The aquaculture industry has attracted its fair share of criticism over the years, and while this initiative from the aqua feed manufacturer is partly aimed at allaying some of that negative feedback, it primarily has transparency and openness as its fundamental goals.
The Netflix movie, Seaspiracy, released in 2021, dismissed the aquaculture industry, chiding its reliance on wild fish ingredients and cited a range of environmental and labor challenges.
While seafood producers and other industry stakeholders came out in defense of fishing and aquaculture after the release of that documentary, debunking the arguments made, the film helped some fish farming players to realize that they needed to take the initiative and share factual data about fish farming with a wider audience.
“We, as an industry, have not been great at telling our story,” said Therese Log Bergjord, CEO of Skretting.
That is now changing. Skretting says the new campaign is about living up to its promise to speak outside of the aquaculture bubble, to reach the public at large and educate consumers about the role that aquaculture and feed plays in the sustainable food systems of the future.
Why the ‘Feed iceberg’?
In the same way that 90% of an iceberg is hidden below the waterline, almost all the value of feed is not visible to the naked eye, said the feed producer. It wants to address that.
“The humble pellet exterior hides decades of boundary-breaking scientific research and development, partnered with practical commercial application – all pointed towards making aqua farming more available, sustainable, productive, and valuable.”
Jorge Díaz, global sustainability manager at Skretting, gave us a deeper dive into the rationale behind the project.
“The campaign is about being open and sharing information about the industry. There is still so much misinformation and lack of knowledge about aquaculture and aquaculture feed among the general public."
But he said the initiative is relevant for the overall industry as well. “We can tell you what it isn’t, and that is a ‘Skretting is great’ campaign. This about increasing transparency in relation to what we do.”
The next generation of seafood consumers want (or demand) to know more about what they are eating when it comes to sustainability, fish welfare, environmental and social impact: “We want to inform [those consumers] and bring to light the elements of our industry that we had largely assumed were common knowledge. They are not. People do not know how much innovation, knowledge, and skill goes into making feeds for aquaculture. There also seems to be a perception that the industry is secretive – and that has never been the case.
“It is only now that people are interested in hearing the facts, which is exciting. We want to make sure they can access those facts. We are not perfect, and we have said that many times before, but we are committed to being better every day and to being accountable for what we do.
“The campaign will provide a general reference point for the questions that we all get from family or friends who don’t quite get it, who don’t see the fundamental role of aquaculture, and who watch films like Seaspiracy and think that they have all the answers.”
The Feed Iceberg tracks, for example, how fish and shrimp eat, what they eat, where the nutrients come from, and how the recipes are developed.
Eyeball grabbing content
Asked how Skretting will interest an external audience in this topic, how it will grab the public’s attention the way Seaspiracy did, Díaz said:
“It is something that we are working on. We are looking to do targeted advertising, and outreach with various stakeholders. We have also worked with students at the university in Stavanger in Norway to evaluate ways to reach the next generation. The good thing about this content is that it shouldn’t age quickly and we hope that when people search for the kind of information we have included in our Feed Iceberg campaign, the content will show up within whatever search tools they are using.”
What is Skretting not doing well enough and what needs to be done to improve it?
“We always believe that we can do more in most areas, but with talented colleagues, and the willingness to take action, we are on the right path. We use our sustainability report to communicate on what needs to be improved, with the next one set to be published in May.”