Seattle Fish Company is pleased to announce CEO & President Derek Figueroa has been named a 2021 Titan 100. The Titan 100 program recognizes Colorado’s Top 100 CEO’s & C-level executives.
Those named are the area’s most accomplished business leaders in their industry using criteria that includes demonstrating exceptional leadership, vision and passion. Collectively the 2021 Titan 100 and their companies employ more than 127,000 individuals and generate over $15.9 billion dollars in annual revenues.
“We proudly recognize the Titan 100 for their achievements and contributions to Colorado’s business community and beyond. This past year, these executives were forced to navigate the daunting effects of a worldwide pandemic and their leadership was tested. The Titan100 have proven their ability to adapt, innovate and grow. We congratulate this year’s list of prestigious honorees.” says Jaime Zawmon, President of Titan CEO.
As CEO & President of Seattle Fish, Figueroa is responsible for the strategic and operational leadership of the company. He is known as a driven, innovative, strategic, results and relationship-focused leader with 30+ years of experience in sales, marketing, finance, and operations. He has been recognized as a thought leader for building Seattle Fish Company into one of the premier seafood distributors in the US and for his leadership in sustainable practices and initiatives, including as co-founder of the nonprofit Sea Pact and 2021 Chair of the National Fisheries Institute.
Figueroa is a tireless advocate for the seafood and hospitality industry, both locally and nationally. Other board service includes the Colorado Restaurant Association, Project Angel Heart, Colorado Restaurant Foundation, American Culinary Foundation, and the Seafood Industry Research Fund. Figueroa is at his best when he is working in collaboration to influence positive change.
“Thank you Jamie and Titan CEO for the recognition,” said Figueroa. “In this business, there are no individual awards. I’m proud of the heart and effort put forth by our dedicated and talented Seattle Fish family to partner with our customers and community in order to provide essential and healthy nutrition.”
“One of the most important ways that our customers and community engage with our brand is through our sustainability efforts,” said Will Martin, SFC’s King Soopers/City Market Account Sales Manager, who has been with the company for 21 years. “Derek has always been a huge part of championing our sustainability efforts at Seattle Fish. His forward thinking and leadership has guided our mission to educate our customers in sustainability so they know where and how their food is sourced and can share that information directly with consumers.”
Figueroa and the other Titan 100s were honored at an awards ceremony on July 22, 2021, held at “The Vehicle Vault” in Parker, Colorado. This event gathered 100 Titans of Industry for an event unlike any that exists in the Colorado business community.
When Kelly Haugen and Erica Tardiff first met James Iacino, Executive Chairman of Seattle Fish Company, they were CSU students with a vision to create a positive global impact on biodiversity and aquaculture. Two years later, with the help of a grant from SFC, they’ve developed that vision into a company, Nobilis Aqua, and recently launched their first product, The Nobilis Aqua Growout (Trout) Feed.
The Nobilis Aqua Growout Feed is formulated on a foundation of responsibly-sourced invasive Asian Carp meal. After many rounds of research and development, they’ve simplified the feed down to only a handful of ingredients in order to maximize fishmeal protein efficiency, making it perfect to maximize weight gain of trout while not compromising nutritional health.
“There are some amazing sustainable solutions being developed throughout the aquaculture feed industry right now,” said Haugen. “With feeds trending towards plant-based and insect-based products, we felt there was still a strong opportunity to innovate around new fishmeal protein alternatives not regularly seen in the market.”
According to the USDA, aquaculture is defined as “the production of aquatic organisms under controlled conditions throughout part or all of their lifecycle”. You’ve likely seen fish labeled “farm-raised” at your local grocery store or seafood market, meaning that fish is a product of aquaculture. NOAA’s FishWatch states that approximately half of the seafood eaten in the world is farm-raised.
Though aquaculture and farm-raised seafood have occasionally garnered a negative reputation due to the resources needed to raise farmed fish, companies like Nobilis Aqua are passionately working to make a positive impact on the industry. This is the main reason that Nobilis’ Growout Feed is made using Asian Carp, which is an invasive species of fish causing issues in Kentucky Lake, amongst other areas in the United States.
“In my graduate studies, I wanted to marry my knowledge of aquatic biology to business practices and needs in the aquaculture industry,” says Tardiff. “Nobilis Aqua focuses on creating an aquafeed that is sustainable and found that replacing the traditionally-used wild caught ocean fish with invasive Asian Carp made a whole lot of sense both nutritionally and environmentally.”
A compelling case can be made for growing more seafood in the United States, according to FishWatch. Demands for healthy seafood products are increasing every year as stocks of wild-caught seafood are dwindling. The United States imports 90 percent of its seafood, half of which is from aquaculture, contributing to the trade deficit. Yet only 5 percent of our seafood supply is from freshwater and marine aquaculture within the US, according to NOAA Fisheries.
Frontier Trout Ranch is part of the 5% hoping to create growth within the domestic aquaculture industry. The Krantz family-run ranch has raised premium Colorado trout on 163 acres in the San Luis Valley since 2013. The ranch, managed by Kermit Krantz, “blends tried and true aquaculture techniques with the sustainability of a single-source, closed water system in order to grow superior, fresh, natural fish”.
