Operated by Spanish marine fish farmers Tinamenor for four decades, the hatchery – which is situated in the northern Spanish region of Cantabria – was acquired by a group of investors in 2016. At the time it had the capacity to produce 20 million juvenile seabass and sea bream annually, as well as 110 million oyster and clam spat.
However, the new owners, led by Martín Alonso and Antonio Sainz, drew up a plan that aimed combine the experience of its 57-strong workforce with a fresh dynamism. The company was rechristened Sonríonansa – a nod to the River Nansa, on whose banks the hatchery is set – and a three-pronged strategy for the company to evolve was drawn up.
“The first part of the project has been to revamp the facilities and increase production capacity from the 15-20 million fry a year it had previously been producing – first up to 30 million, then to 50 million,” explains Carlos Mazorra, Sonríonansa’s R&D manager.
“We then decided to become entirely organic and since December 2017 we’ve been the only fully organic marine finfish hatchery in Europe. The third part of the strategy has been to develop new [consumer] products,” adds Carlos, who has been with the company for 14 years.
Consumer products might seem like a peculiar concept for a hatchery – given that market-sized bass and bream tend to weigh in around 500g, while Sonríonansa only grow fish up to 20g – but the new head honchos of Sonríonansa thought they had spotted a market for the 15 percent of the fish that failed to make the grade for ongrowing.
“We looked into making preserves from the slower-growing juvenile seabass and sea bream and formed an alliance with a two-Michelin-starred chef, Oscar Calleja, from the local village. After many trials, we’ve come up with six varieties of seabass and six of sea bream,” Carlos explains.