AQT Spotlight on Fred Asem – Aquaculture in Ghana
Today in AQT spotlight I would like to share with you Fred Asem’s story. He is a 38-year-old Ghanaian with a Bachelor in Biological Science from the University of Cape Coast, and an MBA from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. Fred is one of the most energic and passionate people I have met and I would love to give you a peek into his experience in the Aquaculture industry in Ghana.
Why Aquaculture in Ghana?
“I am sure you had a childhood dream, mine was to become a medical doctor. In my third year of my bachelor’s I read an article about fish farming and that was it for me”. That is how Fred started his storytelling about his aquaculture experience. He said when he read that article about growing fish in a controlled environment and then feed it to hundreds of people, he was fascinated. And decided he’d rather do that.
Before landing his first job in Aquaculture he worked for 1.5 years at a resort timeshare exchange marketing firm. At the time aquaculture industry in Ghana was not as big as it has gotten now. “But finally there was this job ad about a fish farm. It was in Asutsuare in the Greater Accra Region. I submitted my application and was shortlisted for an interview. But then the exciting part came when they told me that the last part of the application process was a practical interview at the farm
“For a month, Fred had to justify and show he had the right skill set to become a farm supervisor. He got to prove he was the right person and had the right mentality the organization was looking for. And from then on, there was no dull moment in his passion for fish
Why Get an MBA?
Fred got to work for one of the biggest aquaculture farms in Ghana and in all of Africa. Tropo Farms Ghana Limited. Experiencing a challenging and satisfactory recruitment process. Once he got into the industry, after years of trying to land a job, there was still competition. He felt like there was always something he needed to do every day to overcome a challenge, and that was satisfying for him. But he felt the need to get an MBA.
“It was all exciting. I keep saying there is no job that demands on the spot reactive thinking, innovation, and versatility than an aquaculture job! Because at any point in time you have to switch jobs or professions. By becoming a diver, plumber, data collector, scoop fish, design something new, a mechanic to get trucks working. Organize timely logistics, a welder, a coxswain, a carpenter, lab technician to learn about fish diseases, work on broodstock, TLC for hatchery fish fries, it all fascinating. However, I was eager to learn more. I felt like I was succeeding and thought ‘why don’t I go back to study?’ and I did. Believing a balance of my technical abilities and my business management understandings will make me a complete and versatile professional.”
How’s the International Experience Been?
After Fred got his MBA in Global Business and Sustainability Social Entrepreneurship, he decided to start a consultancy service for small Agriculture and Aquaculture farms. This opened new doors for him. The general manager at his first job wanted to start a project in Kenya, a fish farm in Lake Victoria. So he called Fred to consult for them and become the first farm manager. “That was a big test for me. To help start a million-dollar whole new fish farm project from scratch. Going to a new country, to a remote area, and start a fish farm. Where the indigenous knew nothing about what aquaculture was. They knew a lot about fishing. But we know fishing is not aquaculture.”
“Kenya was good. It was super, actually. It was an experience I would like to have with other jobs. Do something in other African countries. The overall experience in Kenya was humbling. When I got to that remote area in Homa Bay County, someone who’s been in Accra all his life enjoying city life. I told myself I couldn’t be my usual self. If I wanted to be successful I had to come down and be humble. People see differently and want to be treated differently. It was enjoyable and I am glad I was very successful and will relish the opportunity to do it over and over again.”
What’s in Your Future
Fred’s experience has been with Tilapia. Tilapia is the easier species to farm in the region. It sustains stress and diseases very effectively. Are resistant to harsh conditions and “is honestly a low hanging fruit. If I get a chance I would like to do Cobia or Salmon, in a mariculture site probably. It is something that has fascinated me for a while. I want to be part of an agribusiness project, whether aquaculture or agriculture side of things. Where we can use new sustainable innovative agribusiness projects as a community empowerment development tool.
A project that will be co-owned by the community and the investor. Recruit the unemployed indigenous, provide them practical skills training, coaching and mentorship by industry professionals for 2 or more years and gradually lead the youths to take over such projects as company owners and managers. I want to be part of a team that is going to do that, either in Ghana, any other part of, or outside Africa once my skills are deemed fit to keep. Empowering communities. Inspiring the next generation.”