Thursday, May 27, 2010

The University of Stirling (Scotland)- MSc in Sustainable Aquaculture Business Management

In September 2010, I will have the incredible opportunity to undertake a Masters program at the University of Stirling in Scotland. One of the principal reasons that I chose this school was their Institute of Aquaculture, one of the leading centres for aquaculture research in the world. During the 11-month program, I will be studying under some big players in the aquaculture industry, and (if all goes according to plan!) I will graduate in 2011 with a Masters of Science in Sustainable Aquaculture Business Management.

I spent an exchange term in 2007 studying at Stirling, and I am very excited to return in a few short months. The previous experience that I had while learning at the Institute of Aquaculture was absolutely invaluable, which is helping to fuel my excitement for this Masters program: the professors are world-class, the facilities are state-of-the-art, and the students are genuinely passionate about getting involved with this industry and changing it for the better.

I hope to pursue a specialization in Business Management, as I believe that economic incentives will be the quickest and most effective way to get producers to make operational changes to improve environmental sustainability. There are several different production methods that are considerably more sustainable than conventional sea-pen farming, namely recirculation and polyculture. However, these methods are MUCH more expensive, both in initial capital investment, as well as expertise when it comes to set-up and management.

That is where the economics comes in: I believe that as time goes on and populations further develop a deeper concern for the environment, consumers will be willing to pay more for a product they are certain is grown in a sustainable manner. The main question is: HOW MUCH MORE ARE THEY WILLING TO PAY?? If the market will only support a 20% price increase between conventional (ie. open net-pen salmon) and sustainable (polyculture) farmed seafood, and it will cost 30% more to switch from conventional to sustainable farming methods, there is NO incentive for the farmer to switch (other than a sense of environmental responsibility, which most likely will not be enough). If, however, the increase in profit from sustainably-farmed products outweighs the costs of switching production, then the farmer now has both an environmental AND an economic incentive to switch over. THIS is how we will increase the sustainability of the industry, and THIS is how I want to focus my energies.