Katherine Bryar on a farm at Lanec in Ecuador.

Katherine Bryar visiting a Lanec's shrimp farm in Ecuador.

Photo: Katherine Bryar.

TalentView: Katherine Bryar

BioMar's Global Marketing Director and co-founder of Fed by Blue, Katherine Bryar is, most of all, an ocean and aquaculture advocate committed to helping farmers be "all they can be."

"I will always be a farmer's daughter." This sentence Katherine Bryar says almost at the end of our talk is surely the best summary of her career. A vital and professional journey in which, aboard marketing, she has traveled through different countries and industries, but has always done so with a very marked course: standing up for farmers.

It was almost a matter of time before that journey would also end up ocean-related. In addition to being a farmer's daughter, the Global Marketing Director of the aquafeed company BioMar and co-founder of the NGO Fed by Blue has always been "a water baby," as her mother used to call her. A swimmer and a scuba diver, she loves going underwater and seeing the world below.  "This is why aquaculture became so important for me. It was to ensure that the ocean continues to be a place I can bring my son and the world can continue to see the world below the surface."

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Katherine Bryar dives in at Forever Oceans' offshore fish farm in Panama. </p></div>

Katherine going down to see the fish at Forever Oceans' offshore fish farm in Panama.

Photo: Katherine Bryar. 

From a dairy farm in Australia...

When, like our new TalentView, you come from a dairy farm, the price of milk is everything. "A lot of how I grew up was the dinner time conversation was always about the price of milk," she recalls. Price fluctuates up and down and with it so does family life, determining whether there is a vacation that year or even if there are Christmas presents, so it's no wonder that one of Katherine's recurring thoughts was, "How do we get out of that situation?"

Then came university, and marketing made her realize that you could tell your own story and separate yourself from the commodity world through brands that created their own value. "I got obsessed with this decommoditization and finding new pathways for farmers to differentiate themselves," she says.

"I got this huge opportunity to join the Australian Egg Corporation as the marketing director." There, working for an organization where she was the advocate for farmers, she was able to confront the myths created by the marketing dollars of food manufacturers who wanted people to stop eating hot breakfasts to promote boxed cereals. Her tool? Science.

"It all started with eggs, like any good recipe. I worked with the science from Professor Don McNamara that had proven that eggs were healthy, and I brought that to the medical professionals, the Heart Foundation of Australia. They agreed the eggs were healthy and decided to give them the heart tick of approval, and then, of course, that ended the discussion in Australia." It took ten years but, as she explains, "the rest of the world was able to follow and dispel the myth of eggs and cholesterol."

Her work with eggs won an Effi Award - whose registered motto is 'Awarding ideas that work' - for long-term effectiveness. Afterward, Katherine Bryar left Australia to live in Singapore with her husband - who got a job there - and she went into consulting. "People just kept calling me and asking me to help them," she now recalls, "and it all seemed like important work so, I just kept working, and one of the calls came from Don Everitt of New Zealand King Salmon."

...to the global seafood industry

They called her, she explains, because they knew about her eggs work through the Omega Council in Australia. They also knew she was based in the United States at the time, and they were trying to figure out how to establish that market. "They were already in the U.S. market but without a value proposition, so they called me, and I worked with Don to create their strategy and helped with the formation of Ōra King."

"That led me into the seafood world," she tells WeAreAquaculture. After that, she worked with NGOs such as Monterey Bay Aquarium, Greenpeace, or Ocean Wise, doing various projects, and also worked on the 'Global Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue Standards', which ended up in the ASC Standard. She was also invited to Canada to explain to land-based fish farmers how they could create brands.

"They had technology that was quite expensive, if they were going to be able to make money from land-based farming, they really needed to be able to create brands and differentiate themselves from traditional farmers," Katherine Bryar says. That's how she got involved with Atlantic Sapphire. She stayed with them in the early years to establish the brand before moving to Denmark with an opportunity to join the dairy industry.

"That was where my family came from, so I took this opportunity to work for Arla Foods in Denmark to help with dairy." But she wasn't long there before seafood started calling her back, and that call was from BioMar. "Am I going to join a feed company? What's that all about?" she wondered. Then after some quick research, she realized the bottleneck for farmers to be sustainable was the aquaculture feed. "Of course, that ignited my passion for driving a better world for the farmers. So, that's how I ended up in BioMar. Carlos brought me in, and that's been my goal."

