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AQT Spotlight on Felipe Cerda – From Salmon to Snapper

Back in December 2019 before all of our lives changed with a pandemic I met Felipe Cerda as we were looking for great talent to become Site Manager for Rose Snapper production. He had already been working in different areas of Salmon Mariculture production in Chile, and his experience went back over 16 years so he was an ideal candidate for this. Today I want to share Felipe’s story with all of you and continue with our AQT Spotlight on global talent.

Salmon Felipe

Felipe is a 42 years-old Santiago de Chile Native. Graduate from Universidad Católica of Valparaiso, with a postgraduate degree in Operations Management from the Adolfo Ibañez University. Who has been actively working on sea-water production and industrial operation of large-scale Salmon Farming. With experience in feeding strategies, operational management, and management of production costs. Felipe is now working as a Production and Operation Manager in Costa Rica.”

About Joining the Industry

Back when he was in High School Felipe always wanted to be an engineer. He was great with numbers. And when it was time for him to go to college he saw this weirdly named engineering degree that caught his eye. Engineering in Fisheries. He had never heard of it. “My dad supported me, we traveled from Santiago around 120-150 km. We spoke to professors of the degree. They explain what is all about. What caught me was they said ‘you have 4500 km of coastal line’. So, I was like, that’s plenty, my future is basically insured if I go for these.” At the time he saw fisheries as a gigantic thing. From then on he became passionate about fisheries, about the romantic side of it. Navigating. However, he saw that fisheries were peaking down and Mariculture and Aquaculture were gaining flight in Chile.

“I did my practices in fisheries. My dissertation in fisheries. Nothing from my experience was related to aquaculture. Then I got in contact with someone who was in Salmon Aquaculture and he gave me the opportunity to join the industry.” It was merely out of trust. Trusting he was a qualified talent because graduates from his university were great professionals. “And that was it for me, I have not stopped ever since”.

Was it Always Salmon? What Are Your New Challenges?

Felipe says at moments during his academic formation he was interested in Hake, Conger, and Sole fish. However, most of the industry in Chile is directed to Salmonids like Trout, Coho, and Atlantic Salmon. The country also produces Oysters, Mussels, and Abalone, nonetheless Salmon is an industry 100 times bigger than those. “I was always curious about warm-water fish. Like, how is a fish able to survive warm waters? Right? I assumed their oxygen would not be optimal, their nutrients would be poor. But that is completely unrelated to water temperature. In Chile, we have three and a half regions dedicated to salmon productions, a very little warm waters, so it wasn’t up until now that I got to experience that.”

Salmon Felipe

Salmon has been produced and researched for decades and many companies and industries around the world. They all have made mistakes and perfected their practices from those mistakes. “Every year salmon are more and more natural. Despite what the industry’s detractors might like to say. The feed is better and more sustainable every year. The industry is extremely developed because of the amount of money and time people have invested in it.” However, other industries like Tilapia, Mahi Mahi, Grouper, Cobia, and Snapper are still relatively young. So, Felipe thinks they still have a lot of mistakes to make, a lot of lessons to learn for these industries to have a global gigantic reach as salmon has.

How Has the International Job Industry Been like for Felipe?

Felipe’s search for an international experience started because in October 2019 his country was deep in social upheaval. He has two small children so he was basically looking for better and healthy growth opportunities for his family. As well as a career growth for himself. He also had a job opportunity peeking out in Peru. He and his wife were sure they wanted a change of scenery. “The industry I am in at the moment is still in diapers. So I have had the opportunity to share a lot of my knowledge. To improve protocols, certifications and professionalize the industry little by little. I have brought capable professionals from Mexico and Chile to have a production that is more technical and technological, more industrialized.”

For him, it’s been like climbing Everest in several opportunities and he is happy about it and will do it as many times as needed. Because regardless of processes being hard or difficult is always the results that are the most rewarding. His focus is always to better processes, continuous improvements, and a 100%-work-work-philosophy. It has been a ride up for his family dynamics.

“But they got used to it very fast. The kids enjoy it. They love having the beach right next to the house. I take breaks to perform my job as a parent and husband as well. Is not like I forget about them just because I have this work philosophy. My weekends and my time with my family are sacred. I brought them here to have a nice life with me. Seeing the three of them happy gives me peace of mind, makes me happy and encourages me to keep working hard.

What Are Felipe’s Recommendations for Others?

“Regardless of where they are at. If they are high school students, recent graduates, or are in the industry and are looking for a change. I would tell them to take risks, to dare to change. This industry is the future of global food consumption. We still need a lot of people, a lot of professionals a lot of actors, a lot of specialists. To make this industry better each year we need as many people committed to this industry as possible. There is a future here. There are also sacrifices we make, but they all pay off, I promise.”

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