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Feature on Gidney Fisheries Limited

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Nova Scotia Business Inc. along with its partners and sponsors will present The Nova Scotia Export Achievement Awards, an annual celebration and recognition of excellence in exporting across Nova Scotia, on May 26, 2016. Gidney Fisheries Limited is one of ten companies that will be celebrated at the 2016 provincial EAA awards ceremony in Halifax. 

Nova Scotia Business Inc. talked with Robert MacDonald, president and general manager of Gidney Fisheries Limited. This family-owned company produces lobster in southwest Nova Scotia and exports 75% to 85% of its product to Asia, Europe and the Middle East. With the recent expansion of its long-term storage capacity, Gidney expects to be exporting 100% of its product by year end.

Q: Can you share your company’s history in Nova Scotia?
A: Gidney Fisheries dates back to 1892, when Samuel Gidney began buying lobsters from local fisherman and exporting them every week on the steamship to Boston. Barry Gidney is the fourth generation to own the business, and we still buy our lobsters from local fisherman on the Bay of Fundy and St. Mary’s Bay. In 2010, Barry hired me to change the direction and focus of the company. His vision was to become an exporter using international air freight. Between his investment and support and our hard work to market the product worldwide, we’ve transformed the business over the last six years. The only product we’re not exporting is process-grade lobster, and with our current expansion project – it’s our third in six years – we’ll soon be processing and exporting that, too. In 2010, our capacity was 60,000–65,000 pounds in refrigerated long-term storage. By next month, we’ll have probably in excess of 800,000 pounds of refrigerated water capacity.

Q: What does being recognized by your local business community mean to your business and your employees?
Being recognized locally was a great validation for our hard work and the evolution of the business over the last six years, and it brings a sense of pride to the people who work here. We ship 12 months of the year, and Gidney Fisheries is bringing good jobs and expanding the stability here on Digby Neck, which is what Barry wants.

Q: What factors have contributed to your success?
Barry’s investment and dedication to growing his family business has enabled us to do what we’ve done. We have a vision for the company and where it needs to go, and I’ve travelled the world to help us get there. When I started in April 2010, we had our first long-term storage and hold that spring. August 2010 was our first international air freight export. Now our truck is in Halifax five days a week.

Q: What do you consider will be key to your success going forward?
We’re going into value-added frozen lobster products. We already have orders waiting, and we’ll be ready for the new lobster season that opens in Southwest Nova on October 15th. We also plan to expand into other species and do some unique niche products that will add value and propel us forward as innovators.

Q: What was your biggest learning or a-ha moment?
You might say the initial decision to change the business was an a-ha moment – Barry could see that otherwise the company would not thrive in the changing fishery and economy. But we’ve learned many things in the past six years. We had a couple of a-ha moments when we saw that slight changes to handling procedures would make a huge difference in the arrival condition and health of the product.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you would give to new exporters, or companies considering exporting from Nova Scotia?
A: Learn your markets, travel to them, study them, and go there regularly, especially if you want to expand. There’s no substitute for being there in person. I’ll be in airport customs watching our product being cleared, then on a truck so I can see how it’s being handled, and on to the markets where it’s being offloaded. If you’re the new guy in the street, you have to be in front of people, and if you generate business, you have to cultivate that relationship. If our customers do well with the product we sell, we do well.

Q: And finally, what’s the best thing about being a Nova Scotia exporter?
A: We’re fortunate – Nova Scotia lobster is known worldwide. Nova Scotia, in combination with being a Canadian seafood exporter, gives us instant recognition in the marketplace and virtually an instant qualification above many of our competitors. If you’ve got the Nova Scotia flag and the Canadian maple leaf, you’ve got a pretty good chance for a reasonable reception.

Gidney Fisheries Limited is in Digby Neck. In 2015, the company was awarded the Digby and Area Board of Trade Export Achievement Award.

Interested in export? Nova Scotia Business Inc. is dedicated to supporting the growth of business in Nova Scotia and our team of Regional Business Development Advisors is available to assess your needs and provide practical advice on taking your next steps toward growth in global markets.

Stay up-to-date on Nova Scotia export events by subscribing to our e-newsletter that includes upcoming trade development initiatives that you can participate in and highlights trade activity in Nova Scotia and beyond.