TalentView: Zach Janiak


Article by Andrea Mujica Pereira

Our industry is building wonderful things for our world in general. Thanks to the diversity of talent and backgrounds involved in it, we can show you this. The aquaculture industry in the United States has been growing exponentially, and with-it opportunities for new talent.

Today's TalentView is the story of Zach Janiak, who has been in the industry for around 7 years now and has already demonstrated his growth potential. He works as Farm Manager with Hudson Valley Fish Farms, where he started as an aquaculture technician. We got the opportunity to learn a lot about his inspiring aquaculture story and we want to submerge you in it with us! Let's dive in!

Love for Fish

TalentViews may have recurring elements across stories. Some of them are environmental awareness, love for the sea, and love for the fish. When we asked Zach about choosing aquaculture as an industry to build a career on, his first words were "it was only logical, honestly." He says he always has had a love for fish, and to understand this love we have to travel a couple of decades to the past.

It all started with my father and grandfather. They were the ones that took me fishing, that's when I started to get out in the woods in the river, and just be in nature. It's a bonding thing between me, my father, and my grandfather. You are out in the water, and fish are just such cool animals, cool to be around. I was not only obsessed with fish when I started to look at what I am going to do in life, you got to do something you love. It just kind of fell altogether. Those two men in my life got me into that love for water and fish. And then it just exploded.

Zach was obsessed with fishing and fish. But that was not just it. When he started looking into what he would do in life he knew he had to do something he loved. For him, everything just fell together in aquaculture. He studied environmental science with an aquatic science concentration at Shepherd University. "I studied my junior year abroad, at James Cook University, where I took marine biology and aquaculture classes. The summer before my last semester, I spent some time in Damariscotta, Maine farming oysters, which was awesome." But that was just the beginning of Zach's story in Aquaculture. A lot more elements collided into making him fall in love with this industry.

Zach Janiak Growing in Aquaculture

After graduation, Zach knew he wanted to get more involved in aquaculture. He did an internship as a Research Technician at the Freshwater Institute. A research facility that supports the aquaculture industry through its research and expertise. And it was a place for Zach to gain a lot of knowledge and many of his skills. But especially mentors in the industry that to this day still have his back. "After James Cook and my time at the Freshwater Institute, I became obsessed with RAS. I had this realization that I was born to grow fish, and RAS is where it's at. Confirmed when I became involved with Hudson Valley Fish Farms. Walking into the Freshwater institute's facility and the HVF farms was like walking into Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory".

For Zach, what made RAS facilities his personal theme park was the innovation, sustainability, technology, and control happening in them. The problem solving that comes with establishing and maintaining a RAS facility is "challenging and stressful", he says. "But when you see your fish are doing more than well and that you are harvesting a premium product, you realize how satisfying and worth it is." So, now that he is at Hudson Valley Farms, what is he doing? How has it changed his career?

Hudson Valley Fish Farms

Before diving into that, who exactly are Hudson Valley Fish Farms? Hudson Valley Fish Farms are North America's fastest-growing land-based, commercial-scale fully sustainable steelhead trout farm. Their RAS facility produces around 1,200 metric tons per year. But as an added value, their facilities are implementing the latest eco-sensitive practices as well as technology to produce the best steelhead in the market.

Committed to food security and the environment, the company aims to protect the wild fish population while delivering high-quality products. Quality, recycling, and sustainability are values that are important to the company. But the use of advanced RAS technologies is just part of the formula to achieve that. The other part of the formula is the talented team and support it has built in the past 8 years.

The company is planning to expand and build more facilities to grow its operations. These expansions will not only mean the addition of new team members but the growth among the ones that are already a part of HVF. Zach has experienced this within the organization. He joined HVF in 2016 as an aquaculture technician. Less than 6 years later, he is the Farm Manager. Joining the farm from its beginning and growing along with it is something that Zach not only finds exciting but also overwhelming.

Hudson Valley Fish Farms and Zach Janiak

 I never imagined I would be where I am today this fast. I'd do anything to see this place be successful. Not only for the company but for the good of RAS as well. To be successful in this line of work your heart has to be in it completely. Part of farming is making personal sacrifices for your animals when necessary. Not everyone can put the farm before -themselves-.

RAS has such an innovative and growth potential, that for Zachary it translates into a great opportunity to constantly learn and evolve. And a great thing about RAS and its specifics is that is full of people avid for information and troubleshooting. Everyone is open to learning more and finding new different answers. For Zach, finding one answer is finding just one solution, as problems can have different ways to be tackled. With teams of skillful, resourceful, and practical people, this is always a fun task.

"In RAS there are still so many unknowns. And it is through teamwork we can find the answers. Upper management at Hudson Valley Fish Farm has always supported in-house research projects and advancement which I admire. Those projects and studies are not only fun to conduct, but also very educational for the team and the company. It opens the doors to investigation and problem-solving. I appreciate the support from my family, my team, and upper management, it has been tremendous. I'm surrounded by amazing people."

The Deserted Island Dilemma

Zach Janiak says that if he had to go to another industry and could take just one thing from the aquaculture industry is:

Passion. You got to love what you do. I've thought before what I would do if I wasn't fish farming. I am really big into music. Fish is my number one, but I always imagine music might be another one. And I think passion is something [he loves] and I have a lot of it. Not only here at Hudson Valley but just aquaculture, in general, is a cool thing. We are still learning a lot and will always continue to improve and modify. [The company] has also implemented a processing plant which has increased our sustainability and reduced our carbon footprint.  [which has] given us full control over the quality of our product.

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