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Outlook 2017: Nova Austral CEO Nicos Nicolaides

In 2016, Nova Austral became the first Chilean company to produce salmon without antibiotics, and it aims to continue on that path in the New Year.

It was a year of consolidation for Nova Austral. The current management took over the company toward the end of 2014, and the company only started harvesting its own production in mid 2016.

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CEO Nicos Nicolaides tells IntraFish the key achievements of the company during the year, and the expected future developments.

What were the three most significant developments for your business in the seafood industry in 2016?

The results of our first harvests were excellent, we managed to produce the budgeted volumes and we also were able to do so without antibiotics or pesticides.

Nova Austral hasn’t used a gram of antibiotic in the last 24 months.

In addition, we succeeded in our goal to stabilize supply by harvesting and producing fish every month, so much so that we produced both fresh and frozen fish during the 52 weeks of the year. This is very important for our costumers of fresh salmon, because they are never short on product.

Another important aspect is that this continuous harvest and production allowed us to give some stability to our workers and suppliers, as they see that our plans go ahead and there’s always work.

This is especially positive in our case, because we operate in a remote part of the world, in a tiny little city in Tierra del Fuego, having a big economic impact in this community.

Besides, this helps us make progress in our work training programs, achieving better quality, hygiene and sustainability standards.

Looking ahead, what will be the three most important developments in 2017?

Regulation in Chile, despite its ins and outs and complications, has managed to get stability. Historically, when prices rose over 20 percent, stocking densities would increase approximately 30 percent and with that, health and environmental issues would also increase.

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However, stocking levels remained stable after prices went up in 2016, this is unheard of and is due to the new regulation.

In addition, Nova Austral has managed to be in the markets as a special salmon due to its origin, its natural quality, and our efforts in sustainability.

This, together with an almost unvaried global production, makes us believe we will see stable prices, which is very good. 2016 was a very good year in results and we hope this will continue at least until 2018.

Projections suggest global production will be stable, with a minimal growth that will allow us to see levels of around 2.25 million metric tons in 2018, similar to those seen in 2015.

In 2017, we will also see a very diligent Chilean industry, working towards sustainability and social acceptance.

It is also interesting that the industry decided to tackle the issue of antibiotic use. There are a number of initiatives between producing companies, laboratories, egg producers and feed companies aiming to farm fish that’s more resistant against disease without the use of antibiotics.

The results will take time to show, but this is the right way to work and we will see significant improvements.

What changes and developments do you expect your business to undergo next year?​

Nova Austral set the goal of supplying Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) all year round, meaning we needed to have a high percentage of our production certified, a very ambitious mark.

Well, we made it! From January this year, over 67 percent of our production is ASC certified and we can offer it to our customers throughout the year in both fresh and frozen formats.  

Very few farming sites in the world are able to achieve this and remain certified, especially due to sea lice challenges; an excessive use of treatment against sea lice pulls companies out of the program.

In the case of Nova Austral, we are leading a project with our colleagues from Magallanes to see if we can eradicate Bacterial Kidney Disease (BKD), the main disease affecting salmon in our region. We are working together with Sernapesca, Elanco, Cargill and all salmon farmers in the region to establish a working plan aimed at attacking the disease without antibiotics.

For our company, the greatest challenge in 2017 will be the construction of our own hatchery. We have made a $30 million (€28 million) investment and we hope to get the first smolts by the end of 2018.

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