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Cultivating Opportunity: Jean-Paul Deveau

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Meet Jean-Paul Deveau, President of Acadian Seaplants Limited, and one of more than 100 ConnectNS Global Advisors helping Nova Scotia exporters become globally connected.

Acadian Seaplants Limited is a globally recognized industry leader in the processing of seaweed-based products for food, biochemical, agricultural and agri-chemical markets worldwide and in the cultivation and processing of unique seaweeds for Asian as well as global food markets. Acadian Seaplants is a fully-integrated company responsible for every stage of its operation from the sustainable harvesting and cultivation of marine plants, technology development and engineering, manufacturing and quality assurance to market development, sales and technical customer support.

NSBI spoke to Jean-Paul Deveau about his experience as a major exporter operating in rural Nova Scotia.

Q: Can you share your company’s history in Nova Scotia?
A: My father started the company in 1981, working from the house I grew up in. From there we’ve grown to more than 325 employees. In Nova Scotia, we have three major facilities – in Cornwallis, Yarmouth and Charlesville – along with our Dr. James S. Craigie Research Center in Cornwallis and our head office in Dartmouth. We export to more than 80 countries, creating value-added products here in Atlantic Canada for export to global markets. We’re very, very proud of what our employees have been able to put together.

Q: What factors have contributed to your success?
A: First, we invested heavily in research and development and technology. Second, we invested in international market development. If we wanted to develop this business as an industry, we knew we needed to expand beyond our borders. Third, we invested in sustainability in how we take marine plants out of the ocean. But it’s not just sustainability of the raw materials; it’s also the products we create – they help people grow crops and animals in a more sustainable way. Fourth, we’ve invested in people. In our company, we speak 10 languages. We have first-generation immigrants from more than 11 countries working here in Nova Scotia. They bring us technical skills but also skills in international markets, because they’re familiar with the language, culture and customs of operating in other parts of the world.

Q: What do you consider will be key to your success going forward?
A: Those four pillars – investment in technology, international market development, sustainability, and people – are the key to our success today and in the future. Last year, we built the new Deveau Centre in Cornwallis, which we moved from a 15,000 square foot operation to a 115,000 square foot facility. We also bought Arramara Teoranta, the largest seaweed-processing company in Ireland. We’re expanding our global presence, not just in markets but also in manufacturing and raw materials. We’re in the first stages of building a worldwide organization that’s headquartered in Nova Scotia.

Q: What was your biggest learning or a-ha moment?
A: Back in the mid-1980s, it became obvious to us that, if you wanted to develop business around the world, you got on a plane and visited potential customers, and you sat down in front of them. And they were appreciative; if there was an opportunity, your chances of developing that business increased by doing that. You can have all the modern communication tools, but there really isn’t any substitute for face-to-face communication with a client.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you would give to new exporters, or companies considering exporting from Nova Scotia?
A: Associate yourself with somebody who has exporting experience. Find a mentor with whom you can ask questions and benefit from their experiences, good and bad. And start with markets that are familiar and close to home, such as the United States. Get your feet wet, get a feel for what exporting is all about, and then look at going further.

Q: And finally, what’s the best thing about being a Nova Scotia exporter?
A: I’m from Nova Scotia. I love being part of this community and making a contribution. But we’re also blessed with communication links and an infrastructure network that make it relatively simple to export products all around the world. And we have a lot of universities with research people – academics who have tremendous knowledge. We have 25 researchers on staff, and we’ve associated them with universities and other research institutions here to cross-pollinate and to develop world-leading technologies.

I honestly believe that the economy of Nova Scotia will depend on our ability to create value-added goods and services that the world will want. How good our life is in the future will depend on our ability to bring the revenue from those exports into Nova Scotia. The more we can do this, the better off we’ll all be.

Jean-Paul Deveau is one of over 2,000 proud Nova Scotians, friends, alumni and expats involved in ConnectNS. Learn how you too can get involved.