 from investors on Goparity Canada, a British Columbia-based impact investing platform that lets individual citizens pool their funds in increments of as little as $10 to back private debt deals. The money will go towards transitioning the operation into growing more mature oysters that will eventually be sold as food and away from cultivating the very young oysters it sells to other hatcheries.

The funding model is possible thanks to Goparity’s regulatory status as an exempt market dealer — a type of securities dealer permitted to sell certain private market investments to retail investors. The practice is relatively uncommon in Canada, and Co-Founder Emily Mercy said in an interview Tuesday she believes her business is the first exempt market dealer in the country to focus on the impact investing space, thanks to its licenses in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia.

“The reason why myself and my co-founders started this business is because we found that … we wanted to [help businesses] sustainably and according to our values, but generally we lacked options to do so, and the options that did exist weren’t super transparent,” said Mercy, who participated in a Volta pitch competition last year. “You can invest in an ESG fund, or invest in a green bond or something, but you don’t really get to see how the investment is doing good beyond just the label that it’s given.”

By transparency, Mercy is referring to the convention in impact investing of aiming to quantify a business’s social and environmental impacts in ways analogous to tracking its financial performance, which is meant to to ensure founders cannot simply claim to be doing good without providing evidence.

For Sober Island Oysters, which was founded by Trevor and Michelle Munroe in 2005, one component of its ESG pitch involves the benefits of oysters for stabilizing shorelines, such as during storms — a topic that became particularly relevant for the Monroes in 2022, when Hurricane Fiona destroyed much of the young oyster crop the couple were growing. The more developed oysters they plan to begin cultivating are hardier and better able to resist extreme weather, and will cover 3.5 hectares of water of the Sober Island farm's nine total.

Oysters also filter pollutants, naturally occurring or otherwise, from the water, and sequester carbon from  the surrounding environment using their shells, which can be up to about 12 percent carbon.

Mercy co-founded Goparity Canada in 2021 with software engineer and business graduate Elliot Warner and mechanical engineer and computer scientist Blake Bunting, after the trio began collaborating with a more mature, Portuguese startup of the same name. The Portuguese Goparity later bought into Goparity Canada. And if finding enough backers for a given funding package on the Canadian platform proves problematic, Mercy and her co-founders can choose to bring the deal to investors on the European side.

Goparity Canada has since grown to include four full-time employees, with another due to arrive in the coming weeks, as well as three part-time staff.

“You don’t have to be super rich or have any professional experience in this space, you can just participate and invest in your own community,” said Mercy. “We saw we had really aligned values, and an aligned vision for the finance space.

“My co-workers and I had an understanding of the Canadian financial market, and [Portuguese Goparity] had this product, this platform. We felt that if we partnered together, we could … bring this type of accessible, transparent impact investing to Canadians.”