After selling his $50-million junk-mail company, five years ago, William Lord-Butcher saw an opportunity in aquaculture, specifically, in littleneck clams. Approximately 500 million clams are harvested annually in the United States today, just 30% of what was being harvested 30 years ago. Lord-Butcher thinks Americans' appetite for clams is as strong as ever but that consumers' fear of tainted food makes them wary. This is where Lord-Butcher has spotted his entrÃ‰e. With $9 million of personal assets and debt funding, he set up Atlantic LittleNeck ClamFarms (ALC) in 1990 in the tepid intertidal zones of James Island, South Carolina, "the best place in the world," he claims, "to grow littleneck clams." Indeed, his is the only FDA-approved shellfish laboratory east of the Mississippi. (The only other one in the country is in Washington State.) The pristine South Carolina waters coupled with a cleansing process using ultraviolet radiation enable Lord-Butcher to guarantee the quality and safety of his clams. "No grit, no sand, no mud." Sold under the SeaPerfect brand name, ALC's first harvest is just coming to market now. (Clams take 30 months to grow from eggs to marketable size.) The company is targeting restaurants and supermarkets in the United States and investigating exporting to Europe. Lord-Butcher projects first-year revenues of $1 million. He expects ALC to break even in April 1994 and, by 1996, to be a $15-million company producing a quarter of the nation's clams.
-- Alessandra Bianchi