Small is beautiful: RAS pioneers tout ‘local’ advantage
By Jean Ko Din
At a time when global supply chains are disrupted, RAS pioneers are taking advantage of the temporary spotlight to cultivate its local market.
“RAS farming really allows us to produce closer to the consumer and so you’ve got a much more attractive carbon footprint,” said Syvia Wulf, AquaBounty Technologies CEO. “And as we’ve all seen during COVID, our supply chains are fragile. And so domestic production is going to become increasingly important.”
Wulf joined fellow small-scale RAS producers at the RAS Virtual Summit on Sept. 16. Brian Vinci, director of the Freshwater Institute, moderated the live event, which also included Joe Cardenas, founder and CEO of Aquaco Farms; James MacKnight, general manager of Ideal Fish; and John Ng, president of Hudson Valley Fisheries. Panelists agreed that a great advantage of a local RAS facility is how it encourages what Wulf called “rural rejuvenation.”
“I think one of the huge advantages of RAS is that we’re able to go into a run-down community and go into a warehouse that perhaps has not been occupied for several years, and to be able to go in there and refurbish that warehouse and consequently support the depressed community, as well,” said MacKnight.
Cardenas added that training and cultivating local talent is also a huge advantage of a local RAS facility.
“In the first stage (of development), we hired everybody internally and we hired very early,” he said. “Everyone that’s on staff was probably hired six months to a year before their job really began… That got us working extremely well and we’re proud of the price points we’re able to do it at and be competitive.”
“The location for us was key in terms of marketing,” added Ng. “We wanted to leverage Hudson Valley’s reputation and brand. The proximity to market, of course, is a huge advantage, especially to invite some of our customers to the facility.”
Engaging with the local community is a big part of building social trust. “When we’ve engaged with consumers what we’ve found was that when we dialogue about that in a very simple way, we get a 70 percent purchase intent for our salmon,” Wulf said.
Watch the full recording of “Small is beautiful: Lessons from RAS pioneers” below: