Erin Villeneuve, Manitoulin Trout Farms
“I was set on staying in Ontario. I have 5 siblings and seeing my family is extremely important to me”. Like so many who work in Ontario aquaculture, family comes first for Erin Villeneuve and was the reason she decided to work aquaculture in Ontario rather than look for a job on the coast.
With 6 siblings and being sandwiched between two sets of twins, Erin has a close bond with her three sisters and two brothers. “I wasn’t really interested in the large companies and moving far away from everyone, I made a choice to stay close to my family. I knew I wanted to work outside and not be stuck at a desk in an office”
Erin hails from Kingston Ontario and graduated Queens University with a BSc in biology. She became interested in aquaculture when she started to take fisheries courses and wrote a paper on “alternative proteins for aquafeeds”.
After graduating with her biology degree, Erin continued to improve her skills by taking fisheries field skills courses and law courses through Queens. “I had a friend recommend the aquaculture post graduate diploma program at Fleming College, so I decided to commit to a career in aquaculture and take the program”.
After a year of in-depth aquaculture skills training at Fleming, Erin was ready to jump into aquaculture full time. “We toured a lot of facilities in Ontario and talked to a lot of farmers, so it was easy to see the potential [in Ontario]. I could see money being put into [aquaculture] by the different companies and the coming expansion and growth.”
Erin stepped into the technician role at Manitoulin Trout Farms’ hatchery in Coldwater Ontario. “I had an interview onsite and decided the hatchery was a project I wanted to be involved in. I liked the people at the company and knew I could work with them.”
Six months later, both Erin and the hatchery are thriving. My favorite part of my job is seeing our fish develop from eggs to fingerlings, watching the stages of growth, noting their physical and behaviour changes. It has allowed me to learn their behaviour at different stages and how it translates to their needs.”
Coldwater Hatchery underwent a significant retrofit this year that Erin got to be involved in, learning the system from the ground up. “We learned about RDFs, pumps and other equipment [at the college] but it’s not like having to maintain them day to day and see the effects on our fish. Its been great to learn these system and equipment.”
Going forward Erin wants to get more involved in fish health building her skill set. “I really want to build my experience here and keep moving our hatchery forward. I’m pretty happy here. Our team is like a little family. I really enjoy the people I get to work with.”
Felicia Meloche, Manitoulin Trout Farms
Felicia joined the Manitoulin Trout Farms in April 2020 at their Coldwater Ontario hatchery and found herself deeply immersed into the aquaculture experience she was looking for. “I wanted to learn as much as I could about running the farm and fish behavior. I wanted a chance to work with and learn all the systems and that’s what has happened.”
After 6 months at the hatchery Felicia has become in tune with her hatchery and fish, finding “as I continue to learn the systems and the fish, I can see what the fish need from their behavior. I know [how to monitor] the equipment and how the system sounds- if a sound is off a bit, I know the system need adjusted.”
Felicia grew up in Brantford Ontario before moving to Windsor Ontario . After high school she attended Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo Ontario graduating with a BSc degree in biology. “After university I searched for a post graduate program. I wanted an industry where I could work hands on and involved, but also in a situation where I would find growth for my career and the company.”
As she searched for programs, she noticed Fleming College’s aquaculture post graduate diploma and started to research aquaculture. Aquaculture hit all the right needs for Felicia, “I could see it was a growing industry where I could apply my biology skills and learn many more hands on skills”.
After graduating the aquaculture program Felicia decided to stay in Ontario despite competitive offers from companies on the coast. “I had offers on both coasts, but I was interested in staying here. It was a very personal decision to stay close to family coupled with the opportunity I can see in the Ontario industry. Fish production in Ontario is increasing and more technology is being applied. MTF offer me a job where I get to work with a RAS system, which was something I really wanted.”
As expected, work at MTF has been very hands on with piping projects and new system setups along with husbandry at the farm. Felicia’s favourite part of the job is working with the fish and supporting their growth. “I want to give each fish its best life, see it grow and thrive. It’s great to see the fish go from egg to fingerling.”
Looking into the future, Felica is taking things as they come for the time being, intent on building her skills and experience with MTF. “I like the people I work with and there is so much potential here, I’m going to keep focused on learning.”
Written by Ron Hill, Velocity Aqua