Business Mentoring Programme Proves Valuable for Aquaculture Business in Fiji

In 2020 Pacific Ocean Culture (Fiji) were selected to be a part of the Pacific Trade Invest NZ’s pilot Business Mentoring Programme. The bespoke Programme is an accelerated 10-week course designed to fast-track export capable businesses into being export ready for the New Zealand market.

Philosophy Drives Business

Pacific Ocean Culture PTE Ltd is a leader in seafood production with a “pond to plate” philosophy. They follow best practice providing high quality products with great taste and are one of the Blue Pacific’s leading aquaculture farms.

Owners Cathy Joyce and Paul Ryan say, “We’re in aquaculture because we’re passionate about sustainability, responding to climate change and reducing the overfishing of the ocean.”

Starting Afresh in Fiji

Cathy and Paul had previous experience in aquaculture in Vanuatu as well as exporting product to Fiji, so for them they felt it was the logical next step.   

“It was a great opportunity for us,” says Cathy. 

“Having a base of operations in Fiji makes sense as it acts as a hub to other Pacific countries. The government incentives and initiatives supporting business development in aquaculture are also well worth it.”

The next eight years saw Cathy and Paul spending four years in research and development of a range of species and four years in the transformation of their current site to a commercial business. 

The production infrastructure of the site was established enabling our financial outlay to focus upon completing the transformation of the full production cycle “from pond to plate”.  

Some of the hurdles they were facing such as getting their packaging right for the retail market, building an efficient processing system and dealing with price competition from similar imports into Fiji.

Accepted on the Pilot Business Mentoring Programme

In 2020 they were recommended and accepted to participate in the pilot Business Mentoring Programme to help them firm up their packaging, to help further grow their business networks (which they were already working on with the PTI network), raise their business profile and sort out some of the logistical issues they were encountering.

Cathy says the PTI NZ Business Mentoring Programme appealed as a great opportunity to have an outside set of eyes over their business model and practices.

Working with PTI NZ, Pacific Ocean Culture received an individually tailored programme designed to address the needs of their business. Through one -to -one training and mentorship over the course of the ten weeks they covered off the disciplines required to be a successful exporter.

Changing Perceptions of Quality

Cathy says one of Pacific Ocean Culture’s biggest wins as a business has been turning consumer concept around to support buying local and readily available products.

“Historically, people don’t have the confidence in a product unless they see it exported first, then they become interested. If it’s good enough for export, it’s good enough for us.”

“We’ve been able to follow best practice, produce to international standards and raise the bar here, showing the world that Fiji can produce at a premium commercial standard.”

COVID Created Opportunities

Cathy says the Business Mentoring Programme couldn’t have come at a better time for Pacific Ocean Culture.

“As many have experienced, the world shut down in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We saw a drop in sales as the tourism hub and resort and restaurant market became virtually non-existent overnight due to the closure of international borders.”

However instead of worrying, the entrepreneurs took it as a good chance to have another look at their operating model and see where else they could expand their business.

“Our small footprint in retail became an asset during the pandemic. We were able to expand on this part of the business and now retail and distribute into a broader range of both premium retail outlets and chain supermarkets which we hadn’t done previously.”

“Although we’ve been impacted in sales, our ability to produce has not been hit. We grow all our stock here in Fiji and we have the technology and capacity to be able to flourish.

It’s not just about quality products however, Pacific Ocean Culture is also committed to empowering Pasifika women in business.

“Creating employment opportunities for local women has been an added benefit for us. The women have often been trained on rural farms in Fiji, and when they come work for us we teach them about food safety requirements and the different skills required in aquaculture farming and production.

“One of the key things we want our women to see, is their value and importance as an integral part of the business. We employ 80% female staff and have always had the philosophy of equal opportunity and a code of conduct being that everyone is treated the same and fairly.”

Pacific Ocean Culture’s Processing Team

2021 and Beyond

Trade Commissioner Glynis Miller says PTI NZ really believes in Cathy and Paul’s business.

“They’ve put in a lot of work and are really committed to the Business Mentorship Programme. We have included them in the second round because we felt there was more to be gained in the short term for Pacific Ocean Culture.

“We have worked with them around expanding their product range as well as their prawn ponds doubling in capacity by the end of the programme. This means Pacific Ocean Culture will be able to produce more due to their augmented allowing them being able to be more price competitive.  

Cathy says the experience from participating in the programme has been invaluable.

“Knowing that people are genuinely interested in helping you look at a range of angles and help to narrow down the key channels that would work from a business perspective was a valuable takeaway.

“We feel we can now offer not only service the local market at competitive rates but also exporting into the New Zealand market.”

Head to Pacific Ocean Culture’s website to read up more about the company and check out their product size availability.

If you are interested in importing Pacific Ocean Culture PTE Ltd products or for other trade enquiries, please contact:

Rohan Lord
Trade Development Manager
rohan@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz
021 791 476

For media queries please contact:
Anne-Marie Petersen
Marketing & Communications Specialist
amp@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz
022 389 9018

Previous Post

Survey Shows Increasing Optimistic Outlook in Pacific Businesses

  • Keep informed

    Subscribe to Pacific Trade’s newsletter and keep up to date with our news and views.