Benchmark woman making a difference in aquaculture – Micaele Sales

This month’s Benchmark woman making a difference in aquaculture is Micaele Sales. Micaele started at Benchmark straight from University and currently works with tilapia fingerlings at Benchmark Genetics. Micaele talks about the most important issues facing aquaculture and what we can do to increase the number of women in the industry.

What attracted you to a career in the aquaculture industry?
I have a degree in Fish Engineering. I started my course in 2009 and quickly realized the aquaculture industry was a growing market with new opportunities. The demand for food is continuously growing and having the mission of producing sustainable protein is a noble task. I started out in a research center in 2011 where I worked with a production chain of several different species, from initial stages through to the final product. I helped with courses and training, and also field challenges, which really motivated me. Despite the work being repetitive, the routine is diversified. We have contact with a wide variety of people from different places, we implement different production systems, we adapt and reinvent ourselves, we overcome challenges, and in the end, we may contribute to people’s welfare and the environment by producing a high-quality protein in a sustainable way.

Tell us about your current role.
Today my work is linked to the production of tilapia fingerlings with superior genetics. This is the beginning of the production chain. My job is to directly contribute to enabling the fish industry to grow and solidify, and that is fascinating. I’m in charge of the quarantine technical operations in Benchmark Genetics Brazil where we receive the imports of broodstock from the Genetic Nucleus of Spring Genetics in Miami, USA. At the moment we are waiting for permission from the Brazilian government agencies to move a batch of fish to the farm, so I am in quarantine with them due to COVID-19 😊.
I also give support and inspect the internal processes of our multipliers, following the preparation of animals for breeding, mating, egg collection, reversal, growth, and loading of the animals for sale. I inspect the after-sale, carry out technical visits and follow the development of zootechnical performances with the final clients. I also present our product to future clients, supporting our commercial relations in Brazil.

When you compare your country to others, what would you say about diversity in business?
With current changes in society, more access to information, a greater visibility of inclusion guidelines and power for clients to question companies, Brazilian companies’ social commitment and diversity in teams has been boosted. Aligning speech with practice is still a big challenge, but more diverse teams are emerging to prove that equality and inclusion are essential for good results.

Who has supported you on your way?
All the people I met during my professional journey were each, inspiring in their own way. I started at Benchmark Genetics before graduating and here I stayed, so it was my first experience after becoming a professional in aquaculture. The General Manager, Hideyoshi Segovia gave me all the support to acquire experience and manage the assignments I have today. I accomplished my goals with a lot of effort, but I am sure that Hideyoshi’s support, as well as other colleagues from Benchmark Genetics around the world, was indispensable. We have a passion for what we do and working together makes it easier to go through difficult times.

Why is it okay to not be perfect?
We are humans. Making mistakes is part of learning. If we are afraid of going through frustrations, we will not take risks and evolve. The important thing is not to let mistakes defines us, and use them to make us better and always do what needs to be done with the utmost integrity.

What recommendation would you give to aquaculture companies to increase the number of women in the industry?
I see that today we have a different reality compared to some years ago. Women are increasingly consolidating their space in the industry and showing that competence doesn’t have anything to do with gender, which is not always easy in a predominantly male environment, especially when you are young as I was when I started. My advice is that companies believe in, and give opportunities to women; implementing policies of gender equality and providing a welcoming and participatory environment. Provide support instead of barriers.

What do you think are the most important issues facing the aquaculture industry?
With a more intensive production system, the sanitary challenges become bigger, together with emerging diseases. I am confident that the use of antimicrobials in an indiscriminative way must be fought, and the focus on biosecurity, animal welfare, health, nutrition and genetics may help us with this challenge. At Benchmark Genetics we are working with cutting edge technology in genetics, including disease resistance in our selection program in order to support the Tilapia with which we work directly. We must remember that all technologies contribute to a sustainable production. We must respect all the pillars.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
You may not be responsible for everything that happens to you, but you are responsible for the way you react to it. You will not always find prosperity, good people, and an easy path, but we can deal with that in a positive way so that we can change it.

Which decade do you love the most, and why?
The nineties. It reminds me of my childhood and is a lot of fun!

What would you have on your desert islands discs playlist?
I like good music of all the kinds, you know. And undoubtedly I would have lots of surf music, like Jack Jonhson and Donavon Frankenreiter to relax with by the sea.

Which hashtag would you give yourself?
I am keen to adapt to the circumstances I am in to maintain my well-being above anything.

What is your favorite aquatic animal, and why?
Sharks! They are beautiful, intelligent, strong, and free.

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