At its heart, the role of the Head of Aquaculture must ensure we protect and enhance the Waitrose brand. Our client enjoys a reputation with customers as a small giant within retail. They are a relatively small player within the grocery sector, but they are a giant when it comes to creating and realising their ambition to produce great tasting food in the most sustainable fashion. As a customer, you pay a little bit more to shop at Waitrose, but there’s a reason for that, and that reason lies in the work we do to enhance their ethical and sustainability ambitions. It’s no wonder that Waitrose is overperforming in fish, with a 14% market share vs their 5% overall market share.
To protect and enhance, I must face two ways: into Waitrose and out to our farming partners. In reality, it’s a lot more complicated than that, because this interaction draws in a myriad of other players, including feed companies, academia, regulators, industry bodies, funding bodies, NGOs, veterinary specialists, specialist suppliers to the industry and more.
Aquascot’s Aquaculture team is responsible for ensuring we and our farming partners realise the Waitrose ambition as articulated in their Agricultural Strategy. We must convert that ambition into action on the ground across our farming suppliers, and with around 200 farms in the portfolio, that’s no small task. Each farming company has its own culture and its own preferred way of doing things, so a big part of my role is building relationships with people, from MDs to farm managers and staff and everyone in between.
Our on-farm Waitrose REP assessment, written and implemented by Aquascot, is a key plank in interacting with farming partners. We enjoy a unique position in the industry in visiting every farm every cycle and, as a result, we get to understand the challenges and triumphs on farms over time. We capture data on fish health and welfare, environmental impact, biodiversity, third-party certifications and human welfare, and the system is set up to encourage aspiration towards ‘excellence’. The REP was and still is a huge collaborative piece of work, involving many players to get set up and it has stood the test of time. It acts both as a window into the farming world and it promotes Waitrose and Aquascot values within.
As well as facing into Waitrose, our farming partners and the many supporting players in the industry, I also play my part in Aquascot’s Leadership Team. As such, I am responsible for contributing to the business beyond the Aquaculture piece and that manifests itself in the many initiatives underway here in Alness.