• Where can aquaculture companies fish for more leaders?

    Reprinted from the Digital Journal.com

    Where can aquaculture companies fish for more leaders?
    By Dave Gordon

    While the aquaculture industry has grown exponentially over the last two decades, there is one apparent shortage; the nearly $120 billion industry finds it needs even more executive level leadership available to man the helm, particularly when its competing with other more established industries who are all chasing the top talent.

    “There are leaders out there; it just takes perseverance to identify them,” says Michael Whitney, Managing Partner at the firm Kincannon & Reed, which has placed a number of seafood executives within the aquaculture sector. “The companies that are working in aquaculture depend heavily on regional talent pools. The question is, are regional pools big enough to support the growth the industry is experiencing?”

    The right leader, in other words, might be an ocean away.

    For example, what’s stopping a Norwegian executive being considered as the leader of a Chilean aquaculture company or even vice versa? In recent years, in fact, salmon aquaculture has become a major export in southern Chile. Meanwhile, Norway has been steadily rising in the field of aquaculture. Production grew a hundredfold between 1990 and 2010, due to farming of Atlantic salmon in marine cages, according to Karen Green, who is responsible for Industry Environmental Communications at Seafish.

    But that’s not out of the ordinary. In every corner of the globe, aquaculture has seen an uptick. In 1990, the number of wild catch flat lined, and aquaculture spiked upwards. Between 1980 and 2010, world food fish production of fish-farming expanded by almost 12 times. As reported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in 2012, the global aquaculture fish output was four times that of wild capture, about 44 million tonnes versus 11 million tonnes.

    Every country in the world – save two or three – has aquaculture in place, totaling about 600 aquatic species raised in captivity. According to the FAO, the top ten aquaculture producers (excluding aquatic plants and non-food products) in 2012 were China (41.1 million tonnes), India (4.2 million tonnes), Vietnam (3.1 million tonnes), Indonesia (3.1 million tonnes), Bangladesh, Norway, Thailand, Egypt, and Myanmar. Together, they contributed 88 percent of world production by quantity.

    “Companies need to think openly about how they can cultivate and develop leaders that can move seamlessly between different cultures in different geographies,” explained Elizabeth Olsen, Director at Kincannon & Reed.

    If the aquaculture expansion statistics are any indication, along with the growth in population, the future will require a steady stream of leaders with these global qualities.

    Grooming management of the future has to be a priority, Michael Whitney emphasizes. He maintains that it has to begin by a sea change in the way that graduating students perceive the industry.

    “Aquaculture is often not the first choice for bright young people coming out of a university. They’re often not aiming towards leading a company in the aquaculture industry,” he said. If the employment vacuum is to be filled, marketing these options to the next generation could be the solution.

    One possibility is for companies to build relationships with schools that have fishery programs, which will feed into the system. Noting these attractive career opportunities, perhaps students will rise in the ranks of executive positions in this market in the future.

    Meanwhile, as Olsen maintains, “building up a pipeline of leadership talent” is imperative.

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