Former wine executive turned Mt Cook Alpine Salmon Chief Operating Officer and AQNZ Director Janine Tulloch tells us why New Zealand farmed seafood is like a fine wine.
Q) Since moving to New Zealand from Brisbane in 1997, you’ve lived in Mt Cook, Martinborough and now in Queenstown – are you deliberately avoiding our big cities?
A) Most certainly. I actually left Brisbane in 1992 to do my OE. My (now) husband and I came back in 1994 and travelled Australia for 3 months ending up in Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays for 4 years. I do love to visit big citites but I much prefer the community spirit (and lack of traffic) in smaller regions as a place to live with my family.
Q) You’re a chartered accountant by training with no prior involvement in seafood – how did you come to work in the aquaculture industry?
A) From my CA days I got into the hospitality industry working with hotel groups in Australia and New Zealand. The move into wine came when we moved to Martinborough, just north of Wellington in the late 90’s. I’d been in the wine industry for over 12 years, most recently as GM of Martinborough Vineyard which is one of New Zealand’s iconic brands. When the opportunity with Mt Cook Alpine Salmon came up, I thought this would be an exciting step into a new industry. There are a number of similarities to the wine industry including route to market, distribution and logistics not to mention basic farming practices. Also I like that the company was focused on the ultra premium end and was supplying some of the same restaurants where before I’d supplied wine.
Q) How is New Zealand wine like New Zealand farmed seafood?
A) The story for NZ wine is all about the special combination of climate, water and soil we have in NZ, along with our innovative pioneering spirit and our commitment to quality. I believe it’s exactly the same for New Zealand seafood.
Q) How are they different?
A) The wine industry is made up of over 1000 grower and 700 winery members and while there has been consolidation of the industry over recent years, the seafood industry is much more consolidated. NZ wine has also always been brand led. It recognised early on that the only game is at the premium end and focused completely on this segment of the market. I think in the seafood industry we’re only just starting to focus on this position. The reality is to achieve acceptable margins with the infrastructure and labour costs in New Zealand we cannot compete at a commodity level. We need to differentiate brand NZ in the market.
Q) New Zealand wine has developed a desirable global reputation – what makes it so attractive to international wine drinkers and is there a similar opportunity for NZ farmed seafood?
A) In the first instance it’s a very good product. The industry has worked hard with the key influencers within the industry to share the NZ wine story and win their support. It helps that there are so many NZ expats around the world that also pushed the product early on. On this basis there is definitely a similar opportunity for NZ seafood – it’s just now about how we educate our communities.
Q) What lessons did you learn from the wine industry that you bring to aquaculture?
A) A few key things:
Management of supply to meet demand. The wine industry has gone through tough times recently when not only was there oversupply of NZ wine but also internationally there was a wine glut. This means knowing the markets and managing production in line with your customers expectations. Building demand for your products – always.
Margin – it’s all about cost and margin. It’s imperative to know your costs of production and focus on achieving an appropriate margin.
Marketing and support – knowing your customer. It’s important even when working with importers and distributors to know the markets you sell in and to get involved with your customers. You need to be a selling tool for the distributor. It’s a partnership relationship.
Sustainability – this will only continue to evolve as a business practice for us all so we have to take ownership, get on board and lead this movement.
Q) You’ve been with Mt Cook for just over three years now, while the company has undergone rapid growth – is the company on track to reach its ultimate growth targets and are these levels of production sustainable?
A) In the past four years the company has grown almost 10 fold in the number of fish held on the farm. While there are still further growth opportunities ahead of us at present we’re in a consolidation phase making sure the business all the way through is managing this growth. The reality is, even at full capacity we’ll be producing less than 3000MT of salmon so we’re always going to be a small, niche player in the market.
Q) You’ve recently been elected to the AQNZ board. What drew you to this governance role?
A) I like to get involved in the industries in which I work. In the wine industry I was a member of the executive of Wines From Martinborough, the regional marketing body. I got involved at its inception in 2004 and was Chair from 2008 to 2011. Further I was a Director of Toast Martinborough, which is indisputably the most successful wine and food event in New Zealand from 2000 to 2011 (Chair from 2007). I think an individual business’ success is always in part tied to that of their industry. Industry bodies play important parts in providing information, marketing, research and strategy. These activities need to be focused and need to be developed around the goal of building a great New Zealand aquaculture industry.
