Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The interview - Leon Günther, CEO, Aller Aqua, Zambia

Aller Aqua produce fish feed for freshwater and saltwater aquaculture.
It is a family owned company, with a long history. They have been producing fish feed for more than 50 years; making them one of the worlds most experienced fish feed producers.
We reported earlier this year the construction of the factory that will host the headquarters for Aller Aqua Zambia, of which Leon Günther is now the CEO.
Recently he said of the development, “The Aller Aqua Zambian factory is an industry-shifting investment in the Southern African aquaculture value-chain. This local aqua feed manufacturing capability will make international quality products available to the SADAC market with a delivery-time and customer support that has not been available until now.”
With nearly two decades experience in the stock feeds industry and nearly a decade of experience in the pet food industry specifically, Mr Günthers passion for aquaculture and aqua feed although relatively new, through this interview it is clear to see, that passions runs deep.

What is your background and when did you decide Aquaculture was a field you wanted to work in?
I have been in the stock feeds industry for more than 18 years and got involved with the pet food industry in 2008 with the manufacturing of dog food in Zambia on a very rudimentary basis. As time progressed the technicality of the extrusion process interested me more and more and I eventually ended up manufacturing dog food, cat food and different types of fish feed mainly for the pet food industry. Today I have developed a passion for the industry as it has the potential to outperform many others sectors in the animal feed industry in Africa.

What is Aller Aqua’s involvement with the ‘Blue Revolution’ in Africa?
With this investment in Zambia, Aller Aqua is leading the “Blue Revolution” in Southern Africa. Wild fish stocks have been decimated in Zambia due to decades of over-fishing.
Aquaculture is a sustainable alternative to wild-capture fisheries and indeed more environmentally friendly than beef, pig or chicken production in terms of lower water usage and lower CO2 output. The types of fish most commonly farmed in Southern Africa require no fishmeal, which alleviates any pressure on wild stocks.
The ingredients we use, primarily soya beans, maize and wheat, are produced locally, which is a boost to local economies and increases food security by lowering dependency on imported fish and meats. Through the work of our German R&D facilities and the availability of cutting edge equipment in the Zambian factory, Aller Aqua plays a leading role in the development of feeds with more efficient conversion rates, improved fish health and minimal environmental impact.

What is Aller Aqua’s response to a lack of raw materials and quality feeds, lack of funds and regulatory framework in Sub-Saharan Africa?
In Zambia, we are fortunate to have the major raw materials, maize and soya beans locally available. Animal proteins and other raw materials are sourced internationally.
Poor quality feed is a function of poor quality raw materials and equipment not adequate for the task at hand. Extrusion is of a very technical nature and more than often you find that dedicated equipment is not being used resulting in poor quality feed. I have found that in general, Governments are very receptive to investment in the aquaculture sector and are prepared to create a positive environment.
The challenge though is to overcome the lack of infrastructure development and bureaucracy.

Is there a particular goal you wish to achieve during your role as CEO?
I see Aller Aqua Zambia establishing a comprehensive footprint in Zambia as our first priority but at the same time we will have a focus to make our products available to neighbouring countries as well. There is huge potential in the region for growth and the limiting factor up to now has been the availability of quality aqua feed.

Is aquacultrue going to be enough of a sustainable feeding force to support the predicted population increase of 2.5 billion by 2050?
Most definitely.
With more mouths to feed, environmentally friendly protein production will become increasingly important. Tilapia fish, the most commonly farmed fish in Africa, take the lead with regards to other fish and terrestrial animals in that regard. Tilapia are omnivorous, which enables them to convert plant matter to animal protein very efficiently. This also makes tilapia fish an intrinsically affordable protein to produce, which is important in the African markets.

Can you talk to us more about Aller Aqua’s recent investment in Zambia and the “most advanced fish feed factory in Southern Africa”? How is work on the factory progressing and what difference will it make to the people in Southern Africa?
The investment made in Zambia is US$10 million with a capacity of 50,000 tonnes per annum in its current format. By adding a second extruder line, capacity will be doubled. It is a fully automated installation and the hand over date is planned for mid-August 2017.
Due to the plant’s scale and technology, along with Aller’s global quality assurance protocols, we will be able to produce more high quality feeds for the local market than was previously possible. That high quality feed at fair prices will enable local fish farmers to yield better results within their own businesses, thus improving their livelihoods and encouraging others to begin fish farming. This will be supplemented by an established and dedicated aquaculture training center where all customers and potential customers will receive training on Aller Aqua Zambia products and best-practice fish farming techniques.
In addition to facilitating aquaculture, Aller Aqua Zambia will create 75 direct jobs in the Siavonga area of Zambia and many hundred indirect jobs from the provision of raw materials.

Finally, why are conferences such as WAS 2017, Cape Town important for businesses such as yours?
It gathers all the stakeholders together over this period and allows the industry to have a view and understanding of what is happening in aquaculture in Africa. This event was a great opportunity to put Aller Aqua Zambia on the map and will most definitely leave a positive impression about aquaculture in Zambia and the effect it will have on the region.

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