The following letter was sent to IntraFish by Jennifer Bushman, a marketing consultant who has worked with salmon brands Verlasso and Kvaroy, among others, in response to the column " Why are these people representing the aquaculture industry," written by Executive Editor John Fiorillo.

What we all can agree on is SXSW’s immense potential as a platform to educate and inform the opinions of the thought leaders, policymakers, and writers who wield the power to reshape public opinion on aquaculture and move the industry forward.

My goal for the 2019 panel, the 2020 conversation and the one planned for March of this year has always been to bring the conversation about aquaculture to an audience outside of the industry – with voices they know, they can relate to and trust.

As with any panel or presentation, the first thing that I ask is, “Who is the audience?” Let’s say that the audience will be mainly younger entrepreneurs, an energetic speaker who has fresh ideas and is known for pushing boundaries would be a better option than an academic speaker. A presentation to Google Food Labs, for example, looks very different than the one at Seafood Expo North America.

SXSW has hundreds of submissions for every track, and the panelists will make or break a submission. Including diverse and unexpected perspectives from people about the aquaculture industry has proven to be both necessary and impactful in sharing the industry’s story and larger mission with SXSW attendees. For 2021’s panel, I partnered with Rob Johnson and his team at Sea Pact to select the panelists.

Here is why we chose these “Unlikely Champions of Aquaculture” to lead the conversation.

While Alexandra Cousteau has made a pro-aquaculture statement in the past, the reason we selected her is for her long-standing legacy and commitment to environmental health. She and her family’s voice represent decades of ocean conservation stewardship. Her grandfather stated the famous quote that the aquaculture industry has repeated countless times: "We must plant the sea and herd its animals using the sea as farmers instead of hunters. That is what civilization is all about – farming replacing hunting.” Through her work with Oceans 2050, Alexandra is widely respected for her thorough knowledge of aquaculture, and her global media work makes her an articulate champion in front of a SXSW audience.

David E. Kelley brings a swagger to this space in a way that no one else can. Having invested years of research and millions of his own dollars in a company that is now the largest trout producer in the US, his drive, charisma, and credibility would make him ideal for answering the

“Why aquaculture?” question and bringing this group of influencers and media on board. His deep understanding of the scientific research and technological innovations in aquaculture can also showcase aquaculture's role in sustainably feeding the world.

Sarah Redmond was chosen because she represents the future and the story of regenerative aquaculture as a small-scale farmer with heart and intention, which is oftentimes missing in commodity-based aquaculture. I speak frequently about the provenance and the story behind what we do, and Sarah can authentically convey this and connect to the spirit of this demographic and what they value. A seaweed farmer can open the minds of even the most doubtful of aquaculture skeptics.

Finally, Andrew Zimmern has created a narrative for this industry that has largely gone under-appreciated.

From his work in moderating aquaculture panels that highlight advancements in this sector to sharing his extensive tour of a salmon farm with his 4 million social media followers, he knows how to share shift perspectives on the topic.

A four-time James Beard award-winning chef who is one of the greatest influencers of our time in the food community, Andrew is also the only reason why aquaculture has a platform at SXSW.

Year after year, I submitted on various topics regarding aquaculture to no avail. When he had been invited to host his own series of panels for 2019 by the festival organizers, I asked him to spotlight aquaculture in one of them, and he graciously opened that door for us.

Ultimately, picking the right people for a panel at the right time is key. There are countless speaking opportunities for the types of conversations that John and others have mentioned upon the publication of his op-ed.

SXSW is not an audience where a panel consisting solely of executives from aquaculture companies would be most effective. There is room at the table for advocates of a sustainable seafood system regardless of their stature within the industry executive line-up.

This esteemed group has the respect of an international audience and the ability to attract new voices and minds to support aquaculture on our behalf. When we select the right speakers for the right audience, not only will we fill seats and educate that audience, but we will also create a meaningful dialogue that will drive true impact and action.