Benchmark women making a difference in aquaculture: Ann-Kristin Skaugvold

Ann-Kristin joined Benchmark Genetics Salten in 2020 as General Manager. Benchmark Genetics Salten is the most advanced land-based facility for production of salmon ova in the world, located in Northern Norway. Ann-Kristin discusses the unique expertise of the team at Salten and how a temporary position in the aquaculture industry turned into a career lasting 17 years.

How did you come to work in the Aquaculture industry?

By chance. After high school, all I wanted to do was to get a job. I lived in Sweden at the time but wanted to move back to Norway. Then I got a call asking if I would like to take a temporary position at a new hatchery. I accepted and the temporary position ended up lasting for 17 years! It was 17 great years of learning about fish farming, and I still have the feeling of being in the right place in terms of having an interesting job, where I learn something new every day.

Tell us what your job involves?

There are so many different tasks and I’m involved in various projects. Being the general manager means responsibility for the entire business, and ensuring that the employees have the expertise and skills necessary to carry out what has been planned. Regularly attending meetings and producing reports is also an important part of my role.

Tell us about the team you work with.

There are about 30 employees, including apprentices. They are an absolutely amazingly talented bunch. Not many people in the world have experience of what we do at Salten, so the expertise here is unique. It’s a nice group of people, who want to do the best for the company.

What excites you the most about your role?

To be part of this great organization and provide excellent ova to our customers.

Do you think aquaculture is a good industry for women to work in?

Yes, absolutely. When I started working with aquaculture it was a lot of manual handling of both equipment and fish. We filled the feed silos manually and the bags weighed 35kg. I saw it as good exercise. Today, most of the handling is automated. However, at our site, there is a lot of heavy work, so it requires that you are physically strong and work with your body in the best possible way. It’s not always easy to achieve, as there is a lot of demanding working positions during the day. We are actively looking into better ways to work and also find equipment that can make the heavy tasks easier.

Who is a female leader in the industry / or broader you consider inspiring?

I very rarely think about gender when admiring what certain leaders have managed to achieve. I really hope that all women experience equal opportunities in terms of leadership positions.

What do you think are the most important issues facing the aquaculture industry?

I am concerned that the industry is overly ambitious in terms of what can be achieved. I’m not sure about all production taking place on land, I think it is a waste of resources, also the salmon is adapted to the life in fjords. We also really need to solve the challenges with lice and diseases.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Be kind. As simple as that. Works everywhere.

What are the most important qualities you can have when interacting with others in the workplace?

From my point of view, listening and being accommodating is important. Making time for a chat with my co-workers. I hope to create pride for the job they do and make them feel important.

What do you think your spirit animal would be?

It must be a large lion lying at the top of the rock and controlling its herd.

What is your favourite aquatic animal, and why?

I feel like I have to say salmon. Not only because I work with salmon but also because it is an amazing animal with characteristics that are unique and that we have managed to adapt to a good life in farming.

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