A Revolution that Starts with Aquaculture Feed! New Challenges for a Global Feed Company at the Forefront of the Aquaculture Industry (Part 1)

A Revolution that Starts with Aquaculture Feed! New Challenges for a Global Feed Company at the Forefront of the Aquaculture Industry (Part 1)

Skretting, a leading global manufacturer and supplier of aquaculture feed and one of the nine participating companies of SeaBOS, is also a leader in the aquaculture industry for sustainability initiatives.

In this interview, we spoke to Jorge Díaz Salinas, who first got involved in the fishing industry when he joined Skretting and is currently doing great work as Sustainability Manager at the company’s headquarters, to find out more about the challenges for aquaculture feed as well as the company’s efforts to make a global impact.


Jorge Díaz Salinas
Jorge Díaz Salinas was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1983. He studied communications at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, international marketing at King’s College London, and corporate sustainability at New York University. From 2009 to 2014, he worked at ProChile, an agency of Chile’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He joined Skretting in 2015. Since 2018, he has worked at Skretting’s headquarters in Stavanger, Norway, and he was appointed to his current position in September 2021.


From his home country of Chile in the southern hemisphere to Norway in Scandinavia

――You worked for an agency of Chile’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the past.

Before joining Skretting, I worked at the communications agency of Chile’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where I was engaged in promoting Chile in the areas of exports, foreign investment, and tourism. I found the job of promoting my country to foreign countries extremely rewarding, and I thought it was the most interesting job I could ever find at the time.

However, in 2015, I had the opportunity to join Skretting, a company that had piqued my interest when I was conducting research on the aquaculture industry. I was particularly attracted by how rewarding the job seemed to be when I read about Skretting’s vision of “Feeding the Future” as well as its impact and innovation that it was bringing to the industry.

――What got you interested in the fishing industry and sustainability?

I think the fishing industry is a highly rewarding and exciting industry. After all, aquaculture and fisheries collectively support the livelihood and jobs of 10% of the world’s population. Anything that happens in this industry will have a significant impact on the world.

Being a part of the food industry itself also gives me the opportunity to play a role in tackling some of the biggest challenges in the world today. We must not only increase food production in the world by 60% by 2050 but also make sure it is done in a sustainable way.

Aquaculture is not something I was very familiar with, but I just wanted to learn something new, and it felt like my personal interest was aligned with the challenges currently facing the world.


A salmon farm in Norway, where Skretting’s headquarters are located (photo courtesy of Skretting)


――After joining Skretting in Chile, you transferred to the company’s headquarters in Norway. Was it a big decision for you to relocate from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere?

That is exactly what I was looking for when I joined the company. I wanted to work at an international company where I could interact with people from different countries, learn from them, and discover new things as I traveled around the world.

That was why I gladly took on the transfer opportunity when it came up. I was primarily in charge of the salmon industry in Chile, but I am now learning about the aquaculture of other species of fish, shrimps, etc., in other countries from a global perspective at the headquarters.


Skretting’s three sustainability pillars

――Could you tell us more about your current job?

I love my job because it involves taking a broad, holistic view from the headquarters of a global company and interacting with people inside and outside the company, which makes my work very interesting. Within the company, I have learned from my colleagues from different countries about the various situations around the world and the sustainability challenges they face.
I also engage directly with external stakeholders, learn about industry trends from suppliers, NGOs, certification bodies, industry associations, etc., and respond to industry initiatives.

――Skretting has developed an approach known as the three sustainability pillars.

That’s right. We have laid out the three pillars of “health & welfare,” “climate & circularity,” and “good citizenship” in our Sustainability Roadmap 2025.


The three pillars of Skretting’s Sustainability Roadmap 2025 and their key focuses (image courtesy of Skretting)


First of all, under the “health & welfare” pillar, we are working to reduce the use of antibiotics in feed. We also aim to stop using Critically Important Antimicrobials (CIAs) stipulated by the WHO by 2025. It is important to emphasize that we only use antibiotics when they are necessary to treat fish and shrimp diseases based on veterinary prescriptions. We do not use any antibiotics to stimulate growth or prevent disease.

