As an economist with IFFO, The Marine Ingredients Organization, Bachis brings a different perspective to the seafood industry. With a deep focus on the need for stabilization in the feed ingredients sector, responsible management of fisheries and aquaculture is top of his agenda.
IntraFish: How did you enter the seafood industry and why? What drew you to it as a career?
Enrico Bachis: My sector is actually a bit further up the value chain, as I work for IFFO. The seafood industry, and in particular the farmed seafood industry, is therefore one of the many industries we serve, although it represents by far the main market for fishmeal and fish oil.
The reason why I entered this industry is that I’ve always been attracted by the key role played by the agri-commodities in terms of feeding the world. Coming from a family of farmers living in Sardinia, where fish is part of our daily diet, I’ve always been aware of and fascinated by the importance and the functioning of the primary sector.
In addition, the international scope of the fish industry suited well my fluency in different foreign languages.
IF: What do you aim to achieve in the sector?
EB: I’m lucky enough to have joined this industry right when there is a growing commitment to a responsible management of global fisheries and fish farms. My aim is therefore to contribute to such trend and be part of the increasing professionalization of my sector.
IF: Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
EB: Although 10 years is a long time and many things can happen in such a time spell, I love to think that I will be still working in this industry in the next decade. It is a fast-paced world, full of challenges and unexpected events that make it so exciting. It also allows me to travel and get in touch with different cultures, and meet exceptional people from around the world who love what they do and constantly contribute to the positive development of the industry.
I still have a lot to learn from those pioneers that have made the marine ingredients sector what it is now, and am really proud of being in a position to build upon such a great sector. I honestly cannot imagine working in any other industry.
IF: In your view, what are the seafood industry's biggest future challenges?
EB: I will leave it to those in the seafood forefront to comment on this. But when it comes to the marine ingredients sector, I can see two main challenges.
Being an economist, I am very aware of the challenge of volatility in the supply of marine ingredients. The price fluctuations that we witness and the consequential substitution in the feed diets of fish proteins with cheaper vegetable proteins, might put at risk the quality of the seafood products in the medium term. Obviously, this is easier said than done considering how the fish catch depends on natural events such as El Niño, but still it remains the need to make the supply of marine ingredients steadier.
Secondly, in a world where fisheries are managed more responsibly it is difficult to imagine an increase in supply in the medium to long run. This means that precious and scarcer marine ingredients need to move from being a commodity to being a highly-specialized ingredient capable of enriching feed diets across the board.
IF: What kind of people does the industry need to face these challenges and take it forward?
EB: To be honest I think the recent developments in the marine ingredients sector have already produced the necessary expertise and professionalization to face and overcome the various challenges ahead. This is a very peculiar industry. Moving in from other sectors is not an easy task and I firmly believe that only those that know the ins and outs of the marine ingredients business can lead the search for solutions.
Having said that, industry leaders are fully aware that people and skill sets of all kinds are needed in a changing world. Already academics, scientists, economists, governments, NGOs, conservationists etc are consulted and involved in the many innovative projects introduced in the marine ingredients industry.
IF: What could current leadership in your sector learn to be better at?
EB: A more collaborative approach from industry leaders on a global scale is needed if we want to increase the value of our products. A lot is being done below the radar by groups/companies working in isolation. IFFO in this sense is acting as a facilitator to bring together the different sides of the industry and start a cooperation that in the end will benefit the sector as a whole.
IF: What is the perception of the seafood industry as a career choice amongst younger people, do you think?
EB: I think the general perception among youngsters is still of an unglamorous and unsexy working environment. But that’s probably because they can only imagine traditional roles in sales and marketing, ignoring the variety of roles and opportunities in research & development and corporate social responsibility, just to name a few.
The global nature of the marine ingredients industry is also often overlooked, leading many young people to shun the opportunity to engage in a job that implies traveling the world.
Obviously there are differences from country to country. In big producing countries such as Peru and the Scandinavian countries our industry is already much more respected and sought-after nowadays.
IF: What is the single best piece of career advice you have ever received?
EB: I was taught by my parents that I should always listen to those with more experience than me, and that is why I can recall many important pieces of career advice over the years. But if I had to choose one it would probably be that one has really done a good job only when one has prepared somebody else to replace him the day he leaves/retires. Luckily it’s still early for me to worry about my successor, but I already know what I have to do in the long run.
IF: What would you being doing professionally if you weren't in your current role?
EB: I guess I would have looked for a similar position in another commodity market. Or maybe not. I’m just so happy to be where I am that my focus is on giving my contribution to take my organization and the industry forward.