Q) What do you see as Aquaculture New Zealand’s biggest challenge over the next 12 months?
A) There is a large focus on growth as part of government and industry agendas. We need to realise how this is actually going to be achieved given the limitations that exist.
Q) How’s the future looking for New Zealand farmed salmon?
A) The global demand for protein along with increased growth in salmon as a category means the future should be a rosy one. It’s now up to the industry and the businesses in it on how to leverage opportunities for their individual growth both in volume and price. Obviously space is a huge issue for the industry.
Q) Do you think it’s important for New Zealand salmon farmers to work together?
A) Given the majority of farmed King Salmon is produced in New Zealand we have a point of differentiation from the rest of the industry that we need to exploit. To maximise this we have to do this as an industry.
Q) Mt Cook Alpine is very proactive in marketing itself as ultra-high grade salmon – how do you ensure the product lives up to the hype?
A) It’s actually all about the product and it’s quality. Hype and spin won’t compensate for a product that’s inferior for long. We have a unique situation in the canal systems where the fish have to swim constantly just to stay still, making them lean and muscular. This combined with attention to detail throughout the production chain results in a flesh that is delicate, has great texture, is creamy, minerally and low in fat.
Q)Is it really that good?
read more »
A) Oh yeah! I’ve experienced over and over people telling me that they don’t eat salmon then go onto eat a large serving of sashimi. Once you can get a buyer or customer to taste our salmon, there is no going back.
When it comes to fresh water salmon, celebrity New Zealand chef Al Brown was a self-confessed cynic.
That was until Tsunami Sushi’s Scott Murray dropped by one day with a whole fish from Mt Cook Salmon.
“It was quite extraordinary,” Al said.
“I got a call from Scott one day saying ‘can I drop by and introduce you to this salmon’.
“I was sceptical because I’d always thought salt water salmon was better than fresh.
“But it was a bit of an honour to have him around, he’s a legend around these parts.”
Partly out of intrigue about King Salmon grown in the Mackenzie Country hydro-canals, and partly out of admiration for the caller’s skills, Al welcomed the chance to see Scott’s 30 years of sushi and sashimi experience in action.
“He brought a whole fish around and I started to cut it up and he finished it up. He’s the master and it was really cool to have him there to talk us through it,” Al said.
“The fish itself was absolutely beautiful.
“I love all fish and I’ve eaten a lot of salmon. I think the New Zealand product on the whole is really good.
“I’ve used a lot of product from New Zealand – Akaroa and New Zealand King Salmon have always impressed me.”
And the fresh water product did not disappoint.
“The flavour is really pure and clean,” he said.
“I’ve always associated the colder the water with the finer the taste.
“Which makes sense when you get an understanding of how these fish are bred in the cold, clean water with the strong current.”
The experience drove Al to Tweet.
“Best salmon I’ve ever eaten…period!” he told the world via the social networking site Twitter.
Al later said it wasn’t just the fish, but the whole experience that Scott created that wowed him.
“That was a fantastic surprise,” Al said.
read more »
“To me, you get huge ups from people or producers that do that kind of thing.
“It’s lovely to see the whole form of the fish and then cut it down.
“It makes so much more sense when you see the product, connect with it, and hear the story, see Scott’s prowess and skills”.
New Zealand aquaculture industry representatives have joined a combined US and New Zealand programme to respond to ocean acidification by sharing information and resources on resilience and adaptation, and raising public awareness. Sanford Aquaculture Manager Ted Culley provides interesting industry […]
read more »
Shenae Muirhead and George Faulkner are the inaugural recipients of the New Zealand King Salmon scholarships for students studying aquaculture at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT).
Shenae Muirhead of Nelson originally got involved with aquaculture while still at school through the Top of the South Trades Academy. Now in her first year of the Diploma of Aquaculture, Shenae says she has loved the ocean ever since she was a child and initially planned to study marine biology at university. However after learning about the NMIT diploma, decided to focus on aquaculture instead.