"Carlos" is Carlos Diaz, CEO of the BioMar Group, and the person "behind the idea of supporting aquaculture farmers," the idea that really attracted a dairy farmer's daughter to a feed company. He is also the one who gives her "a very long leash" where she manages marketing within BioMar but is also allowed to be an advocate for aquaculture and oceans, and to be able to expand and do side projects such as Fed by Blue, the NGO she co-founded and which these days is launching on PBS its first documentary series 'Hope in the Water', where she is a seed funder and the Technical Advisor.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Katherine Bryar at Agronutris, in France, with black solitary fly larvae. </p></div>

Part of Katherine's job is to get up close and personal with new raw materials redefining aquaculture feeds, here at Agronutris, in France, with black solitary fly larvae.

Photo: Katherine Bryar.

A strategy to hold for decades

"I feel as though my life’s journey has been to stand up for farmers. They are the most important people in our food production chain, yet they are the most vulnerable. Most are busy producing our food but they deserve a seat at the table and I’m happy to remind decision makers what life is like on the farm," she states. "It's been a full life," she adds, but there are still many miles to go on that journey in which Katherine Bryar has a shared goal with the company where she is the Global Marketing Director.

"A lot of the campaigns you see from BioMar like, the Sustainable Nutrition campaign, have got nothing to do with feed. We educate by showing a way of communicating aquaculture and differentiating seafood for our farmers," she explains. "We lead by example, we show that yes, this is the great story of seafood, and you can take those messages," she continues. "It's not just high nutrition, it's also low carbon, and that's the environmental story that needs to be told." And, how to tell that story? Again, with science.

"I hold a masters in marketing, which means I understand the science behind marketing, consumer or human behavior, the way humans think, and the level at which people are willing to accept and absorb knowledge," Katherine tells us. "So, depending on different target markets and different segments, it is possible to tweak the message so that people can positively engage with the topic. We are now at a unique time where perceptions around our food system, the ocean, and climate make it possible to reposition seafood as a contributor to people and planet."

We are now at a unique time where perceptions around our food system, the ocean, and climate make it possible to reposition seafood as a contributor to people and planet.

That's exactly what happened with eggs and to do that, to change people's perception, an insight that may have been there for decades, you not only need evidence, as she explains, you also need people who are willing to engage in this evidence. But those people don't necessarily want to hear that information from industry, they want to hear it from somebody who is classified as being more credible.

"We've got two recent huge bodies of scientific research from the UN 'High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy' and the 'Blue Food Assessment', compiled by 100’s scientists from all around the world, outlining the role of blue foods in our society." These are scientific facts, she says, and it is not coming from the industry, but it is necessary to elevate the facts, to take this information and embed it within people who want to know through those credible profiles, as she did with the eggs and the Heart Foundation.

"It is a longer way of doing things, but it will be more successful in the long term," she continues. "It will have long-term effectiveness because it is founded on science. You might say that I am a marketing scientist in that kind of way, we are building a strategy that's going to hold for decades."

"If aquaculture fails, BioMar fails"

Katherine Bryar is the Global Marketing Director of the global leader in sustainable aquaculture feed, a company that, as she said, leads by example and aims to educate farmers on how to get the sustainable seafood message across. The task seems neither easy nor small. How does she do it?

"I cannot do it alone," she tells WeAreAquaculture. "We have a fantastic sustainability team. We have a leader with Carlos that is driving us completely in the right direction and keeps us on track, and then, we have an organization that is full of amazing experts. Nobody in BioMar is not exceptional in the position that they hold."

A company "full of scientists" in which she is "just the translator of their wonderful work." That is her gift, translating their work into simple messages and concepts that everybody else can understand. When she joined the company, things were already going well. "We're still doing all the same things. They were just relatively quiet about it," she says. "Then they hired this noisy Australian who came in and decided to talk about everything to everyone," Katherine jokes.

