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Producing Excellence

Geir Monson

North Kingstown, RI

Seafreeze, Ltd.

Products: Seafood

Size of Operation: 60 million pounds

In Business Since: 1984

Farm Credit Partner: Farm Credit East

Working with Farm Credit Since: 2000

Most agricultural producers are able to watch their product grow before their eyes, whether it’s corn or cows. For fishing company Seefreeze, though, that isn’t possible: one of the last types of business dependent on hunting, its products hide in the depths of the sea, both invisible and mobile. This unknowable nature of fishing has defined a large part of how Seafreeze serves its customers.

Founded as a fishing company run by fishermen, Seafreeze owns two fishing trawlers that head out into the ocean ten months of the year, using species-specific nets to selectively catch a variety of squid, mackerel, herring and butterfish. Each of these trawlers hold up to 650,000 pounds of fish at a time, fish that are frozen within hours of being caught to ensure freshness and quality. During prime fishing season, this catch is acquired in as little as 6 – 7 days , at which point the boats return to dock and transfer the fish into Seafreeze’s state-of-the-art cold storage facility, financed in part by Farm Credit East, that can hold 12,000 metric tons of product at a time. The facility is sizeable enough that the company is planning a new business line, offering to store other companies’ products. Seafreeze has also recently purchased a second facility where they will purchase and process up to 20 million pounds annually of locally-landed fresh fish.

Selling fish only caught by their own team of fisherman would limit its potential in terms of profit and customer reach, so the company also sources select varieties of fish from around the globe, capitalizing on relationships built over time. “As we developed markets for specific fish, we found that we could sell more than we caught ourselves,” said Geir Monsen, a former partner in Seafreeze. “So we started buying similar fish from other countries to supply the need.” That decision has had an impact on the bottom line: Seafreeze currently sells more product that’s been sourced than it produces itself.

Seafreeze’s international relationships work both ways, with fishing companies selling product and importers and restaurants buying product. In all, Seafreeze works with 37 different countries. The company also has a strong domestic market that represents 40% of its sales. Whether this will continue is hard to determine. “It depends on supply and economics,” said Geir. “Right now, the economy is down in southern Europe, and the U.S. and Canada are up. That influences the size of the markets.” Domestic resource politics also dictate what species of fish and quantities that can be caught.

Remaining profitable in the face of this uncertainty is an ongoing process. “We constantly collect information from all our sources and make our decisions on the fly, said Geir. What drives it all is the potential for profit balanced against risk.”

Download a PDF version of this story here.

Geir Monson passed away in July 2013, shortly after this article was published.