Natural ethos nets success for Slovenian fish farmers

from the Financial Times..

June 11, 2013, By Kester Eddy

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Irena Fonda leans over the side of her boat and throws a handful of food pellets into the waters of the northern Adriatic. After a pause, the water is suddenly alive with fish, thrashing just below the surface.


The boat is just inside the Slovenian waters of the Bay of Piran, in the northern Adriatic: ahead is an array of circular fish cages, up to 12m in diameter, holding around 1m sea bass that Ms Fonda and her brother raise from the age of seven months to five years. A few metres behind us is the maritime border with Croatia.


The Fondas, Irena and brother Lean, are biologists, who – with their now deceased father – in 2001 took the profits from their underwater engineering business and turned their scientific minds to producing a better-quality, healthier sea bass than those of the large commercial farms.


They also harvest the fish in supercooled brine – effectively putting them to sleep – to cause the least stress. The result is sea bass with a lean, tasty body that has been tested to reveal mercury levels at just 4 per cent of the legal limit.

Despite prices of between €16 and €25 per kg at the farm shop – a 100 per cent premium over sea bass from large commercial farms – demand is outstripping supply.

For good reason, says Curt-Daniel Scheffler, executive chef at the Kempinski Palace Hotel, in the nearby resort of Portorož.

“Irena Fonda presented her fish during the hotel’s pre-opening phase [in 2008]. I could see straight away that this was a very ambitious company, with a high-quality [product], very different from ‘factory fish’, with automatic feeding and chemical net treatment,” he says. Fonda sea bass has been on the Palace menu ever since.


The Fonda family’s battles with bureaucracy, banks and even their own naivety in areas of business outside their expertise is a common enough experience for entrepreneurs in the former communist states of central and eastern Europe, says Andreas Antonopoulos, rector of the University of New York in Prague and professor of entrepreneurship.

Governments and ministries across the region struggle to understand entrepreneurs – that is if they care in the first place, Prof Antonopoulos told the Financial Times.


“They should try to see it from the entrepreneur’s point of view; estimate how much time, effort and money a new venture would need to spend on state-related tasks, and seek to minimise that cost,” Prof Antonopoulos adds…

Link to the entire article:



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