WeAreAquaculture spoke with Dr Panos Kalatzis, Adisseo's European Regional Manager for Aquaculture, to learn about his research background aquaculture, his work with Adisseo in supporting the industry in Europe and beyond, and how bringing together scientific knowledge and business acumen can make a positive impact.
For Dr Panos Kalatzis, motivation comes from the chance to make an impact. The academic researcher-turned-Adisseo European regional manager combines a profound knowledge of aquaculture microbiology and health with a keen insight into the European aquaculture feed market. At Adisseo, he says, research knowledge is the foundation for providing solutions to his customers.
"Our company invests significantly in research and development. We develop our solutions on scientifically-based knowledge," he explains.
Kalatzis began his aquaculture journey through an unconventional route. Born in the city of Argos in southern Greece, Panos grew up in an entrepreneurial family specialising in the turbine pumps engineering business. Among the company's clients were aquaculture companies, so perhaps unusually, Kalatzis was familiar with the concept, if not the science, of aquaculture from an early age. But it wasn't until his university years that he realised he wanted to pursue a career in the sector, when he discovered a passion for applied research in aquaculture, focusing on aquaculture health and diseases.
"I decided to study biology when I graduated school. Early on in my undergraduate years I realised I wanted to work on applied research in biology – that was very attractive to me because I love to solve problems related to the market. I soon realised that aquaculture is an area that combines both biology and business."
Greece is the leading EU aquaculture producer of sea bream and sea bass, Kalatzis says, which makes aquaculture an important sector for the country. Kalatzis studied biology at the University of Crete, where, as an undergraduate, he focused on parasitology in aquaculture at the prestigious Hellenic Centre for Marine Research. "The Centre has a lot of international collaboration focused on aquaculture, looking at aspects like health and pathology, reproduction, larval rearing, nutrition, and so on. That made things easier for me because I was studying at an aquaculture hotspot," he says.
After graduation, he pursued a Master in Marine Biology focusing on aquaculture microbiology and bacteriophages (phages) and then moved to Denmark dedicating his Doctorate research, to the potential of bacteriophages as an alternative to antibiotics in fish farming while studying their host-phage interactions.
As a post-doctoral researcher, he worked both in Copenhagen and at the University of Bergen. Researching in Denmark and Norway gave him a different, and valuable, perspective on the aquaculture sector, he says. "In Denmark it was mainly trout, and in Norway, we were talking mostly about salmon. I also had the opportunity to see how different research institutes operate." Kalatzis continued collaboration with institutions from Greece and elsewhere in Europe, as well as Chile, another key global player in aquaculture. But despite his academic success, he wanted to do more.
"After the completion of my postdoc, I realised I wanted to make a more tangible impact in the aquaculture industry, to understand companies' issues and offer solutions that can actually help them," he says.
"I wanted to make a more tangible impact in the aquaculture industry… I wanted to bridge this gap between laboratory and field"– Panos Kalatzis, Adisseo
"That's when I decided to jump from academia to industry. It didn't just happen – I made it happen on purpose because I wanted to bridge this gap between laboratory and field," Kalatzis says.
Kalatzis joined Adisseo as European Regional Manager for aquaculture in the summer of 2021. The move was a good fit, he says, as the company culture is driven by evidence-based innovation.
"All of our solutions, products and developments are based on science. Adisseo, in particular through the acquisition of Nutriad in 2018, has invested vast resources over the past decade in applied aquaculture research, and that was very attractive to me."
"We have solutions to offer to the market, based on a lot of information, field data, trials, and peer reviewed publications," he says, noting that this provides a solid basis for "tangible effects in the real aquaculture world."
Kalatzis explains that Adisseo has a dedicated team for aquaculture composed of over 20 professionals based around the world. "We share decades of expertise," he says, explaining the group includes veterinarians, formulators and species specialists.
"We are a feed additive producer, so we want to add value for our customers to get the most out of their products," he says, explaining that focus areas include health, digestion and palatability.
"We work with marine fish. We work with shrimp. We work with salmon and trout and also freshwater fish such as carp, tilapia and catfish."
Kalatzis explains that Adisseo work with feed mills, and also with vertically integrated companies, who both operate feed mills in addition to aquaculture facilities.
"We work on areas where we can make a difference – a positive impact on health, on digestion, on palatability. We try to help our customers protect their margins, to increase their efficiency and performance, and to produce a better end product."
Currently Adisseo is investing in future product innovations, Kalatzis says. The company has strenghten its research skills and capabilities in aquaculture with the construction of its in-house test center (Aquaculture Station by Adisseo, ASA) in Singapore and by reinforcing the R&D team with aquaculture scientists.
In the agenda for Adisseo, Kalatzis says, is also exploring up-and-coming feed ingredients such as insect protein and single cell proteins, forging strategic partnerships in the Middle East and Asia. In 2020, Adisseo began a joint venture (Calysseo) with cellular protein firm Calysta to upscale the production of FeedKind®, a completely new sustainable alternative protein for aquaculture which contains no animal-derived ingredients and that uses no farmable land and almost no water in its production. To provide an exclusive supply for Asian markets, Calysseo has built a first production facility in China to produce 20,000 tonnes of FeedKind® protein per year, Kalatzis adds.
"We have several products that are highly successful in Mediterranean marine aquaculture… and we are also expanding in the North of Europe, focusing on salmon and trout."– Panos Kalatzis, Adisseo
Within Europe, Mediterranean aquaculture is one of Adisseo's key markets, but the company also works with clients in northern Europe and has plans for expansion, Kalatzis says. "We have several products that are highly successful in Mediterranean marine aquaculture, such as Sanacore® GM, which promotes fish growth by modulating gut microflora. And we are also expanding in the North and East of Europe, focusing on salmon and trout."
Among their projects related to salmonids, Kalatzis highlights Aqualyso®, a lysophospholipid-based feed additive which Adisseo researchers have recently shown improves feed intake in farmed salmon. "We found important effects of this product in feed intake and functional improvement in salmon," he says. "Aqualyso® favours the conversion of nutrients into weight gain while showing a less-reactive intestine and liver condition in the fish."
The science behind aquaculture and feed remains a passion for Kalatzis, who is proud of the work Adisseo does in rooting its product developments in scientific research findings.
"For me, coming from an academic background is very helpful, because Europe is a market which puts a lot of attention on scientific information and scientific research. Most, if not all, of the companies have R&D departments that evaluate different products, different solutions, and they conduct their own research for new products and new solutions."
"I could not do my job if I was not sure that what I'm saying is proven by research."– Panos Kalatzis, Adisseo
Research knowledge also helps ensure effective communication with clients, Kalatzis adds. "My technical background means I can support and understand what I'm talking about with customers."
"It is also a matter of personality," Kalatzis explains. "I could not do my job if I was not sure that what I'm saying is proven by research. Our solutions are worth investing in because they are scientifically proven to work, supported by field data and trials."
Adisseo is one of the world's leading experts in feed additives. The group relies on its 8 research centers and its production sites based in Europe, USA, China and Thailand to design, produce and market nutritional solutions for sustainable animal feed. With more than 2,650 employees, it serves around 4,200 customers in over 110 different countries through its global distribution network. In 2022 Adisseo achieved a turnover of 2.04 billion euros. Adisseo is one of the main subsidiaries of China National BlueStar, leader in the Chinese chemical industry with nearly 12,370 employees and a turnover of 7.4 billion euros. Adisseo is listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.