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Feature on Acadian Seaplants Limited

Thursday, April 2, 2015



Nova Scotia Business Inc., along with its partners and sponsors presented The Nova Scotia Export Achievement Awards, an annual celebration and recognition of excellence in exporting across Nova Scotia on May 21, 2015. Acadian Seaplants Limited, was named Nova Scotia's 2015 Exporter of the Year at the provincial EAA awards ceremony in Halifax.

Acadian Seaplants Limited is the world’s largest independent manufacturer of marine plant products of its type. Founded by Louis Deveau, Chair, and led by his son Jean-Paul (JP) Deveau, President, the company and its people have garnered numerous recognitions and awards. In 2014, Jean-Paul was called to lead a team on Global Competitiveness and Trade for the oneNS Coalition, whose members are developing a 10-year plan to achieve the vision and goals set out in the report from the Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy. In 2015, Louis and Jean-Paul were named to the Nova Scotia Business Hall of Fame.

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 over 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 over 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 does being recognized by your local business community mean to your business and your employees?

A: It really reflects on our employees. Our employees in Nova Scotia have worked collectively to create these products. The technology for what we’ve created is world leading – it’s never been done before. And that is a testament to the ingenuity and the perseverance of our employees: to create it in the lab, to figure out how to make it on an ongoing basis, to make sure it’s right all the time, and to develop the markets around the world for it. This recognition is a tribute to our people.

Q: What factors have contributed to your success?

A: First, we invested heavily into research & 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 over 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 Center 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.

Acadian Seaplants Limited exports marine-plant products for plants, animals and people to more than 80 countries. In 2014, the company was awarded the Digby and Area Board of Trade Export Achievement Award.

If you are interested in becoming an exporter, the following resources can get you started:

The Small Business Development Program helps eligible businesses participate in a global supply chain, become first-time exporters, remove barriers to exporting, or increase exports by getting customized expertise.

The Export Growth Program helps eligible businesses with projects to overcome export-growth barriers, such as travel to market and helping with costs for events such as trade shows and conferences.

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