Crossing the Chasm: Alfa Gamma Group CEO Santiago Alvarez

Published on
November 23, 2022
Alfa Gamma Group CEO Santiago Alvarez, center.

The seafood sector has seen an explosion of innovation development over the last 20 years to address some of the industry’s biggest environmental and labor challenges. Certification, fishery improvement projects, benchmarking, audits and assessments, ratings, supply chain and traceability tools, and pre-competitive collaborations are all innovations developed to help seafood become more sustainable and more competitive in global protein markets.

Although the sector and its partners have worked to develop innovation, the seafood industry has not seen widespread adoption of those innovations across seafood supply chains. While this is a problem for the seafood industry – leaving it exposed to supply chain and reputational risk – it is not a problem unique to the industry.

“The Chasm” is widely accepted innovation adoption theory developed by Geoffrey Moore to help business understand the market dynamics around product category innovation adoption (as opposed to product innovation). As explained in “Seafood2030’s The Chasm: Understanding Innovation Adoption and Diffusion, Crossing the Chasm makes the case for a distinct difference between the adoption drivers for the early part of the marketplace, the innovators and early adopters, and the adoption drivers for the rest of the marketplace. Innovators and early adopters tend to adopt innovation that fits with their vision for their company and the future. The rest of the marketplace tends to be more pragmatic or they adopt only when necessary – when their business mission critical business strategy is broken.

The Sustainable Fisheries Partnership’s supplier roundtables are one of the leading efforts in seafood focused on “Crossing the Chasm” and engaging the broader industry. The SFP roundtable model aligns with innovation adoption theory like The Chasm by recognizing and addressing the different motivations and needs of the majority of seafood companies trying to incorporate more sustainable practices into their business.

In a four-part series, Seafood2030 and SeafoodSource interviewed key players in SFP’s supplier roundtables to learn more about how they are pushing for wider adoption of sustainable practices in the global seafood industry. Part two features Santiago Alvarez, the CEO of Miami, Florida, U.S.A. based seafood supplier Alfa Gamma Group. Alvarez is also the chair of Sustainable Fisheries Partnership's global mahi supply chain roundtable.

Part one of the "Crossing the Chasm" series featured Sarah Hussey, the fisheries manager for Sea Farms Ltd. and the chair of Sustainable Fisheries Partnership's global squid roundtable.

SeafoodSource: There are a number of tools and approaches to improving sustainability of fisheries. Why were the supplier roundtables the right approach for your company and for mahi?

Alvarez: I have always believed that in order to truly create lasting change in a fishery, the engagement of all stakeholders must be a primary consideration. The supplier roundtable offers a unique approach to tackle the complex challenges in fisheries that encompass multiple regions by engaging stakeholders in a precompetitive basis. The supplier roundtable facilitates a forum for companies that may not normally engage together to work cooperatively in identifying the common challenges in the mahi fisheries across various regions and work to more efficiently align relevant actors towards effective fisheries management. Any time you have several competitors working towards one goal and speaking with one voice, particularly when addressing regional or governmental entities with differing views on fisheries management, you tend to get meaningful results. As a multinational fishing company that often engages the various regional fishing authorities, the supplier roundtable’s collaborative and multi-regional approach to sustainability is very much aligned with Alfa Gamma Group’s sustainability strategy.

SeafoodSource: Did the supplier roundtable model of working toward broad adoption of sustainable practices help with the engagement of supply chain companies?

Alvarez: Absolutely! Whenever there is an opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions with other participants in the supply chain, you feel like your time and efforts are well-spent. Although hearing from NGOs and other entities engaged in the furtherance of sustainability efforts is certainly worthwhile, it cannot compare to hearing directly from your peers’ efforts and experience in effecting the needed improvements to continue our industry’s sustainability journey. The supplier roundtable allows companies to convey a unified message to processors and fishers, while also providing a forum to discuss the challenges that these stakeholders experience firsthand.

SeafoodSource: There is an increasing effort in seafood to get supply-chain companies more involved in advocating for responsible management in regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs). For the mahi sector, has the supplier roundtable model helped organize and align mahi FIPs and industry stakeholders’ advocacy in the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission and mahi management?

Alvarez: I think several countries and FIPs have made exemplary efforts at improving mahi management and ensuring sustainable fishing practices. However, we need to do some work at getting these individual national or FIP efforts to become more cooperative and align their fishery management practices to address a shared biomass. I believe the roundtables are particularly well-suited at helping bridge the efforts being made by different FIPs and RFMOs into a more cohesive plan. The roundtable participants can leverage the relationships they have at many levels within the supply chain and with various regional governmental agencies to influence further sustainability improvements with industry stakeholders. I think inroads are being made every day. Some examples that come to mind are SFP’s work with El Comité Regional de Productores y Procesadores de Mahi (COREMAHI), which has been instrumental in enhancing communication between FIPS and RFMOs, and recent roundtable participant outreach to get IATTC to provide a platform to further bridge sometimes divergent RFMO sustainability efforts.

SeafoodSource: As chair of the roundtable, this is a significant investment for you and your company. What do you see as the return on that investment?

Alvarez: As harvesters of wild-caught fish throughout Central and South America, we see sustainability as an integral part of our business model. This vision is shared by employees at every level of our organization, from our Miami-based executive management team, to our U.S. flagged tuna super purse-seiner captains, our Ecuadorean longliner crew, our Mexican panga operators and our Nicaraguan yellowtail snapper handline crew.

AGG has been operating fishing fleets and processing plants for three generations, and proper biomass management and sustainable practices are critical to our company’s long-term viability. Our involvement with SFP and the supplier roundtables are just an extension of our company’s view on sustainability – not a marketing effort or a line item in a sustainability budget, but rather the obvious endeavor to engage with. Our entire organization depends on the long-term health of the biomasses we harvest – and we see that our time and effort on the supplier roundtables clearly align with our sustainability expectations.

Photo courtesy of Alfa Gamma

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