“The idea of being able to grow and farm marine creatures is so interesting and it’s changing and developing all the time,” she says.
George Faulkner of Takaka is in his second year of the diploma. After leaving school, he did seasonal work for New Zealand King Salmon for a few seasons as a hatchery operator before deciding to study. He says he has always been interested in fish and aquatic species, so the aquaculture diploma was a natural choice. He hopes to continue his studies to degree level before finding work in the industry.
New Zealand King Salmon Freshwater Manager Jon Bailey said the company was supporting the scholarships because they believed that the aquaculture industry at the Top of the South had unrealised potential.
“In order for it to grow, we need to develop the next generation of people with the technical skills, knowledge and the ability to engage in a rational debate about future sustainability,” he said.
The scholarships are designed to assist students financially with their fees as well as enabling them to enhance their understanding of the aquaculture industry. Paid work experience during semester breaks and summer holidays may also be offered to recipients.
NMIT Chief Executive Tony Gray said it was great to see new scholarship sponsors such as New Zealand King Salmon supporting NMIT students.
“When a business is willing to help support students in this way, there are huge benefits. Not only do the students receive financial assistance to help them achieve their qualifications, the company can also benefit through fostering direct links with high-achieving students,” he said.
NMIT offers the country’s first and only Diploma in Aquaculture. Launched in 2010, the first students graduated from the two year programme in 2012. Graduates are now working for companies such as New Zealand King Salmon, the Cawthron Institute, oyster and salmon farms in Australia and the Pacific, Mt Cook Alpine Salmon, Ministry of Primary Industries, NIWA, Sealord, Kono and Plant and Food Research. Many have secured work before they had even finished studying.
For further information about NMIT’s aquaculture programmes and scholarships go to www.nmit.ac.nz
read more »
In 22 years of research on the Marine Environment, Professor Kenny Black has built a reputation as one of the world’s leading experts on the interaction between salmon farming and the environment. He’s published 61 peer reviewed journal papers, been awarded over 50 research grants, edited six books on environmental aspects of aquaculture and co-ordinated six European Union projects concerning the impacts of aquaculture.
Now he’s helping usher in a new era of salmon farming in the Marlborough Sounds.
“The future of salmon farming in the Marlborough Sounds comes down to whether there is room for expansion in terms of environmental impacts and the concerns of local people,” he said.
“Salmon can be farmed sustainably – they have really good qualities compared to all other livestock animals. They grow fast, they’re relatively easy to grow and they are a great product.
“But you have to take the public with you. You have to take people’s fears and concerns seriously and think of good ways to show people what you’re doing about these fears.”
The Scottish Institute of Marine Science Principal Investigator in Marine Ecology, Prof Black was brought to New Zealand late last year by the Marlborough District Council as they worked with New Zealand King Salmon and key community and industry stakeholders to develop new guidelines to steer future salmon farming in the Marlborough Sounds.
According to MDC Environment Committee Chairman Peter Jerram, Prof Black provided key independent expert advice during several workshops that served as the first step to building better working relationships and more certainty for all parties.
“What we’re trying to organise are agreements on best salmon farm management practices that would ensure the environment is safe and the industry is well managed,” Cr Jerram said.
“We also want to develop a regulatory regime that would be reasonably simple, offer certainty, enable production for the company Eminent international marine scientist Professor Kenny Black has provided independent expert advice to help salmon farmers, Marlborough District Council and the community plan for a new era of cooperation. He’s taking us….to be optimised but with safeguards and also with a clear pathway of what happens if safeguards are not adequately met.”
A positive side effect of the process was that it provided concerned citizens a chance to ask Prof Black directly about their fears.
“I met some people who were genuinely upset, in tears, at what they perceive to be the threat of expansion,” Prof Black said.
“There were different classes of upset. Some were upset because there would be a farm in their back yard and they hadn’t anticipated that happening and felt the value of their property would be compromised, and their reason for moving there was to move away from industrial activity.”
It was also a chance to dispel myths.
