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AQT Spotlight on Signy Linge Killingmo – From Academia to the Field

Recently in AQT Spotlight, I told you about Martin, who was in the Aquaculture industry and then decided to get into academia. Today I bring you Signy’s story. Signy is a last-year Seafood Science Master Student from the University of Tromsø (UiT) and is currently working part-time as an operations technician. Aquaculture Norway academia

Signy field Aquaculture Smiling sea cage

She started her bachelor’s in 2016 and her first experience in the field was two years later. Signy was attending the Håp i Havet (HOPE in the Sea) conference. HOPE is the biggest student conference for the Seafood Industry in Norway.

“The first-day companies present themselves. Then the second day you get to visit different stands, there are so many. There was Marine Harvest, there I spoke to their Regional Manager and I told him I wanted a summer job. He asked what year I was on and what was I studying. He then gave me his card and told me to contact him after the conference. I emailed him and he set up an interview with a site manager. And I got the summer job.” Her work experience has been mostly at summer jobs and seasonal positions. All of them have been pretty hands-on and with lots of responsibilities like taking care of the live feed and broodstock.

What were your first impressions about the industry?

Signy feels that opportunity gave her a nice introduction to the industry. “The people who worked there were nice and took me around. They answered any question I had. They told me they wanted me to know how they had it. Because we know you’re taking higher education and maybe work in administration they said. And sometimes they feel like the administration doesn’t understand them. So we want people up there to understand what it is to actually work down here with the fish and see how we have it, they said”.

For her, that summer job experience was an excellent transition from school to the industry. “I got to see what they did on a daily basis”. She learned a lot and asked about things she did not get to experience. She learned how to drive a boat, which to this day she finds a huge benefit. Aquaculture Norway academia

Why Aquaculture?

“I don’t have like this sunshine story, like always being interested in fisheries and aquaculture. I didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school, so I was just trying to find something new. Because I wanted to learn something completely new and broaden my horizon.

Signy smiling with small fish aquaculture

I went to UiT and started to look at all the fields that they provided. Then I saw this Fisheries and Aquaculture sciences and I thought it sounded interesting. They offered broad subjects. We had economics, research management, biology, we have like a little bit of everything, and fisheries’ history. Nothing I had learned before, but I was interested in the ocean”. She always liked the ocean, lived by the ocean, and liked fishes.

Signy thought she would give it a try for a year. In case she didn’t like it she would just quit. However, it only took her a couple of months to find out she really enjoyed the overall experience. The subjects, the people, the city. She got to understand how close the academic field was to the industry and how innovative the industry is. Signy felt like she wanted to be a part of that. She wanted to do this/

“Since I am from like an hour away from Oslo, the capital, we don’t really hear that much about the seafood industry in Norway. So it was quite new for me”. A couple of weeks after starting her degree, the whole class made a trip to an island outside of Tromsø. Visiting salmon production sites and slaughterhouses, Signy got to experience the industry firsthand and see how close everyone was to each other”. She saw how big of an industry she got herself into. Aquaculture Norway academia

Different Cultures = Different Aquacultures?

Signy wanted to get her master’s degree right after her bachelor’s, she considers getting back to school after inserting herself in a full-time job would have been hard. “Going straight from bachelor’s to master’s would make the transition easier. I also wanted to study abroad and this program offered that. We were supposed to spend two months in Sri Lanka and four in Japan, in my second semester. But we only got two months in Sri Lanka and just one week in Japan. Corona made a change of plans”. Her plan was to be able to experience the fisheries and Aquaculture industries in other countries and is really sad she did not get to really do that.

In Sri Lanka, she got to see a research facility. Where they produced fingerlings and put them in ponds. The project was to wait for the fishes to get bigger so fishermen could catch them back up. There they had over 20 species and she found it very interesting, to see so many in the same pond. “Everything was mostly outside, which is a huge difference because they had just like built these ponds outside, on the ground, which would never happen in Norway. So it’s a nice experience to see. They could have 35 degrees out and the fish survived everything, in Norway, we never have 35 degrees.

I was just like oh, fish can survive in that kind of temperature. Of course, they can, but it’s not something I had seen before. And I also got to see this RAS Facility, where they produced white leg shrimp. It was very interesting how they did it. They used Tilapia to clean the water as filter feeders, and we usually use filters, biofilters, UV filters. But they used actual fishes to clean the water, and I thought that was an interesting way to do it because that’s not something I’ve ever thought about. For Sri Lanka is very beneficial for them because that’s something they can do.”

Fisheries or Aquaculture?

Signy Aquaculture Field

Signy says the fact that Aquaculture is still growing gives room and time for something new to happen all the time. She also has an interest in fisheries, as her interest is in production and fishes, overall. However, she believes it is too well established since is an activity that has been done for thousands of years.

“I think the aquaculture industry is a bit more interesting. Just because the industry is quite new, so there is more innovation and there are more problems. I have more things to figure out, not everything is set. So you’re just part of this journey.”

For her, the industry can make a complete shift in just a couple of years. So setting specific goals is not practical, because maybe in a year everything would change. There are always new things and new solutions, everyone is open to innovation. There is always room for growth and improvement, and she just wants to be in the industry to make it grow and grow with it. The industry is always trying to improve and do things better and she finds that is very encouraging.

Sustainability is key

“So I think that this is something that we do and work with that can actually be beneficial for more than just us. When you harvest fish species in the ocean, there’s only so much you can take out for it to be sustainable”. For Signy, the fact that aquaculture remains sustainable despite its huge growth and is beneficial is Key. She finds it interesting that so much fish can be produced and still represent a positive outcome for everyone involved.

Salmon and overall fish production, are beneficial not only to our health. She believes it is good for the environment and for people who work in the industry as well. According to her, everyone in the industry is -mostly- under good working conditions. “And making sure that ocean health is still being taken care of, even though the industry is huge. ” Aquaculture Norway academia

What wouldn’t you trade for anything?

Signy says her education is definitely one. There, she was a part of HOPE and set it up, and networked efficiently. This networking gave her the opportunity to learn about different companies. Being a part of creating the conference is something she would not change.

“But as a job, I know I work with salmon I would not trade that. And I think that everyone in the aquaculture industry who gets to work with salmon should know how it is to work as an aquaculture technician. Because they are the people who are actually working with the product, every day, and that’s what the whole industry is about. So everyone should know how they have it and how it is to actually work out there. In the ocean and see the conditions and the weather, and everything they have to endure every day, to get the good quality salmon that we are going to produce and sell.”

What would you recommend someone with the same situation you had fresh out of high school?

“If they weren’t sure and they like the ocean I would definitely recommend this field of study. But if they said to me right now, I would tell them to join the HOPE conference. Because that is for students and to learn more about the industry. I would recommend them to come and see that because most of the conferences are free and you would see if you like the industry or not. But mostly I would just tell people to be curious and ask questions and be forward. And just ask about everything actually and ask what they do on a daily basis. I would just recommend them to look up information and join HOPE. Because they would get a lot of information about the companies in the industry in aquaculture and fisheries.” Aquaculture Norway academia

Signy and Classmates
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