TalentView: Pablo Albistur

Pablo Albistur, Farming Manager at Camanchaca, on a salmon farm. Photo: Pablo Albistur González.
Pablo Albistur, Farming Manager at Camanchaca, on a salmon farm. Photo: Pablo Albistur González.

Terms such as structure, control, strategy, order, or efficiency appear continuously in Pablo Albistur's calm speech. It seems difficult to link them to anything resembling passion until Camanchaca's Farming Manager does it naturally when he talks about the challenge that brought him to aquaculture. Because, in addition to a headhunter with good eyesight and family plans, it was that, an uncommon challenge, "a much more passionate issue", that brought him to this sector seven years ago. 

He came to Camanchaca later, just one year ago. He did it with a commitment, to lead the company's production, but also with a conviction forged throughout his career: "in any productive industry, in the end, the company's performance is made by people". Devoted to technology, or rather, to all its possibilities to improve the salmon farming business and make it more sustainable, Pablo starts each of his working days talking about people. A small gesture that is actually a big sign of what moves this biochemical civil engineer who left the mines to see salmon grow and help feed the world.

From north to south, from land to water

At the beginning of the talk, Pablo Albistur tells us that, unlike people who are very clear about what they want to do with their lives after university, he is "of the 99.9%, who did not have it so clear", but "one sees his personal and professional tastes and expectations as opportunities arise". So, when he finished university, and after a couple of short-term jobs, he found his first great opportunity at Codelco, the national copper company in Chile and one of the largest in the world. There, thanks to his degree in biochemical engineering, he began his career working mainly in innovation. "It was to set up a project, to lead a high-investment project in complex areas, 8200 meters above sea level, with a lot of snow, with a lot of extreme weather", he tells us. "It went very well, I won some awards at the corporate level of the company, and I moved on to the next stage of innovation, which is always to develop technology, validate it, and then look for a business model to incorporate it into your value chain". His role became to incorporate the technologies that were emerging in all disciplines into the division's development plan. "I had to learn about mining, metallurgy, electrical and it was super cool", he says. He realized that he liked learning new things and being comprehensive.

Later, he moved to the sustainability area because the company "was very old in its facilities, therefore, it was necessary to reinvest in the sustainability area to raise a project to solve this environmental vulnerability". But he began to feel bogged down so, once again, he did not hesitate to take advantage of the opportunity, which this time came in the form of a corporate talent development plan. That decision took him to the north of the country, to a city that didn't offer much for family life, but still without children, Pablo and his wife knew it was "a very good place to go and learn for a few years". It was there, and just as Codelco was offering him an interesting new position, that a headhunter knocked on his door telling him about the fishing and aquaculture industry and a position as operations production manager at Blumar.

"I wasn't so sure that this was my line of development and I started to think about it", he says, but the headhunter insisted. "He told me several times, asked me for several meetings and I started to make sense of two things: one, the improvement in quality of life for my future family, at some point I knew we had to leave the north because we did not like the idea of settling there as a family; and the other was that salmon, or aquaculture, is the second export activity in Chile". The first is mining where, after almost 10 years, he had done well and was happy, "but the truth is that not many professionals have the opportunity to get to know the two largest activities in the country". That infrequent challenge ended up convincing him. "The monetary conditions were not favorable, because after all, being in the north, in mining, the salary levels are higher, but here the promise was different, the challenge was different, it was a much more exciting issue and the truth is that I was attracted by that, and well, I made the decision. I resigned and we came to the south".

Pablo, during his time in the mining industry in northern Chile. Photo: Pablo Albistur González.

Data & Sustainability

It is clear what the Chilean salmon industry brought to Pablo Albistur, but what was he offering in return? "I came to the aquaculture industry where there were a ton of things to do that hadn't matured yet", a young, 30-year-old industry that could learn a lot from the mining industry. "The whole production industry, whether mining or food production industry, has similar problems", he says, "you have to manage people, you have to standardize processes, you have to look at the process in an orderly, standardized way, metrics, traceability, a thousand things". As the headhunter was able to see, his training and experience in management, planning, and implementation of new technologies had a lot to offer. An experience that, increased and refined over seven years at Blumar, brought him to Camanchaca as Farming Manager in August 2021. He came for his management and planning skills, but also to undertake the technological improvements the company needed.

One year later, he is "enthusiastic" about this technological development and the lines they are working on right now. Big data to "generate this complete integral traceability, from the cradle to the grave"; Artificial Intelligence to assist in the production process (assisted feeding or counting of micro-algae, for example); and, also, business intelligence in the commercial field to "leverage the benefit". Once all this data has been obtained, it is time to "turn it into business", use it daily, standardize it and structure it to give it meaning so that, from unique and accurate data, attributes can be generated that will help to optimize the crop, but also to offer the transparency demanded by the markets. What used to be an additional value is now a requirement. "Thousands of fillets are processed in the plants every day, and you have to know where this fillet comes from, what it brings, what is its history, what is its… its footprint in the background". A hard work that in turn brings with it the opportunity to put a differentiated product on the market, "a special product that I will be able to identify", a sustainable product.

Today, Camanchaca is one of the leaders in the Chilean industry in terms of sustainability and community development. "We have a very strong team in the area of sustainability, we have very strong ties with the communities surrounding our activities, in general, we are strongly committed to a policy of great transparency and openness with them, where we share visits, we share data, and we also become part of their development challenge, of solving their problems". The Chilean aquaculture industry generates a lot of employment in the southern part of the country, exports more than $5 billion, and does not want to be unknown to its compatriots. On the contrary, as Pablo told us in our article on the aquaculture public image, they have to find a way "to get the message across".

Pablo navigates a boat, on his way to one of the farms. Photo: Pablo Albistur González.

People, the core of the productive industry

This concern for the surrounding communities is a true reflection of Camanchaca's culture concerning people, something with which its Farming Manager feels very identified. "I have a special sensitivity to the people issue, and the truth is that I believe that, in any productive industry, the company's performance is ultimately determined by its people. It is a much-used phrase, very cliché, very hackneyed, but it is really true", he says. "It's so easy to fall into operational, productive, and financial goals, it's so easy to get clouded by that, because we all work for that, we study for that. But we must not lose sight of the fact that, before that, there is an ethical and moral duty of people, which is precisely to be concerned about well-being".

"We must always start our day talking about people", Albistur continues, "about safety, about how comfortable they are, what they are lacking, before we start talking about production, about harvest, about fish mortality… before we talk about anything, we should always get into the habit of talking about people and always put them first. I think that's a small gesture, but it's really a tremendous signal to everybody". And, unsurprisingly for a manager, behind that philosophy, there is a plan.

"Everything you have to worry about has to have a plan. How we work, how we manage talent, how we develop competencies, how we select and how we hire, which is very important, and how we finally motivate people and here having good leaders is also key". Plan, work on leadership and, from time to time, "take the temperature, measure the climate, measure what is happening within our organization". As he sees it, if the industry, any company, has competent, motivated, empowered people, and respects common minimums such as diversity or gender equality, "it won't be impossible, but the chances of it going bad as a team performance are quite low".

Pablo Albistur González, Farming Manager at Camanchaca. Photo: Pablo Albistur González.

A passion for challenges

Perhaps because he likes to be comprehensive, when we ask Pablo about the future challenges of the industry, so many come to his mind that it is difficult to summarize them. Broadly speaking, Camanchaca's Farming Manager thinks about the challenges associated with climate change and how to adapt to this new order where environmental conditions change from year to year. Also, the sanitary side of the farms and how to face the challenges of sea lice by improving the toolbox with more and better technological solutions. And he does not forget the challenge posed by the demand, which continues to increase, and we must try to cover.

If we talk about Chile, he claims it is about continuing to work towards sustainability, at all levels, and also in the incorporation of new technologies from all angles to make them environmentally, commercially, and socially profitable. With new communication options thanks to 5G, there will be the possibility of having online data stored in the cloud, and that will help centralize decisions. "We start to dream and start to visualize opportunities", he says.

As for him, Pablo identifies his challenges with those of Camanchaca. He has only been with the company for a short time, but he is fully committed to what brought him there. "We have great challenges in the technological area that need to be consolidated. I am working full on that; I am also deliberately very dedicated to implementing a mining-standard occupational health and safety management model; and also to standardizing and better structuring processes to be able to achieve the expected performances". In short, his Farming Manager is dedicated to "the challenge of making Camanchaca one of the best producers in Chile, or the best, why not say it".

Pablo on a visit to Lofoten Islands, Norway. Photo: Pablo Albistur González.

"I think I have a nice challenge for a couple of years and after that, I don't know, I'm not in a hurry", he says. As we pointed out at the beginning, Pablo Albistur is a person of calm speech, a balanced guy who, behind all that order, control and planning, hides a passion for challenges. "It's entertaining stuff", he sums up. And so, tomorrow, or the day after if it is the weekend, driven by the energy his two young children give him, he will get up early again to go to work in something he likes, in a sector, aquaculture, where he did not imagine himself as a student, but where he now feels "super good, super happy".

About Camanchaca

With more than 50 years of experience feeding the world from the sea, Camanchaca operations are developed along the Chilean coast in three business areas: salmon, cultivation, and fishing. With an integrated production chain and high-quality standards, they are leaders in both, the salmon aquaculture industry and the cultivation of mussels and abalones in Chile. They are also pioneers in the Chilean fishing industry, with a focus on products for human consumption. Under a strict commitment to the environment and society, Camanchaca currently exports fish and shellfish to more than 50 countries. Their total sales in 2021 reached US$640 million.

Related Stories

No stories found.