The Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certification program announced the award last week. The program is administered by the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA), a non-profit focused on advocacy, leadership and education for responsible aquaculture.
One goal of the certification process is to offer buyers and consumers a way to know that the seafood product they are buying was produced in a safe and responsible manner, the organization said. Facilities that have earned a BAP certification are intended to be run with a focus on safety, sustainability and environmental and social responsibility.
SouthFresh Aquaculture is the first US company to earn a certification for catfish feed manufacture, said Jimmy Hughes, vice president of feed with the company. Work on the process to become BAP certified started about a year ago, when the company entered the iBAP program.
The iBAP program is a plan that offers technical support for facilities seeking certification, the organization said.
“It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of effort by the whole team, we all play a part in it – the people in the plant, the office staff, the senior staff,” Hughes told FeedNavigator. “To bring it fruition, it feels good.”
The Alabama-based feed mill is one of two in the US to earn a BAP certification, added Christine Costley, vice president of business.
“We work closely with the customers and retailers, and most of our retailers have been with us for 20 years or more, so when something becomes important for them we listen,” she told us. “That really was the driver for it.”
The eventual goal is to be a four-star BAP company, meaning that the company’s production process has been certified from hatchery through processing, she said. “It aligns with our goals of being sustainable,” she added.
In addition to feed mills, hatcheries, processing facilities and farms can earn BAP certification, said the GAA. SouthFresh Catfish now offers three-star BAP catfish as it has certified its processing plant and a farm in Demopolis, Alabama.
SouthFresh Aquaculture’s parent company is Alabama Farmers Cooperative, the organization said.
Feed manufacture and market
SouthFresh is now able to add the BAP-certified approval to its catfish and game fish feeds, said Hughes. The feed mill makes about 50,000 tons of catfish feed a year.
One hope for the certification is that it will lead to an expanded market in the future, he said. “Eventually what you hope happens is that retailers start requiring BAP certified products and we’re hopeful that that happens,” he added.
“It backs up our commitment to doing things the right way, and that what we manufacture is what we say it is,” he said. “You do that to increase business – but a lot of that [potential expansion] ties into the end user wanting a BAP product, and that ties into the processing and some of our farms as well.”
The work toward the new certification has been part of a larger plan to improve, said Costley.
“There are ways to improve and when you have benchmarks to hit, it only makes you better,” she said. That’s how I’ve always looked at it – it was an effort, it cost money, we had to make changes but if it gets our company and our processing to a better level we’re all for it.”
There were three major areas where efforts had to be updated to meet the new standards, said Hughes. Work focused on worker rights and safety, feed quality and record keeping.
Many of the changes involved improving efforts the feed facility was already doing, he said. Some of the steps taken included upgrading the recordkeeping system, making sure that all notices regarding worker safety were posted and improving the traceability of ingredients through the final product.
“Like a lot of companies, we want to do the right thing, it’s being able to have the recordkeeping behind it to verify that we are doing what we say we’re doing,” he said. “We all want to make sure that we manufacture a safe feed.”