Challenge: Collapse of a traditional sector
Solution: Seize opportunities, innovate and add value
The old saying "necessity is the mother of invention" could describe how Louisbourg Seafoods started in 1984. Jim and Lori Kennedy were both displaced fish plant workers following the collapse of the Atlantic ground fishery. The two recognized an opportunity where many did not. Through applied innovation they would begin processing value-added products from the resources readily available to them in the waters of Cape Breton.
The ability of owners to see the value in species diversification, in partnering with the IT community to modernize, and in investing in their employees allowed the company to prosper over the last 30 years. The company is now a major employer that sells their innovative products, inspired by new species, to markets around the globe.
"Innovation is what this company has always been based on, says Louisbourg Marketing Manager Jenna Lahey. After the collapse of the ground fishery in the early eighties, Jim and Lori took it upon themselves to create a company that employed many in the community."
While snow crab and mussels are common seafood options today, in 1984, they were products that were less common in the processing sector. As those markets took off, Louisbourg Seafoods began to look at other species that were readily available in the waters near their Cape Breton processing facilities. "We looked at what species were leaving Cape Breton and not being processed, says Dannie Hansen, VP of Sustainability for Louisbourg Seafoods. Then we looked at how we could create value with those species through innovation."
Today, species like sea cucumber, red fish, rock weed and seaweed are just some of the new types of products being produced by Louisbourg Seafoods. The ongoing partnership with government funding agencies has allowed the company to reduce risk while investing in R&D and new innovative technologies.
Another key part of the success has been the company's ability to put community at the centre of everything it does. Beginning in 2015, the company reached out to the IT community within Cape Breton. While people do not always connect the fishery and IT, the innovative high-tech processing equipment the company has adopted over the years means efficiency gains and retaining the services of local people with a technology background to service and manage it. By combining the tradition of the fishery with IT innovation, the company has found a formula that works.
The employees are also key to the company's ongoing success. Louisbourg Seafoods employs close to 500 direct and indirect employees through five companies located in Cape Breton. The company has invested significantly in the ongoing training and certification of its employees. The company says the certification has given employees a new pride about the work they do, creating even more engagement. The company has also continued to financially support the communities in which it operates.
"If we can have a healthy community, it's going to make our workforce healthier, happier, and more focus on the work they're doing, which ultimately improves production," says Lahey.
Community and partnerships go hand in hand, and partners like the Government of Canada recognize the importance of supporting small businesses in the region. With support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), the government is helping Louisbourg Seafoods research and develop new types of products from under-utilized and non-traditional species, like the sea cucumber, red fish, rock weed and seaweed. An investment of over $1 million is also helping the company create new technology such as an innovative system for storage and distribution for seafood to increase efficiency, capacity and holding times, maximizing marketing opportunities.
Louisbourg Seafoods Limited is a prime example of how innovation and resourcefulness fuel Atlantic Canada's economy, at home and beyond.
For more information on programs and services available to businesses in Atlantic Canada call 1-800-561-7862 or go to canada.ca/acoa.