Interview with Auður Eyborg

Auður Eyborg lives in Iceland. She has a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Iceland and a diploma in aquaculture from the University of Hólar. She subsequently obtained her master’s degree in leadership and management from the University of Bifrost in February 2022. She believes that education has got her far in her career and will continue to improve her work and career as she progresses.

What inspired you to become involved in aquaculture? 

It was just pure luck! After I finished my bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of Iceland I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. There were no jobs for biologists close to my hometown so I got a job as a security guard for Securitas.  One day I got a call, a security warning from a fish farm. I contacted them to let them know that they had an alarm in the farm. And then I started to ask the manager some biology questions about the fish. And he just opened my eyes and asked me to come for an interview; he had me at ‘hello’! I changed my job and started my aquaculture career in Stolt sea farm. The fish farm had my heart, it had so many interesting things for biologists and everyone who loves animals. 

Briefly describe your aquaculture career 

I first started my aquaculture career in December 2013 in Stolt Seafarm working in the hatchery, taking care of the Senegalese sole.  While working there in 2015 I saw an advert in the newspaper for a job at Benchmark Genetics Iceland who were looking for a biologist to work with lumpfish. The farm was new, so I saw the opportunity to get more experience and to be part of creating a new farm with new species. That project with the cleaner fish was really interesting and still is, because I’m still in that business. 

I was involved in the development of processes for lumpfish all the way from the egg to the broodstock. In 2016, I got a promotion, becoming the farming manager for our quarantine station of the wild broodstock farm for lumpfish and our egghouse. Here, my responsibility was to take care of the broodstock, stripping the broodstock and making eggs. I also became the farming manager at our small RAS research station. In the RAS research station I gained experience of working with salmon egg, to fry, to smolts, and made four generations of crossbreed salmon. 

In 2018 I was promoted to station manager of our quarantine station for wild lumpfish broodstock and for our small RAS research station. I got more opportunity to develop in December 2018 and I started to take care of the permits for the company. That was one big experience and fun to work on. In October 2020 I went to work in the quality department to create a quality book for the lumpfish and to keep working with the permits. The opportunities kept on coming and in 2021 I started as a biological controller of lumpfish. This job is really interesting because although I have been working with lumpfish for eight years, we can always learn something more about them.  I’m really happy how my job has been growing through the years.  

Which individuals or organisations in aquaculture have you found particularly inspirational? 

During these past ten years involved in aquaculture, I have met many people working in the sector. You realise the industry is quite small and you always bump into people. And you are always getting to know more good people in the business.  

But if I think about the people who have really inspired me then I have to say my former boss who was my mentor since he hired me back in 2015 and inspired me to work in aquaculture.  He introduced me to lumpfish and helped me to grow in my work.  

Our cleaner fish team are also really inspiring, they are like my family and just keep me going.  

How important has networking been to your career? 

Networking is really important because we can always learn something from each other and it’s really good to know people in same business as you. I really enjoy getting to know people in the industry and try to keep up relationships as I find it interesting to see what other people are up to. Networking has also led me to making some great friends for life.  

During your career, have you noticed inequalities in the sector, be it in policies or culture? If yes, what actions do you think would best address those issues? 

Yes, in the beginning it was harder to be a woman in this sector. But over these ten years I can see the progress and more and more women are getting into aquaculture. I think it’s going in the right direction.  

What is your proudest aquaculture-related achievement to date? 

I have been in aquaculture for ten years and have worked with three different species, so I have many moments to be proud of. But for me I think it was when I got the opportunity to speak at the first International Lumpfish Conference in Inverness in 2022. There I got the chance to talk about my passion for the last eight years, namely lumpfish broodstock.  I am still early on in my career so hopefully there will be more achievements in the future.  

What advice would you give to someone (man or woman) looking to start a career in the aquaculture sector, or progress their existing career? 

Follow your dreams, do what you are most enthusiastic about and just have fun doing what you love. Don’t be afraid of asking questions, and don’t let negative people hold you back. You can do it.  

What do you think will be the key drivers/areas for innovation for Scottish aquaculture in the next decade? 

The aquaculture industry is growing a lot around the world. The future aquaculture industry needs to focus on animal welfare and environmental impact. Because it’s all about the welfare and the environmental impact. To do that I think we have to be more information-based and try to be more sustainable.  

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