TalentView has taken us from Chile to Canada in the American continent, then crossed the ocean to Kenya and Nigeria! Now in Europe, we have a great story in France. Meet Pierre Foucard. He is a 32-year-old Agriculture Engineer with a passion for gardening and yard work, as well as for Aquaculture. Pierre is currently a Project manager for ITAVI and has interesting things to share about this industry.
Growing up, Pierre always wanted to be a veterinarian. But it happens to most of us, that we end up doing something completely different. The first thing he did after graduating High School was go to a University Institute of Technology. His Technical Degree was in "Environmental sector, water treatment, microbiology, and pollution treatment" from Institut Universitaire de Technologie d'Aurillac.
However, not knowing what to do after this, he kept studying. Then he went to an Agriculture Engineer School at Groupe Ecole Supérieure d'Agriculture d'Anger. During this time he had the opportunity to join an Erasmus program to study a semester in Norway. Where he attended the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NBMU) for courses in Aquaculture. These were in Nutrition, Genetics, Zootechnics, fish biology, etc. That was his link to Aquaculture. Another great opportunity for the Aquaculture job was to do his internship at Icy Waters Ltd, in Canada. There he took part in a research program on insects for fish nutrition. This was where his interest in R&D came to life.
"I didn't even know about Aquaculture at the beginning of my technical studies. I discovered it in Yukon, in a very wild and beautiful environment. In a very clean and sustainable aquaculture site. And I enjoyed the idyllic picture it painted at the moment. Ever since that experience I wanted to focus on improving sustainability in Aquaculture, to stimulate its future development. Development in terms of alternative nutrition, environmental impact, water treatment, technology. I fell in love with Aquaculture and have enjoyed it ever since then".
We all face and see different challenges and obstacles in the industry. Pierre Foucard describes the industry as a powerful and fast-evolving one, and this is a challenge. "Some people might be very interested in what comes from R&D, but others are maybe not as open. You can find people in the industry that are always looking to do things differently and thinking outside the box. But some have settled ways of production and is not easy to make them change. A more sustainable production might impact a lot the rentability of the production activities. As in many sectors, the natural condition for progress is the increasing societal demands and regulatory constraints. And is not good to not seek to anticipate more. So I think this is one of the biggest issues, right next to the image the public might have about our industry".
Pierre believes this industry has a high potential. "It is the livestock of the future if we use sustainable techniques". However, for him, both the industry and consumers need to be aware of each other. Consumers need to acknowledge all the improvements and advancements that have been done in the industry in the past 20 years. And The industry needs to adapt and meet societal and environmental demands and needs.
At the moment, Pierre is working with ITAVI, where he has been for the past 7 years. ITAVI is an applied research organization that specializes in poultry and fish production. The organization leads experimentations, expertise, dissemination of knowledge. But they also offer technical support for fish farmers. Within the Aquaculture Team Pierre focuses mainly on R&D for RAS and Aquaponics projects. He also deals with Aquaculture nutrition, environment, pond aquaculture, microalgae, and other different aquaculture areas and topics.
At the moment "I work within a team of 7 aquaculture engineers. And we are dedicated to several topics. These revolve around freshwater aquaculture, pond aquaculture, seawater aquaculture. R&D projects are very diverse. Amongst other topics, we work on the creation of a tool for fish welfare assessment and improvement. Fish alternative nutrition, innovative rearing systems, integrated multitrophic aquaculture. As well as aquaculture sludge valorization, "progress plan" for the sector in conjunction in link with the national inter-professional associations".
So, Pierre, if you had to go to another industry, completely unrelated to Aquaculture and you could take only one thing from the Aquaculture Industry, what would you take?
"I would take a sturgeon as a pet since they are so friendly! More seriously, I guess I would take the strong passion and cold blood that fish farmers have in their everyday job. Which is a difficult one: physically and somehow mentally. It can be very stressful to keep control and keep good rearing conditions for hundreds of tons of fish when you know how fragile and delicate they are".
We all signify and symbolize everything depending on our experiences. Pierre defines Aquaculture as "Resilient and adaptative. Everything I have seen throughout my years in the industry has aimed to find a solution. Clever solutions to the different problems and challenges we face".
And that is the core and the reason for Pierre staying so long in this industry. There are many problems to be solved. For example, how to feed the fish with less and less fish meal. Or where to find alternative poly-unsaturated fatty acids? Problems like: how to limit water dependence and improve ecological continuity in the streams? Or how to face climate change? As well as how to avoid eutrophication with ecological engineering or innovative technologies? And how to combine environmental issues and societal demands with productivity? The aquaculture sector has many talents to work on these questions and this can be fascinating for him.
"I would tell them to be open-minded and curious. But to also take a distance from the point of view the media might present. Yes, Aquaculture may have some weaknesses, but so does every industry in the Agricultural sector. Aquaculture is growing fast around the world, and this creates great opportunities to work abroad. Not only professional opportunities but also the opportunity to participate in a great worldwide project aiming to feed the world and avoid overfishing
More generally, he would also tell them to always follow their passion. Sometimes to be able to follow their heart more than their brain. To do internships in many different sectors to have several strings to their bow after their studies. "Not stopping until they feel they are blooming, because we need to be passionate in our everyday life. Learn to question yourself, know how to get out of your comfort zone".