AquaChile CEO Sady Delgado: "Chile is destined to lead salmon production worldwide"
AquaChile CEO Sady Delgado remains bullish on the future of Chile’s salmon-farming sector, despite it having been dealt a crushing economic blow from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve been in this business for 25 years and I am convinced that Chilean salmon farming is destined to lead production worldwide,” Delgado said in an interview with CNN Chile. “The best salmon in the world, in flavor, quality, presentation, in my point of view, is by far Chilean salmon. We’ve done blind testing in different parts in the world, in Asia, in Europe, in the US – like the Pepsi challenge – with different expert salmon consumers, and nine out of 10 times, they pick the national [Chilean] salmon… There is an intrinsic value in the genetics, in the heritage of farmed salmon in Chile that makes a difference and is noted in many areas,” he said.
Salmon farming will play a vital role in feeding the world’s rapidly growing population, Delgado said.
“We are farmers of the sea, and thinking about the increase in the world population, which will reach nine billion in the coming years, and the solutions that can be given to feed all that amount of people is aquaculture. It will be part of the solution. We won’t be able to feed nine billion people, in the same way that was done in the last 50 years,” Delgado said. “Farming the sea via aquaculture is a moral obligation. We have to do it in a sustainable way, and for that, we have learned a lot in the last 20 or 30 years about how to take care of the sea and how to make it sustainable for everyone who lives off of it, from industrial fishers to aquaculture, tourism, and logistics.”
Per the Salmon Farming Industry Handbook 2019, published by Mowi, Norway is still the world leader by far when it comes to production of farmed Atlantic salmon, having produced 1.13 million metric tons (MT), with Chile in a distant second place at 609,700 MT. According to the same report, AquaChile is the second-largest producer of Atlantic salmon in the world, having produced 109,000 MT, behind Mowi, which produced an estimated 361,300 MT last year. AquaChile itself claimed 218,000 MT of salmon production in 2019.
In terms of environmental stewardship, Delgado said his company is using the most advanced and sustainable techniques ever used in the industry. Since 2019, AquaChile ceased its practice of raising salmon in lakes, preferring instead to farm in the ocean.
“In the sea, there are tides, currents, which renews the waters in a natural way. Lakes are bodies of water that are renewed every 50, 60, or 70 years,” he said.
Delgado said the industry is now better-regulated than ever before, and that solid regulation, along with strong business practices, have allowed Chile’s salmon industry to catch up to that of world-leading Norway.
“The Chilean authority has matured along with the industry, as well as the regulations,” Delgado added. “The Chilean salmon industry has been around for 15 or 20 years, it is younger than that of Europe, but it is gaining ground.”
Regarding the use of antibiotics in the industry, Delgado said that “every year in our sustainability report, AquaChile reports all antibiotics and type of food that it uses in its salmon. Therefore, the information is available in abundance.”
In September, marine conservation activist non-governmental organization Oceana accused a handful of Chilean salmon-farming companies, including AquaChile, as being uncooperative in providing information regarding the amount of antibiotics used in their production processes, in defiance of a ruling from Chile’s Council for Transparency (CPLT) for the national fisheries service, Sernapesca, to deliver disaggregated information on the use of antibiotics and biomass produced.
In AquaChile’s defense, Delgado said that “this information is made public when it is solicited directly by an NGO. But we don’t allow Sernapesca to provide information, which belongs to AquaChile, to a third party.”
World Health Organization-approved antibiotics are only used exceptionally and under veterinary prescription to ensure animal welfare, Delgado said, and antimicrobial use in Chile’s salmon farming industry has decreased nearly 45 percent in the last five years, Sernapesca reported previously.
“We work with several environmental NGOs, they all visit us, they all know us. All the numerical information is in our sustainability reports and the information is available. In fact, the best example is that after working for five years with WWF, which is the main environmental NGO, they are quite satisfied with the information we give them,” Delgado said. “I believe we’ve done a good job. The regulation is getting more stringent, and it is good to raise the standard for the entire Chilean industry, as they are rising in different parts of the world as well. At AquaChile, we are called to go much further than what the regulation requires, and that is what we are doing,” he said.
AquaChile recently received approval in an extraordinary shareholders meeting for a USD 245 million (EUR 208 million) capital increase and to realign the financial structure to incorporate companies acquired in 2018, whereby controlling firm Agrosuper would consolidate its salmon sector investments via AquaChile.
Photo courtesy of AquaChile