When Haugen and Tardiff were searching for a company that would allow them to test their trout feed – in the midst of a global pandemic – they reached out to Krantz, who is considered a pioneer in modern, clean, sustainable fish farming techniques. Interested in Nobilis’ product, but also feeling the impact of restaurant closures during the pandemic, Krantz saw an opportunity to partner with Seattle Fish both for greater access to retail and wholesale and to financially contribute to Nobilis’ growing company.
Even under the pressure of the pandemic, Krantz did not want to compromise Frontier’s commitment to sustainability and innovation. Knowing that Seattle Fish has similar values, Krantz pitched Derek Figueroa, CEO & President of Seattle Fish Co., the idea of using this feed on his farm, its benefits in sustainability, and how SFC could assist by issuing a small grant to Nobilis and pre-purchasing feed.
“This is such a unique opportunity and allows Seattle Fish to deliver on our Leadership Aspiration to Lead the Growth of Sustainable Seafood Consumption,” says Derek Figueroa. “Marrying an innovative feed startup, a western slope fish farmer, Seattle Fish and our customers into one common goal and objective is something we take enormous pride in. Ultimately, our investment was a no-brainer. Partnerships like these are how we will continue to create innovation in the industry.”
Though it was a risk to use Nobilis’ feed on Frontier’s all-natural trout farm, especially in a time where farmers, distributors and restaurants across the world suffered due to the consequences of the pandemic, the risk has so far produced great results.
“Most feeds you come across have 50+ ingredients,” said Krantz on a recent visit to Seattle Fish to deliver trout, “but Nobilis’ product only has a handful. That was one of the first things that intrigued me about their feed, in addition to the use of invasive Asian Carp. Another was that the feed floats, but honestly, even if it did sink, I don’t think the trout would let it… They eat it so quickly!”
“The trout are growing like crazy, too,” Krantz continued. “Though this feed may be a tad bit pricier, it’s paying for itself tenfold when you take into consideration how quickly the trout are growing. They can be harvested faster, which cuts down on the amount of feed we need to use over time. I hope we can get more fish farmers to start using this product!”
Seattle Fish was honored to receive the Bold Tracks Award at this year’s National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) “Exceeding Boundaries” Gala! The event was held virtually on Wednesday, June 23, 2021.
For the past 26 years, the Bold Tracks award has recognized prominent leaders in our community and commended them for their support of recreational activities for individuals with disabilities. Accepting the award on behalf of SFC was President and CEO Derek Figueroa, who started volunteering as a ski instructor for NSCD long before his time with Seattle Fish and was recognized by NSCD as 2004 volunteer of the year.
“I was lucky enough, in my younger and formative years, to volunteer with NSCD,” said Figueroa in his acceptance speech, “and the experience taught me lessons in challenge, resiliency, courage, fun… I know that experience shaped me and made me a better human.”
“The pride in this award is rooted in our respect for NSCD,” Figueroa continued. “Once you get involved with NSCD, the impact of the organization is infectious and reenforces the commitment to support, contribute, and become more involved. In fact, the draw to partner with the organization extends beyond our organization and now includes our customers. Our contribution would not be possible without the hard work and generosity of our customers who are integral in raising awareness and funds through their selfless contribution of time and talent.”
For those who are unfamiliar with NSCD’s work, they are a world leader in creating and providing adaptive outdoor recreation experiences and one of Seattle Fish Co’s longtime philanthropic partners. The company was founded over 50 years ago when Winter Park Ski School was looking for instructors to teach amputees from Children’s Hospital Colorado how to ski. Hal O’Leary, the founder of NSCD, was the first and only person to raise his hand.
Though that first experience was a trying one, Hal (pictured right) succeeded in his efforts to teach adaptive skiing. In the time since, until his passing in 2021, Hal revolutionized the adaptive ski industry and has continuously broken down barriers between sports and those living with disabilities. Today, the NSCD offers experiences such as skiing, hiking, horseback riding, rafting, archery, camping and more.
For the past 20 years, SFC has helped NSCD grow their annual Corks & Forks event into a top culinary fundraiser in Denver. During the pandemic, SFC continued to partner with NSCD by assisting with the Dine for NSCD Virtual Event. All of the work Seattle Fish has done organizing, supporting and donating product for NSCD would not be possible without the support of their customers, whom Figueroa feels fortunate to partner with.
Figueroa also thanked Scott Richardson, a Seattle Fish sales representative, whom he credits with coordinating the company’s participation in Corks & Forks and the important task of organizing chef and restaurant participation, which is pivotal to ensuring the event’s success year after year.
“Our partnership with NSCD has made a profound impact on our organization, our people and our culture [at Seattle Fish],” said Figueroa. “If you have the time, the expertise and the means, I would strongly encourage you to get involved, to volunteer, to donate… I promise you will not regret it.”
Stay tuned for more information on the next in-person Corks & Forks event, which will be held in 2022! If you’d like to make a donation to or volunteer with NSCD, visit the NSCD website for more information.