SINGAPORE — When Barramundi Group was founded in Singapore in 2008, the goal was to rewrite the story of traditional aquaculture by bringing responsibly-raised barramundi to the world. Thirteen years later, the company is another step closer to that vision.
After successfully listing on the Euronext Growth Oslo exchange in August, the company is now setting its sights on accelerating expansion plans in new markets such as the US, China, and Europe, as well as developing new products lines.
But why barramundi? “Barramundi has the potential to become the salmon of the tropics,” said Andreas von Scholten, Chief Executive Officer of the Barramundi Group, in a recent interview with Yahoo Finance Singapore.
According to him, not only does barramundi thrive in warm tropical waters, it is also suitable for large-scale farming. In addition, its clean-tasting and delicate texture makes it a versatile fish for the global palette.
With the global population projected to hit 10 billion by 2050, the group is rising up to the challenge. Over the next five years, they aim to grow their harvest by over three times to 7,000 tonnes and expand their ocean farms from six to 15.
Around 70 per cent of the global fish consumption is expected to come from Asia by 2030, and with farm sites in Australia, Singapore, and Brunei, the group is in the heart of the action. Here, it operates three sites in the Southern waters for farming, and a hatchery and nursery on St John’s Island.
On the nutritional front, a 170-gram barramundi fillet contains 35 grams of protein and is rich in essential vitamins and minerals. Its Omega-3 intensity is also on par with that of the Atlantic salmon and on average, has seven times more than other types of white fish.
The group sells its barramundi under two premium brands: Kühlbarra and Cone Bay Ocean Barramundi, and their B2B arm has enabled them to reach over 1,600 restaurants, hotels and retailers globally. Locally, they are at over 100 retailers, and 350 restaurants and hotels.
The quest to further develop sustainable aquaculture is what led them to list in Oslo. “Norway is one of the global frontrunners when it comes to sustainable practices, and listing there meant being able to tap investor knowledge and industry familiarity at the largest seafood exchange in the world,” said von Scholten.
The company also signed a partnership with the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) Singapore in September to increase responsible seafood production in the country.
But what makes the group’s barramundi special? According to von Scholten, it’s their company’s integrated farm-to-fork aquaculture model that’s unique in the industry.
“We have the most comprehensive in-house capabilities, from vaccination to genetics, hatchery to farming and even production and sales, which allows us end-to-end ownership and control across the entire process. Consumers can be assured that their food is ethical and sustainable at every step of the value chain.”
While Asian consumers have yet to fully appreciate the benefits of responsibly-raised seafood, the tide is changing. In fact, the group is seeing a trend towards blue food (food derived from aquatic animals, plants, algae that are caught or cultivated in freshwater and marine environments), as consumers become more aware, educated and proactive about factors such as sustainability, nutritional integrity and traceability.
“Compared to other proteins, fish — farmed fish especially — is much less resource and carbon-intensive than land-based protein sources such as beef and pork,” von Scholten said. When making aquaculture purchase decisions, he advised consumers to look for the Good Aquaculture Practice (GAP) rating and certification or the Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certification — the world’s most trusted, and comprehensive third-party aquaculture certification programme and the hallmarks of ethically and sustainably sources of food.
The 40-year-old is married to a fellow Dane whom he met during a work stint in Beijing and they have a 2-year-old daughter who was born in Singapore. He shares how the journey has been like for him.
You were originally from Denmark and have worked in various countries. What makes Singapore stand out?
It is a very well developed, safe, and centrally-located country, with high education level and a great talent pool both amongst Singaporeans and foreigners. It stands out as a great place to raise my kids given the level of safety, as well as high standards of health and education systems. With the sun all year round here, the weather is perfect for great sports outdoor activities like tennis, which I really enjoy.
Who or where do you take inspiration from?
My inspiration comes predominantly from good books and documentaries, but I’m also energised by spending time with people that I respect. One group of people that I am particularly moved by are those who deliberately take time out to be with their family, and actively prioritise raising their children to be the best they can be because it’s easy to be swept by work tides and to allow one’s career to dictate one’s life and schedule. I hold in high regard those who are able to strike that balance between their careers, families and hobbies.
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
When I was 15, my grandfather told me to “be true to thyself”, which I believe is derived from “To thine own self be true”, a quote from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. While I did not comprehend the full weight of his advice back then, it has always stuck with me. It wasn’t until the I got older did I really start to appreciate his wise words fully. This advice has since helped me make some very important life decisions.
Being in the industry, what’s your favourite seafood?
Barramundi, of course! I enjoy barramundi in many different ways, but my current favourite is oven baked and drizzled with lemon garlic butter sauce. I am a fan of all kinds of seafoods, and will often find myself having both barramundi and salmon in the course of a week. On special occasions, I will also indulge in lobster and oysters with friends and family.
What do you find most rewarding about what you do?
Making a difference. Especially when there is a potential to truly help solve some of the biggest global challenges of today, such as helping to close the protein gap with sustainable barramundi. As the sustainable barramundi industry is still in its infancy, the possibilities are endless and it’s up to producers like us to drive the industry in the best direction possible.
My work at Barramundi Group aligns with my strong personal conviction in the growing importance of aquaculture in the world, so being at the forefront of the action like this makes it a truly exciting time and a joy to go in to work every day.