As she constantly repeats during the talk, without the work of her colleagues she would have nothing to say. BioMar was created by Danish trout farmers, driven by the purpose of securing the future of aquaculture. "That's the difference between BioMar and other feed companies, is because if aquaculture fails, BioMar fails." It is a mutually beneficial relationship. "We're here to make sure that we do everything we can to help them do everything they need to be able to bring nutritious food with the lowest impact to the market."

"We are doing what we can, where we can, with what we have to give to ensure a better world from at least the aquaculture position," Katherine Bryar continues. This includes her participating in projects such as Women in Caribbean Aquaculture (WiCA), or others such as a UN-sponsored Blue Foods Partnership project in Ghana that seeks to bring aquaculture to those areas where the population is most in need of blue foods to create nutrition and food security for the growing population.

These are projects that go beyond BioMar's relationship with their farmer clients. Its work - Katherine's work - there, is to help in the responsible expansion of aquaculture into these areas. "We are just guides, mentors, and enablers for them to become all they can be," she explains. "We must start to think in this holistic way, and in BioMar this is how we think."

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Katherine Bryar at the UN Ocean Conference 'The Importance of Aquaculture'.</p></div>

Participating as a speaker at the UN Ocean Conference 'The Importance of Aquaculture'.

Photo: Katherine Bryar.

"It's time for some hope"

She views marketing in the same holistic way. "We need to work closely with the ocean organizations and NGOs to make sure that we're on the same agenda. So, my role in those things is making sure that seafood and aquaculture is mindful of what's happening within the ocean space as well." Everything is interconnected, the ocean, aquaculture, those places where blue foods are essential to avoid famine in the future.

There is a lot of good to tell about responsible seafood, but no one was doing it in a global way and, worse, there was the global divide between farmed vs wild seafood which added to the fragmentation. From that fact, which she and her two co-founders, Jennifer Bushman and Jill Kauffman Johnson - both from the industry - discussed in an informal conversation a few years ago, it was born Fed by Blue.

"If not us, who?" they asked themselves. So, the three got together and recognized that even with such powerful tools as the 'Blue Food Assessment' or the 'High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy', there was a lack of communication and understanding about what the seafood industry was really about.

"We were kind of sick of all the doom scrolling. Everything is evil, everything's bad, the planet's going to die… and we thought it was time for some hope. It's time to understand that there are people who every day have dirt under their nails making a difference, and those stories need to be told so that these initiatives can be magnified," Katherine Bryar says. And that's how they thought of making their own documentary about seafood. They wanted to bring the whole blue foods movement together, showcase the variety of initiatives happening, and the vital role that seafood plays in our society today and can play tomorrow.

The idea is now a reality and 'Hope in the Water' is premiering June 19 on PBS along with a cookbook, and an app on the way - a kind of seafood scout to identify where to find responsible seafood available.

"We all three of us are still probably in shock about how far we've come with this," Katherine acknowledges. There was a casting in which they expected to find about 300 stories to make their selection, but more than 1200 came in. Their production company Intuitive Content dwindled that down to the 300 initially proposed, and so on down to the three-part documentary series coming out, showcasing 3 stories in each episode - all of them vetted not just by PBS but also by Jim Leape at the 'Blue Food Assessment' for accuracy on information and aligned with the science -, starting in the U.S. before going international.

That message of hope is something Katherine Bryar shares personally. Her optimism for the future is a constant throughout her discourse on the seafood industry and aquaculture. "I only have a bright outlook for the future to be honest. I think a lot of the hard work has already been done. We just got to live up to the promise of seafood, and the promise of the industry, by embracing the innovations and technologies that will get us there.”

She truly thinks the industry can already sense a changing momentum out there. "When the pendulum finally switches to our side, we're going to be in a much better position than other protein sources and that day will come, and I very much do look forward to that day, then I'll feel my job is done and I can retire from aquaculture."

She wouldn't be here, she says, if she didn't believe in this industry and wasn't passionately driven to continue to ensure that farmers are treated the right way, are a success, and are enabled in the best way possible. It's no wonder that, in concluding the interview, Katherine confesses that she finds it difficult to separate her professional life from her personal life, so in the future, she just wants to continue to be an advocate for aquaculture and farmers, to help them be all they can be.

"And then, I'll worry about the rest after that. Maybe there is time for retirement, maybe there's another farmer that needs help somewhere."