Tropical Aquaculture moves into Maine, sets sights on new growth channels
The future for seafood sales, distribution, and marketing firm Tropical Aquaculture Products, Inc., exists in a familiar setting for its founder and president, John K. Schramm.
The company – which works with a cooperative of family-run aquaculture operations throughout South America and beyond – recently expanded its office presence in the United States, opening a second location in Schramm’s hometown of Rockland, Maine. The second office, which joins Tropical’s existing location in Rutland, Vermont, offers new business opportunities for the growing seafood supply and marketing operation, Schramm said.
“We definitely see a future within Maine's growing aquaculture industry,” Schramm told SeafoodSource. “Part of what we want to do is try to introduce ourselves to the Maine aquaculture community, and offer sales, marketing, and logistics services for growers within Maine, and try to get their products beyond Maine and the Northeast.”
Tropical is eyeing expansion into several segments of Maine’s expanding aquaculture industry, Schramm explained, specifically connections with oyster, mussel, and scallop producers.
“We would like to work with a few oyster growers, and we’re also interested in exploring opportunities on the scallop side of things, in culturing scallops,” he said.
To develop these new segments in Maine, Schramm said Tropical plans on using the same business approach that has brought it success since it was founded in 1995.
“We started as a tilapia marketing company, but we’re different in that we represent producers,” Schramm said. “What we did 25 years ago was collect [several] different tilapia growers in different locations and put them all under the same brand. In doing that, we created a kind of cooperative and were able to compete with the large single-farm units. By being diversified the way we were, we had a diversity of supply, meaning we weren’t dependent on one farm in one country, which brought assurance of supply continuity through geographic diversity.”
“We would like to think that we can do the same in Maine with different oyster growers,” he added.
With its new office already up and running, Tropical has begun the process of “investing in people to help grow the business,” with the company focused primarily on sales, business development, and marketing roles in Maine.
“We believe that Tropical can offer Maine non-production jobs that will open different doors to the seafood industry in Maine for the future,” Shramm said, noting that skilled marketers are particularly necessary for putting Maine aquaculture products on the map.
“It’s not just the nuts and bolts of industrial production or even artisanal production – it’s really opportunities from a marketing side, because you can’t just let the good state of Maine’s name do all of the work for you. You’ve got to get out there and do some additional work on the branding of the products,” Schramm said.
All of Tropical Aquaculture’s veteran employees based in Vermont will remain employed by the company and be able to work out of the Green Mountain State. Alongside its new ventures in Maine, Tropical will also continue to maximize growth in its existing markets and species, including with tilapia from Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador, as well as fresh Ecuadorian white shrimp, E.U.-certified organic salmon, and more, Schramm said.
Products that are currently a part of Tropical Aquaculture’s existing product line include fresh and frozen tilapia, fresh and frozen shrimp, fresh steelhead trout, fresh E.U.-certified organic salmon, fresh Icelandic Day Boat Cod, and fresh cobia. The company’s branded products are carried by retailers and restaurants across North America.