Only 1.3% of all Skretting feed sold worldwide in 2022 contains antibiotics, an improvement from 1.6% in 2021. Regulations vary in some areas, especially in Asia, where the addition of CIAs to feed is legally prohibited. However, antibiotics are still used in the course of fish and shrimp farming in some cases.

The problem is that not everyone knows how to use antibiotics correctly. When antibiotics are not used appropriately, they may cause problems and eventually create drug resistance. Because of this, we hope to engage aquaculture producers and other parties along the entire value chain to instill a proper understanding of when and how antibiotics should be used.

――Tell us more about the second pillar, “climate & circularity.”

Our main initiative under this pillar is the reduction of greenhouse gases. It is estimated that around one-third of all greenhouse gases emitted globally come from the food industry. Since we now know so much about global warming and climate change, we have a responsibility to play a role in addressing the problem.

I understand that there are varying levels of awareness of the importance of this problem. The problem is generally well understood in the salmon markets of Europe, North America, Chile in South America, and Australia, while countries such as Ecuador are gradually becoming more aware of it. However, I feel that there is less of a sense of urgency in countries in Asia and Africa. I must say that what we are doing is not enough as an industry. We need to do more and accelerate the action.

――What about the third pillar, “good citizenship”?

This refers to contributing to local communities. In this regard, we look forward to the initiatives that our operating companies located in various countries are undertaking with respect to the local communities in their respective countries. We are also looking for diverse talents to join our business operations as part of these efforts. This is because it is absolutely vital to have people with different backgrounds in an organization so that we can see things from a broader perspective and make better decisions.


Sustainability is not black-and-white

――The Sustainability Roadmap 2025, which includes the three sustainability pillars, is a very progressive plan. Were you involved in its formulation?

Yes, I was involved in formulating this roadmap. We engaged in dialogue with internal and external stakeholders, including clients, NGOs, suppliers, and academics, in the course of creating the roadmap. We took into account issues that mattered most to our company and our stakeholders when developing various targets and other aspects of the three pillars.

――Why did you create a roadmap like this even before other industries around the world have?

Because we believe this is the right thing to do. For us, sustainability is not a matter of choice. We need to work on sustainability, and we need to do it right. If we fail, we will go out of business. Sustainability is thus a key component of our corporate strategy.

You may think the roadmap is “progressive,” but that does not mean that we know everything. We need to learn more from our stakeholders, including other suppliers of feed ingredients that are also trying to move in the right direction. This is not a competition to see who has more goals or more ambitious targets but a process of continuous learning, exchange, and above all, collaboration. We cannot do everything on our own. The only way to achieve sustainability is through greater transparency and collaborating with our stakeholders.

――How did it feel to be involved in creating the new roadmap right after you were transferred to the headquarters?

I was really excited, but it was also a huge responsibility. Our actions ultimately have an impact on the seafood consumed by people around the world, given that Skretting’s feed contributes to the production of over 22 million servings of seafood around the world every day.


Skretting’s feed contributes to the production of over 22 million servings of seafood around the world every day. (photo courtesy of Skretting)

――That’s a massive impact!

It is a huge responsibility, indeed. We want to make sure people around the world can eat safe, healthy, and sustainable seafood by working on initiatives in line with the targets set forth in our Sustainability Roadmap.

――What did you find most difficult when creating the roadmap?

Understanding that the issue of sustainability is not black and white. It is easier to believe that everyone has to do things the same way, but we need to understand that different regions experience different challenges.


A shrimp farm in Ecuador using Skretting’s feed (photo courtesy of Skretting)

Finding a way to incorporate various challenges into a global policy is a difficult task. However, that will help us to truly understand how we can make an impact in each and every region.


The impact of climate change on ingredients

――What has been the most challenging part of your work at Skretting?

It is hard to point to any single thing. There have been many challenges, but they make my work more interesting and meaningful. For example, one challenge is the availability of ingredients for aquaculture feed derived from marine resources (“marine ingredients”). Many people might be aware of what is happening off the coast of Peru due to the El Niño phenomenon.*

As the amount of marine ingredients available for use decreases, the amount of certified marine ingredients will also decline, which in turn causes prices to rise and disincentivizes the use of certified ingredients. This is because producers will find it harder to pay for feed under these circumstances. However, it is precisely in these difficult times when we need to provide feed that can mitigate the risks in the supply chain.

*The El Niño phenomenon, which causes sea surface temperatures along the coast to rise, has resulted in lower sardine stock than in previous years, sparking a temporary ban on anchovies in Peru and leading to soaring anchovy prices. Since anchovies are mostly processed for use in feed for farmed fish, there are concerns that this would lead to rising feed prices.

――Along with talk of what is happening off the coast of Peru, there have been reports of poor catch for anchovies and other ingredients for fish meal due to climate change. What do you think the industry should do about it?


Anchovies are mostly processed for use in feed for farmed fish.


There is no doubt that climate change is having a major impact not only on aquaculture but also on all food-related industries. That is why it is even more important for us to source marine ingredients that meet our sustainability criteria without compromising in any way. It is imperative that we encourage aquaculture producers to adhere faithfully to these sustainability criteria as well. Marine ingredients are wonderful resources if managed in a sustainable manner.

However, it is difficult to achieve growth in the aquaculture industry with the current ingredients, so alternative ingredients are necessary. A number of so-called “novel ingredients” that have hitherto been hardly used in aquaculture have emerged, but until they reach the level of commercial production, they will typically be more expensive than the alternatives we are currently using. One way to do this is to promote collaboration along the value chain and diversify the cost of these novel ingredients, as it is not possible for us to absorb their full cost on our own.

Therefore, suppliers, fish farmers, and retailers should work with us to bring these ingredients to the market and expand the choice of ingredients. This will ultimately enhance flexibility in feed formulation and allow aquaculture to grow in a sustainable manner.

――Among the alternative ingredients, some ingredients such as soybeans could lead to other problems such as deforestation in the Amazon. Could you tell us more about the sourcing of ingredients from low-carbon regions that you touched on in your talk at the 2021 Tokyo Sustainable Seafood Summit (TSSS2021)?

That measure seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which, to put it simply, helps to reduce our carbon footprint. As far as soybeans are concerned, soybeans cultivated in Brazil have the largest carbon footprint in the world on average, a fact that is mainly attributable to the clearing of forests and their conversion into farmland.

Another thing we learned was that suppliers that often or almost always perform their own life cycle analysis have a smaller carbon footprint than the average footprint in their respective countries. We work with soybean suppliers in Brazil as well, and the carbon footprint on their land is much smaller than the national average in Brazil.


Jorge spoke at the 2021 Tokyo Sustainable Seafood Summit by joining the event online.


――Since the carbon footprint in Brazil varies based on location as well, in-depth research and communication with suppliers are important.

That’s right. We need to look at the primary information that can be obtained directly from suppliers. Quantitative secondary information from general databases does not reflect specific value chains or the production technologies of aquaculture producers. That is why it is vital to work closely with suppliers to understand their true impact. Also, when we publish our carbon footprint, it is important that we are transparent in disclosing the basis for our calculations because it is not just the numbers that matter but also what underpins those numbers. As a result, we are able to work with suppliers and producers to make the right decisions when formulating our feed.  (To be continued in Part 2)

>>>In Part 2, we will speak to Jorge Díaz Salinas about collaborating with stakeholders to promote sustainability, including working with the aquaculture industry in Japan.



Original Japanese text by: Chiho Iuchi