Top 10 Under 40
Marit Holmvaag Hansen: In pursuit of the ‘perfect’ smolt
By Mari-Len De Guzman
In a span of less than three years, Marit Holmvaag Hansen transitioned from smolt coordinator to production manager, leading around 30 staff members and overseeing the production of up to 15 million smolts at Cermaq Norway’s smolt and hatchery sites. Her immense drive and eagerness to learn and improve are her best qualities that catapulted her to this leadership role.
Five years of experience in any given industry is not a long time. But for Hansen, these five years have been spent perfecting her craft as a hatchery professional, continually studying and conducting studies, all for the sake of the fish. She has a unique way of combining biology and technology. She is a sought-after speaker at aquaculture industry events across Norway. She has participated in research projects and has shared the knowledge gained from those initiatives not only internally within Cermaq but to the larger industry.
“Her main focus is for the sharing of knowledge in order to achieve a higher, common understanding of smolt production in addition to contributing to the production always being at its best,” the Norwegian Centre of Expertice Norway Aquaculture writes in its nomination submission for Hansen.
“Research studies in fish welfare, stress management, production parameters, and the ability to improve the production of such a complex field as hatchery and smolt farming are accomplishments she has contributed and will continue to contribute.”
Hansen herself views fish farming as a lifestyle more than an occupation. That is why she brings both her heart and her head to the job.
“In this industry, we need many different characteristics – both biologists and economists, technicians and mathematicians – so there are room for many, but we must all keep in mind that we first and foremost must take care of the animals, and make sure they have optimal conditions,” Hansen says.
After finishing her master’s degree she was exposed to the various departments across Cermaq, and working at the hatcheries was her clear preference. The importance of controls and the daily grind of a hatchery appealed to her.
The constant challenges and trying to solve those challenges honed her knowledge of technology and leadership.
“The biggest challenge for everyone working in this industry, I think, is simply to keep up,” Hansen says. “You are constantly learning news about both technology and biology. The hatcheries are seeing tremendous technical development, and an important job for everyone in the industry now is to make sure that this is in line with biology.”
Hansen wants to be part of all the new developments happening in the aquaculture industry. She wants to improve existing facilities and play a role in the construction of new ones.
“(I want to) follow the daily production and try to find the ‘recipe for the perfect smolt’ at the various plants,” she says.