“Then there were other people I met who basically had a poor understanding or were exaggerating impacts,” he said.
“There were a few people who felt adding a few more farms was going to environmentally devastate it (the sounds environment). I can’t share their view on that.
“They are genuinely terrified of the damage they think will happen with what I would regard as a modest increase in the number of farms. I don’t know where they get it from.
“I think some people have probably been influenced from others who are very negative about the industry in principle.
“However he was quick to point out there were still some environmental unknowns that needed to be considered.
“Salmon farms (in the Sounds) are very few and are not using very much space, but it’s not just about space. The other aspect of salmon farming is its nutrient impact.
“There is excellent work being done by NIWA at the moment in developing a model that will answer the question of how much farming can the Sounds take in terms of nitrogen and primary production.
“This is a key question that needs to be answered for the future of the industry. How sensitive are the Sounds?
“It could be that there’s plenty of room for expansion or not.“But there is no point in speculating as we’ll have the answer in the short term.”
However, it’s clear that farming salmon in New Zealand carries a host of environmental advantages above international salmon farmers.
“What stands out the most is the environment you’re operating in New Zealand compared with the environment most salmon farmers are facing in the rest of the world,” Prof Black said.
“The impacts and interactions with the environment are very few.
“The main impacts in Scotland are the impacts of sea-lice and the interaction with wild fish populations.
“None of these issues are important in New Zealand. You have no lice and no native salmon.
“Some of the biggest headline issues that impact the rest of the world just don’t exist in New Zealand.”
Prof Black may not agree with all industry opponents- but he does sympathise with them.
“I don’t believe a modest increase in Salmon farming in the Sounds will have a catastrophic impact but I genuinely sympathise with people who do.
“Whether the fears are accurate or not is not the issue in the first instance – if people are very upset about fish farming , then time and effort needs to be spent with these people.Interestingly, Prof Black himself might have provided the first step in the process of repairing community rifts created during NZKS’s application to the EPA for new farms.
“It (the EPA process) was a divisive, horrible process. It was political…people’s integrity got attacked and it was unpleasant for all involved,” Cr Jerram said.
“This (the workshops) was a deliberate effort to move things forward…it’s a good start.
“I don’t think we’ve come to a final agreement, but had some pretty mature input coming from us all sitting together in the one room and talking it through.
“To work collaboratively we’re going to need a greater degree of trust and respect between all those with a stake in this process.”Prof Black agreed it was a positive first step.
“A confrontational process involving lawyers is not conducive to good relations. What is conducive is talking to each other with an attitude of respect and discussing fears and opinions.”
So where to from here?
“Shortly there will be a decision on the four NZKS sites (currently before the Supreme Court),” Prof Black said.
read more »
“If they get these sites, that would provide a lot of new tonnage and by the time they become operational, we will have the work from NIWA and will be able to look at the Sounds and see if there is more scope for expansion or moving around sites or converting mussel farms.
“A year or so from now you have an opportunity, with a lot more information and new science to look at how much room there is for further expansion.”
A brand new, high-tech aquaculture feed production facility could be operating in Blenheim by 2015.
Fish feed company Big Nutrition and Blenheim firm Aquaculture Direct have completed a feasibility study on establishing an aquatic feed mill in Marlb…
read more »
Mark Gillard has been at the forefront of salmon farming in Marlborough for 28 years.
read more »
His contribution in helping turn around a floundering experimental project in 1985 that has gone on to become New Zealand King Salmon – which today employs over 400 people and generates over $100 million annually – was officially recognised when the Marine Farming Association presented him with their prestigious Merit Award recently.
MFA president Rob Pooley said Mark was one of the industry’s best known and well-respected identities and is generally considered one of the country’s leading salmon farming experts – and one of the architects of the industry’s success.
“The Merit Award is the highest possible accolade that you can receive from your peers. It’s not one that we give annually. It is only awarded on merit and it has a very high threshold in terms of eligibility,” said MFA president Rob Pooley.
“Mark was a very popular choice.”
Mark said he felt honoured to be recognised by his peers in an industry that he loves.
“Hell yes I’m proud of what we have achieved through all the trials and tribulations,” Mark said.
