Project Management

Fish Poop-ortunity

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Richard Maltzman
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I read this article in the Cape Cod Times about a project to reshape a company’s business based on the effects of COVID-19 and it inspired this post.

As you know, in our project management parlance, risk has two sides – a sort of Janus, two-headed being.  It is threat, of course, the way most people view risk, but also opportunity, the positive side of risk.

As I tell my students, always imagine what would happen if something goes “horribly right”.   I actually coach students to develop a list of threats and “flip them” and then do the same for opportunities.  It’s surprising how this actually generates more thorough and thoughtful risk identification.

So in this case, a firm – Blue Stream Aquaculture, is facing the threat of COVID-19.  Sales of their farmed fish were down.

Then came a wave of fish poop.

Or at least a wave of ideas involving fish waste.  Blue Stream Aquaculture is a hatchery that raises brook, brown, rainbow, and tiger trout.  Their sales were cut in half by the effects of COVID-19, as restaurant eaters were instead staying home and ordering pizza.  Or whatever.  But they were not in restaurants ordering fish.

Paraphrasing from the article, Keith Wilda and Jim Malandrinos own three farms altogether.  One in Turners Falls, MA, raises warm-water Barramundi. Blue Stream Aquaculture New Hampshire and the West Barnstable (Cape Cod, Massachusetts) farm raise trout. Between the three locations, they had 1.6 million fish when the pandemic hit. 

They decided that they could market their fish waste elixir, collected from the closed aquaculture system in West Barnstable. Wilda has 30 years of experience in hydroponics, and when he tested the fish waste elixir on his lawn and vegetables, the results were amazing. For example, his tomatoes had never grown so well.  Below is a photo of two basil plants, one grown with, and one grown without the fish elixir.

Turns out that the high level of micro activity in it does the trick.  It is full of (helpful) bacteria and fungi, protozoans, amoebas and freshwater diatoms, which make it a great soil conditioner and fertilizer.

The company cleverly avoided the temptation to use the brand name, FishPoo® and instead developed a line of products under the name Fish Brew™, which includes soil conditioners called Bold Flo™, Epic™, 'Rise and Thrive' and Hydrolysate, a fertilizer. 

They have worked with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts because of the environmental benefits of the product line, and Massachusetts has helped the firm switch over to solar power.

You can read more about the company here, and look at the sustainability elements of Blue Stream’s mission here.

My coaching for project managers:

  • Take on the Janus view of risk
  • There may be a silver lining – even on fish excrement.
Posted by Richard Maltzman on: September 30, 2021 11:22 PM | Permalink

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Thank you for sharing, very interesting and inspirational.

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If we do not succeed, then we run the risk of failure.

- Dan Quayle