With a growing need for attracting young talent into the sector, Bergen-based salmon farming giant Grieg Seafood is seeing some success by offering the next generation a unique opportunity: the ability to stay closer to home and work in a high-tech, forward-looking sector.

A prime example is Julia Norris, 23, who serves as the feed manager at Grieg Seafood Newfoundland's land-based recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) facility, making her one of the youngest executives in the global sector holding the role.

The plant -- part of Grieg's ambitious growth strategy in the region -- is currently in the start-up phase, Norris told IntraFish, and her job is split between taking care of both the employees and, of course, the fish.

While generations of fishermen have been able to live and work in Newfoundland's remote, rural communities, that's changed, Norris noted, and Newfoundlanders of her generation usually have to move out of the province to find jobs.

"It is really not common at all to be in the position I am in, where I can live and work in my hometown," Norris said.

Norris is from Clarenville, Newfoundland, a two-hour drive from Marystown, where Grieg Seafood Newfoundland's RAS facility is situated. Norris' family lives around the Clarenville area, so the role has allowed her to stay close to home, and pursue her passion for fish.

"If you're interested in marine life, Newfoundland is the place for you," she said.

Finding your passion

Norris, whose always wanted to work outdoors, made her way to Newfoundland's Marine Institute of Memorial University, where she discovered to her surprise that aquaculture was her passion.

The fish don't take time off on the weekends, and neither can we

"I fell in love with land-based RAS production," she said. "I remember thinking, 'This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.'"

After graduating, Norris worked for Cooke-owned Kelly Cove Salmon for a year and a half at the company's hatchery in New Brunswick. When Perry Power, the director of the human resources department at Grieg Seafood Newfoundland, contacted her, she jumped at the opportunity.

"He asked me if I wanted to come home," Norris said.

The Cooke operation was several days from her hometown, and Grieg also gave her a path to move into a position as feed manager.

Julia Norris visiting Osland Settefisk in Norway. Photo: Julia Norris

Eastern Canada on the rise

The timing was right for Norris. In early 2020, Grieg acquired the Newfoundland operation from the Grieg family as part of a long-term strategy that could bring an additional 45,000 metric tons to the company's output.

In addition to Grieg's ambitions, rival Norwegian group Mowi established its presence in Eastern Canada with the acquisition of Northern Harvest in 2018. And of course, Cooke Aquaculture, which has been based in Eastern Canada since its founding, continues to grow both in the region and around the glove.

Julia Norris showing her love and affection for the salmon eggs during the first egg receival from Iceland. Photo: Julia Norris

'It's a rush'

It's a testament to Norris' passion for the job that her favorite work days are when the company receives its eggs from Icelandic supplier Stofnfiskur.

"It is a rush," she said. "To put them down and make sure they are alive after that flight from Iceland."

Norris shrugs off the challenges of being a 23-year-old manager.

"It can be a challenge if I let it be. But my staff is an incredibly good bunch, so that's not a problem," she said.

"There is a mutual respect between us. When I'm as young a leader as I am, I can't boss them around. Tasks must be a team effort, and that's how you achieve respect."

She also receives respect for her commitment. Norris describes herself as a "workaholic," but there's no place she'd rather be than putting in long days at the RAS facility.

"Aquaculture is a 24/7 job," she said. "The fish don't take time off on the weekends, and neither can we."