“We’ve managed to take what was a struggling pilot project with a multitude of challenges and turned it into an industry that sustainably produces premium salmon and delivers it to the world.
“It’s a major achievement – especially with a species that is considered one of the most difficult to farm.”
“Salmon farming gets in your blood. It’s almost like it’s part of you and everything that happens you feel responsible for it.”
Rob said it was this passion that made Mark such a popular choice.
“He is the longest serving member of the salmon farming industry and his selfless contribution throughout the years is unparalleled by anyone.
“Mark is among the most professional, well liked and respected contributors to the aquaculture sector.
“His integrity is exemplary.
“He has always given above and beyond the call of duty and those of us who have worked alongside him over the years have seen just how dedicated and passionate he is about this industry.”
The EPA has released it’s final decision, confirming the earlier draft decision to grant New Zealand King Salmon four new sites.
In summary, the EPA’s Board of Inquiry final report and decision on the New Zealand King Salmon proposal:
- Allowed the plan change request and concurrent applications for resource consent for four sites – being Papatua, Ngamahau, Waitata and Richmond. The provisions of the plan change request and conditions of the resource consent applications can be found in the final report and decision;
- Declined the plan change request and concurrent applications for resource consent for four sites – being the Kaitapeha, Ruaomoko, Kaitira and Tapipi farms;
- Declined the resource consent application for the White Horse Rock farm.
Click here for full EPA report
read more »
The EPA Board of Inquiry’s (BOI) final determination will enable New Zealand King Salmon to deliver long-term benefits to the region, the community and the national economy.
Aquaculture New Zealand Chairman Peter Vitasovich said the four new salmon farms approved in the decision would create permanent full-time jobs and provide significant downstream benefits for associated industries while generating export earnings through the sustainable production of premium seafood.
“Four new working salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds will provide valuable employment opportunities within the community, while also attracting skilled labour to the region, to work across the spectrum of production – from farming to processing to marketing and business roles,” Mr Vitasovich said.
“Before a single fish goes in the water at the new sites, New Zealand King Salmon will be investing well over $10-million with local companies to build infrastructure and conduct appropriate scientific base studies.
“NZKS already injects $25-million into the community each year through salaries and wages, and on-going maintenance and logistics will also create increased long-term demand on local businesses across a host of industries including engineering firms, science providers, rope makers, net makers, freight companies, water taxis and tourism operators.”
Mr Vitasovich said the BOI process proved New Zealand King Salmon can operate in balance with the environment and fellow water users.
“This application sparked substantial debate in the local community and provided everyone the opportunity to have a voice and to be heard,” Mr Vitasovich said.
read more »
“The thorough and transparent process examined all the concerns of environmental advocates including impacts on the seabed, water column, nutrient release, seabirds and sea mammals as well as considering the natural landscape of areas and navigation.
“The Inquiry drew on independent scientific evidence and relevant experts and found New Zealand King Salmon can farm the four new sites in balance with the local environment and community.
“We understand that the Marlborough Sounds are near and dear to the hearts of the community who work, fish, boat, dive and holiday on the water – and we agree whole heartedly that there needs to be appropriate levels of protection to ensure these activities can continue.
“After all, the aquaculture industry depends on pristine waters for its livelihood and the production of safe seafood.
“Salmon farmed in the Marlborough Sounds are desired in top-end markets with NZKS winning recognition from international chefs and culinary associations for producing some of
the world’s finest salmon. The company has also moved to expand their reputation for quality, with the introduction of the Ora King brand to target high-end food service markets.
“New Zealand King Salmon have a strong 25-year track record of responsible environmental management.
“The new farms will see them farm a fraction of the Sounds water surface, in carefully chosen sites, under carefully controlled conditions.”
“Aquaculture is good for Marlborough. The aquaculture industry and New Zealand King Salmon will continue to work hard to ensure it is an asset the community can be proud of.”
Naturally perfect, nurtured to perfection.
New Zealand’s aquaculture industry has a great story to tell. The story of a highly skilled and progressive industry, employing more than 3000 Kiwis and sustainable producing the world’s best seafood.
read more »