Back in October 2018, RSPCA Approved salmon producer Huon Aquaculture took out the top award for Australian agriculture, as the first seafood producer to win Australian Farmer of the Year ever! Six months on from their award we caught up with Frances Bender, Huon Co-Founder, to see how it has shaped their activities.
How does Huon feel being awarded such an accolade has impacted the company’s ability to showcase its leadership?
Being recognised as Australian Farmers of the Year has meant that we have even more eyes on us—we think this is a good thing as it has helped us reach even more people across Australia and the world!
The biggest thing that we have worked hard to communicate is that we are farmers first and foremost, as such, we have a responsibility to provide the best possible welfare outcomes to our fish.
This is where our work with the RSPCA Approved scheme has been really beneficial as it has helped us to highlight that fish have feelings, that we should all care about where our food comes from and how it is produced.
With the recent fires in Tasmania, what strategies has Huon conducted to manage fish welfare?
As many would know, we recently had a rather scary period in southern Tasmania where we faced down the barrel of a large out-of-control bushfire caused by dry lightning.
At times like this it is even more important to focus on fish welfare—they can’t evacuate like we can if the fire gets too close! Thankfully we have many very smart people working at Huon who, even in the middle of a crisis, take the time to ask questions and investigate whether we should be worried about things such as fire retardant runoff entering our waterways where we farm.
Fortunately, our investigations showed that there wasn’t anything to be worried about, but this forward thinking is a testament to how our focus on fish welfare actively shapes our company and the roles of the people within it.
Your sustainability dashboard is a fantastic way of providing transparency to consumers, what has the feedback been for Huon?
We don’t get a lot of feedback from consumers around our Dashboard and we think that this is a good thing—it means that they are getting all of the information they need straight from the source!
We are very pleased that online Dashboards have taken off as they are a fantastic resource which transparently communicates data directly to the community.
Nine months on from being recognised as the first brand to offer Australians RSPCA Approved farmed salmon, how do your employees feel being part of the scheme?
There is a noticeable sense of pride amongst many of our employees thanks to being recognised as Australia’s first RSPCA Approved salmon farmers.
We have found that a lot of people carry this with them like a badge of honour as they undertake their day-to-day job—seeing this makes Peter (Huon co-founder) and I incredibly happy.
We are always pleased to be able to highlight the achievements of our fantastic staff, and being an RSPCA Approved farmer is a real credit to our entire workforce as everyone played their part.
Can you tell us about any exciting upcoming opportunities at Huon?
You are the first to hear this; we are in the early stages of establishing a position titled General Manager of Sustainability. This brand new position will lead the development and execution of a broad-based, company-wide strategic sustainability initiative and integrating sustainability throughout the company. The position will also ensure that the company’s sustainability effort enhances business performance and supports the long-term interests of the company.
Change can be hard, but it can also be the best thing that ever happened.
Congratulations to Huon Aquaculture for being named Australian Farmer of the Year in 2018! To find out more about the RSPCA Approved standards for farmed Atlantic salmon, check out the video below: