Benchmark women making a difference in aquaculture: Edna Erazo

Edna Erazo, Breeding Program Manager at Benchmark Genetics Colombia talks about how her views of the aquaculture industry have changed over the years, how we can attract more women to the industry, and how she enjoys the dynamics of working in the shrimp breeding program. 

What attracted you to the aquaculture industry?

When I began my studies in animal science, I thought that aquaculture was a good field to get into, as fish and shrimp are very prolific. My first interest was genetics, then aquaculture and combining them has been wonderful for me. Also, aquaculture represents a place of freedom for me because I like to be surrounded by nature and water – it’s the perfect combination.

What do you enjoy the most (and least) about your role?

The most is the people. I have great communication with the team, I’m really free to express myself and my ideas, obtain feedback, participate in decision making and I feel fully supported by my bosses. I also like the dynamics of the shrimp breeding program because we have regular new challenges. Another thing that I enjoy is the place where we are located, by the coast and the warm weather. The thing I like the least is when something unexpected happens and we need to start again, However, I guess that is just part of life.

Tell us about the team you work with.

I want to mention that it’s a very diverse group of employees, technicians and professionals in different disciplines. This makes our work very enriching and meaningful, and we can learn something from everyone every day.

What is your recommendation to other women joining the aquaculture industry?

I think the aquaculture industry is very interesting to work in. There are great possibilities, economically and professionally. My recommendation is you have to get involved, participate in training, learn everything you can, work hard, make relationships and don’t be shy, because aquaculture can offer great possibilities for personal development and professional advancement. I highly recommend it.

What does diversity mean to you?

Diversity is a big word, full of meaning for me. From a biological point of view, the possibility to find solution to challenges that life presents, from a cultural point of view I think diversity means the possibility for the development of society. It’s really, really important.

Checking the maturation tank

What did you think when joining the industry versus what you think today?

When I started, I was young, only 20 years old. I wanted to do research in genetics and apply it to aquaculture and I thought of it as a scientific career. However, I quickly realised it was an economically important industry in a field that has a huge environmental impact. There is a great commitment from the professionals within the industry involved to do our work in the most conscious way in accordance with the values that promote sustainability. We need to not only do new things and produce good food, we need to care about how we do it.

What could Benchmark® keep doing / start doing to attract women to the industry?

Every day there are more women interested in developing their careers in aquaculture. Making access easier through internships and thesis research is a good way to encourage this. In addition there are many other women in developing countries who work as small producers in charge of their productions. I think Benchmark could support the training of these women in good farming practices, economy, resource administration etc, directly or supporting NGOs that work with these groups.

Edna’s University graduation

Why is it okay to not be perfect?

Perfect doesn’t exist for me, because we are evolving every day, everything is changing all the time. I like to work consciously and be part of a team where we can evaluate, correct, and move forward. For me, working this way is good. Sometimes I wish success would come faster, but we need to be patient. I don’t believe in perfection.

What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you at work?

Every day funny things happen for me. I can’t remember specific things, but I can assure you there are lots of laughs with my colleagues. The kind of work we do here allows for fun moments every day.

Sampling in the farm

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I like to spend time with my family, my two daughters, my husband and a cat and dog. When we don’t have to stay home because of COVID we like to go out, for example, we go to the movies together. At home we play games and I like to cook with my husband. I also like to do yoga, listen to music and dance. I’m a terrible singer, but I do like to sing!

What’s your favourite meal?

Fish and vegetables (in different presentations) is my favourite meal.

What’s your favourite aquatic animal, and why?

Manatees. They are gentle, slow moving and peaceful. I like them so much.

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