By: Antonio Garza de Yta, Ph.D.* Vicepresident. CIDEEA / Senior Fisheries & Aquaculture Advisor, AWJ Innovation.
Let’s imagine that we are a large company that decides today to start producing shrimp, and not just a few tons, but several tens of thousands of tons, which is the trend for aquaculture companies globally today. What would be the first thing we would have to do to guarantee our success.
Thinking that tomorrow we can introduce large quantities of any product to international markets without differentiation is suicide. Let’s imagine that we are a large company that decides today to start producing shrimp, and not just a few tons, but several tens of thousands of tons, which is the trend for aquaculture companies worldwide today.
What would be the first thing we would have to do to guarantee our success? First of all, it is obvious that we have to see what product(s) we are going to sell, in what presentation(s) and to what markets, before we even start designing the farm where we are going to produce it and, consequently, the size and design of the plant where we are going to process it, unless we are in a region where the processing offer is extremely wide and can meet our needs without restrictions.
It is understandable that small producers cannot afford to have their own processing plant; however, any company that wants to produce more than 10,000 tons of shrimp must have not only a processing plant, but also a complete sales and marketing strategy.
Defining the target market is also crucial, as each market requires specific certifications. Today, the design of a processing plant is much more complicated than in previous years, since not only the quality and safety of the products must be guaranteed, but also the designs and protocols must be in place to meet the requirements of the world’s largest markets (i.e., United States, European Union, China, and Japan).
“Our product must have the flexibility to adapt to the market conditions. In many, many cases, aquaculture is becoming a supply driven industry, when it should be a customer driven activity.”
A mistake that many of us have made when designing a farm is that we do it for one specific product, when what we should be doing is designing a farm with a lot of flexibility so that we can produce a portfolio of products. In the case of an integrated design with a lab, it is important to size the lab with the capacity to produce enough post larvae so that it is not a limiting factor.
The market and the processing capacity we have will determine the size and number of ponds and will definitely influence the technology we use. However, to introduce a product to the markets, it is not enough, or rather not right, to offer it without differentiation… and this applies to farms of all sizes.
Last month I had the opportunity to attend the launch of a brand, and it was a good experience because, as the person who developed it, I agree that it is not only about having a nice package, but also about having a story behind the product.
“Branding and positioning are crucial because they identify the consumer with the product they are buying, and bring them closer to the person who makes it.”
There are thousands of stories to tell and thousands of preferences, but I believe that highlighting the safety of a product, the ethics with which it works, the social group it benefits and, above all, the commitment to sustainability are the issues that are closest to the heart.
If we have two bulk products at the point of sale, and we do not clearly differentiate them, 9 times out of 10 the consumer will choose the cheaper product, regardless of the fact that the other one is of better quality and/or has all the certifications in the world.
A cheap shrimp is a cheap shrimp, period. So, if we have put all the effort in the world into our aquaculture operation, we have a quality certification, and we have a safe product, we need to shout it to the four winds. If we have laid the egg, we have to squawk it!
This is something we often fail to do as fish farmers because we are all about production. Regardless of the size of our operation, to be successful today, we must commit to being the best we can be and learn to tell our story… Branding, branding, branding!
“I close this column on March 8, International Women’s Day, and I think it is appropriate to do so by talking about the subject. International Women’s Day is not a day to congratulate women, but to remind us, especially men, that for centuries women have lived in a society of inequality and disadvantage that has no basis or reason to exist.”
Commemorations such as today´s should serve to remind us, to value, and to promote an environment of equal opportunities and rights, where being a woman is in no way a disadvantage, but on the contrary, a source of pride and inspiration for the community at large.
Today and always, to all women, my absolute recognition, admiration, and respect.
WAS President 2021 – 2022. Antonio Garza de Yta, President, Aquaculture without Frontiers (AwF), a renowned international aquaculture professional, who holds a Masters degree and a Ph.D. in Aquaculture from the University of Auburn, USA.
He is an aquaculture expert, FAO frequent consultant, as well as a specialist in strategic planning.
Ex-director of Extension and International Training for the University of Auburn and creator of the Certification for Aquaculture Professionals in that academic institution.