Talent View: Otavio Castro


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Feed improvement in the Aquaculture industry is key to the development and quality of the final product. And it is a side of the industry that we get to read a lot about once we are submerged in it. However, is not a very common piece of knowledge for the rest of the world. This is why I wanted to bring you this Talent View. Today, I bring you Otavio Castro ‘s story. He is a 36-years-old originally from Brazil. Otavio has over 13 years of experience in the animal nutrition industry, in different ends of it. He is currently based in Singapore, working as Global Species Manager – Aquaculture for Phileo by Lesaffre. Shall we dive into his story?

Otavio and his son at the Monterey Aquarium in US

Why Aquaculture?

Otavio’s story with Aquaculture starts even before he knew it. He studied Zootechny, the animal science applied to animal production, at Universidad Federal do Parana. He always knew he had the aptitude to study something related to biological science. And since the food production sector in Brazil is so big and important, he kind of always liked that area. “There is a huge market in Brazil for agriculture and animal protein”.

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“During my graduation course, I involved myself with the production of different animal species. My first practical experience was with poultry genetics. I soon realized that animal breeding was not my thing. However, this experience allowed me to move to poultry nutrition. Where I then fell in love with animal nutrition and feed formulation. It was something I enjoyed and got myself deep into. Later, I started to develop some interest in aquaculture, especially shrimp farming. My first opportunity to experience aquaculture was by joining a crab stock restoration project as a field coordinator in Southern Brazil. Professor Antonio Ostensky Neto led the project, and The GIA institute conducted it. At that time opportunities were limited and aquaculture in Brazil was just taking off. The activities were carried out in a shrimp farm in collaboration with the local community”.

Young Otavio at the crab stock restoration project

“To catch up with the project, I had to learn a lot of things related to the mangrove’s ecology and marine biology. But also about the environmental and social impacts related to human occupation and aquaculture in coastal areas.  Experiencing that in direct contact with the local community was mind-blowing and then I decided to try to combine both aquaculture and animal nutrition in my career path”.

Feed Formulation in Aquaculture

So, this is the first time we have had someone that has been directly involved in feed formulation. I was beyond excited to learn so much about that. But is something that is so specific that I kind of wanted to understand where Otavio stands at the moment. “Back then there was relatively plenty of information to formulate poultry, swine, and bovine feeds. As well as several new feed additives popping up with the announcement of the EU ban on the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in animal feed. In contrast, scarce information for fish feed formulation and nutritional requirements. I did an internship in shrimp nutrition with Professor Alberto Nunes. And was later invited to join the Master of Science in Tropical Marine Sciences at the Federal University of Ceara State to work with aquaculture nutrition. And never left”.

Otavio joined Phileo 4 years ago. He started working with them from the USA. Being close to the Latin American market he was able to move around and strategically grow the market. However, the company needed him in Singapore. Where he moved in September 2020. He is in the Strategy department. “My job is to lead the company strategy and portfolio development in Aquaculture. Working along with R&D, Sales department, and the Commercial team. Offering custom validated solutions for our clients and evaluating product performance”.

otavio castro
Otavio in a marine fish farm in China

What Aquaculture Means for Otavio Castro

Sometimes we get involved and deep into our work life and we usually take so little time to define what defines us. If you asked me what psychology means to me, I would do my best to not provide a textbook definition. However, it is not something I am consciously thinking about all the time. This is why I like to ask this question in my interviews and give my subjects some time to think about their answer.

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For Otavio, he defines his experience in Aquaculture as a rollercoaster. “When you see the career path you kind of get to see a linear progression. But there are definitely ups and downs, bumps, and turns along the road. It can be quite challenging sometimes. Especially when you need to develop businesses from scratch or jump into a completely new segment of the industry. Aquaculture is broad and diverse. There are so many interesting things to work with that it can overwhelm you, making it harder to focus. The positive side is that you can find lots of possibilities for professional development and growth. But also, mobility opportunities across the globe, and life-changing personal experiences. I don’t like to use the cliché “I love my job’, but the people and the environment of the aquaculture market is something really unique and gratifying to work with”.

Your Biggest Challenge

Otavio says that because there are so many different species, production systems, and technologies, developing something that would fit most of the market is a big challenge. “We dedicate intensive efforts to the scientific area to demonstrate and validate products and concepts in different areas. Areas such as immunity, health, nutrition, and stress, trying to cover the major issues.  But when we move to the implementation phase with customers, things can increase in complexity due to production system specificities and interconnections with other challenges and needs. To generate an effective solution, usually, we must rely on the expertise of multiple people.  

Otavio at 2019 Aquafeed Conference in China

“Working with aquaculture and functional nutrition involves a lot of ambiguity, that’s the big challenge. We must be constantly evaluating and customizing the recommendations to increase the success rate. There is always something new to tackle”.

Otavio Castro ‘s Reasons to Stay

I just mentioned one challenge. But we all know there are many more. It is not uncommon for professionals across all industries to have need of a silver lining, considering the challenges and obstacles they have faced. Otavio says the reasons he stays in Aquaculture are plenty. But gives a special mention to the opportunity the Aquaculture industry has to make an impact in our lives. In terms of sustainability, human health, and social development.

“I think Aquaculture has a lot of significance and potential to create a positive impact in our food production systems and developing countries. The industry is not only growing in numbers. It is at the same time being reshaped with advances in sustainability, new technologies, etc. It provides a nice and dynamic environment. There are so many things happening around us in the industry. Sometimes is difficult to keep up, you can find interesting things everywhere. That is where I find the motivation. I see the challenges we face in the industry today as motivating and purpose-makers propellers”.

otavio Castro
Otavio and his colleagues in a marine fish farm in China
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