ASC meets Sociedad Nacional Galapagos
The Ecuadorian shrimp aquaculture company Sociedad Nacional Galapagos (SONGA) received ASC certification for its cluster farms Bonanza Farm and Roblemar Farm. The certificate was handed over to SONGA by Guillermo Godiño, Commercial Director of Control Union Peru, during Seafood Expo Global in Brussels.
On that occasion, the ASC had the pleasure to meet and interview Rodrigo Laniado, CEO of SONGA, who told us what the ASC certification brings to his company.
Can you tell us about SONGA?
SONGA is a vertically integrated company in the shrimp aquaculture business. Started as a family business in 1968, SONGA was the first shrimp farm established in Ecuador and one of the oldest in South America. Today, SONGA comprises a total area of 140.000 m2, as well as a processing facility of 36.300 m2 with the capacity to process 125 tons per day. The company is one of the main farmed shrimp importers in Ecuador and it exports to different markets in Europe, Asia, and North America.
SONGA has been producing shrimp with a high attention to the surrounding environment for several years. Aquaculture certifications are essential components of the company’s production processes, which allow us to guarantee quality and safety to our customers. At present, SONGA has received ASC certification for 7 farms, all producing Whiteleg Shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei), while two more farms are currently under assessment.
Why did you choose to become ASC certified?
We are a quality oriented company. That is why we applied for the ASC certification. The ASC logo helps us distinguish ourselves from the other companies in the market. However, obtaining ASC certification is certainly not an easy thing to do. It takes time, investments, training of all the employees, as well as improving the relationship with the local communities.
What did it take to achieve ASC certification?
We have always been producing shrimps with a great care for the environment, so we didn’t need to make major changes in order to achieve ASC certification. However, we did improve a lot on the way we manage not only our own employees and farmers, but also the relationship with the communities who live around the farms.
Farmers are the core and value of the aquaculture industries. Farmers are the ones who feed the animals, take care of cleaning the nets and ponds, and make sure that everything works fine. It is like in a kitchen, you can have a great chef, but if the raw materials are not cooked properly, the dish will not be good. For this reason, we decided to go beyond certification here. A part from creating a feedback process for the employees and the surrounding communities, we established specific social programmes for our farm workers such as on site doctors who can provide assistance in case workers face delays getting medical appointment through the state, as well as a bonus system, and opportunities to get loans to improve living conditions, or finance their children’s education.
What does the ASC certification bring to your company?
The ASC certification is changing the way we operate, think, and process. The sustainability concept has to be integrated within the whole company, from the top management to every employee in the organisation. However, once you are awarded the certificate, it rewards your efforts. Responsible consumers choose to buy our products because they care about the environment and the people we work with as much as we do.
We have been able to make new customers in Europe and China who would have not bought from us if we had not achieved the high environmental and social requirements necessitated by the ASC. I look forward to the growth of the programme and to being able to provide more ASC certified SONGA products to more and more markets in the world.