Ladies and Genlemen, Mr. John Weir!
Updated: Jul 11, 2020
We are honored to introduce the newest member of the MicroSynergies team, Mr. John Weir!
With over 25 years of experience in animal health and nutrition, John has specialized in creating and helping businesses use sustainable biotechnology.
John has developed countless solutions for the environmental, aquaculture, poultry, and swine business units for many multinational corporations and start-up companies. Recently, he has been dedicated to the development of global technologies for the shrimp production industry in Ecuador, Thailand, China and Australia, applying new concepts in larviculture and grow-out, using the microbial heterotrophic technique for intensive 2-3 stage.
CM: I have the honor of introducing the newest member of the MicroSynergies team, John Weir Falquez. John is joining us as the Chief Technical Director for Latin America, Oceania, and Southeast Asia. Welcome, John! Welcome to the team.
JW: Thank you, thank you very much, Chris. It is an honor for me, an honor to be part of your team. I know that we will do great things together. Markets are open, the needs are high, so we will do much better than we expected in these times, this year.
CM: Well, I know we are all excited to have you on the team with us. So a couple of questions for us and everybody out there. Who is John Weir? Can you tell us a little bit about your background: professional, academically, a fun fact about yourself?
JW: Well I studied in the Universidad Católica de Santiago de Guayaquil in the early 90’s. I did technical engineering. While I was studying I became a worker for a biotech company in the US - an international biotechnology company - and they helped me, to promote me in the skills, in the technical skills, and they supported me through the University of Kentucky doing some courses and seminars about biotechnology, environment, and animal sciences.
And after that, I started to develop the project of biotechnology in my country. I started in monogastrics; poultry and swine. And then I switched to aquaculture. Which in that time, I’m talking about the mid 90’s, there was an emerging business and a lot of potential growing, a lot of demand from international markets and a lot of needs. And in that time the turn of biotechnology or probiotics was very…unknown... [or] let’s say just known by few. And it was very hard to change the minds. Even up to today changing the mind, the traditional mind of producers, the traditional method or the traditional protocol is sometimes still very hard to make them change. But in that time it was kind of tough to introduce biotechnology concepts.
The first biotechnology concept we introduced was through the feed. Use probiotic, enzyme, yeast cultures through a diet. An enriched diet of different proteins for different, let's say, shrimp growth cycle of shrimp stages and that’s when we started. I started to promote this idea. And then in 2000/the late 90’s/beginning of 2000 we have a pandemic in the shrimp. We got the white spots that came from Asia. And you know, affected the industry by almost more than 90%, you know. Every farmer lost money, lost space in the market. We lost a lot of presence in the international industry. Through that time, you know, high vision or visionary industrial owners and technicians from the industry started to work in the breeding and genetic family selection (well in that time it was not family selection, it was masel). But we have a domestication of the vannamei, which is our main species in production. And then the biotechnology also became very important tool to introduce into the environment. Instead of the diet we introduce into the environment, you know to change or modify or improve the water quality and also indirectly, the health status. So in that time, in the early 2000’s when I became part of this cycle in industry using biotechnology, in that time, I was independent. I was on my own and came to make joint ventures, strategic alliances with international companies, local companies and came to the develop these core new technologies. I was in the position to listen to what the farmer needs or the shrimp requires to improve-any or change-any situation or any negative situation to become positive. Increase performance, reduce costs, reduce risk, so I understood that from the early 2000’s.
And then I had become one part of the industry until this time, being a recognized as a supplier or a, say, a bridge builder for improved shrimp performance through novel biotechnology alternatives and solutions. And so in Ecuador, I started in Ecuador and I stay in Ecuador, well… always trying to open different markets. I started to open an office in Brazil but it was very difficult to do due to our relations. In 2008, we got approached with Mexican industry, in 2009 and 2010 too. But the change that I did was in late 2014, early 2015, I moved to Asia, southeast Asia, I opened a branch in Thailand, in Bangkok, with a partner. Still being partners, a company that promotes my ideas and we established a program, a plan. And we developed that program to the most relevant customers in Thailand in all the areas of the Thai territory. And then we started to make some strategic alliances in Vietnam, in India, also in Indonesia and some parts of the Philippines and some parts of Bangladesh. And we became very successful. The ideas became very powerful. We had very excellent results even within a very competitive market. I thought in Ecuador, you know, that the competition was very intense, but, I can say that in Asia, you can multiply that competition by 10 or by 20. It’s very highly intense. So, we did pretty good until today. So we have been recognized in different areas, different countries to be a, let’s say a solution, a solution partner, a partner that gets solutions to the industry in a specific situation, in this case…Aquaculture, which for me, is most important, but also, I have approaches in this industry in the monogastric market; say poultry, pigs, and swine. And also in the waste water.
Wastewater is becoming now very important because there are a lot of environmental changes, environmental regulations, there is a lot of problems related to the contamination, pollution of the water in the rivers and oceans. So, biotechnology for me is the most important tool that humans have in their hands to help the planet, to help the environment, to help, even up to improve health status. So, I think that being close to a company like MicroSynergies that has a lot of alternatives for the industry, with my experience in this area I think we can make a, you know, make a “synergy” as your name on this business, in this different business markets, to bring to all kind of customers, different kinds of alternatives. That’s part of my idea with you. I’m very excited, I’m very happy we can get solutions in a prompt way and also in a cost-efficient way because we know have a very effective and low-cost alternatives and solutions. It is going to be very beneficial to everybody.
CM: We’re excited and congratulations for all your accomplishments, that’s incredible.
What is one of the trends you’re seeing today in aquaculture in Ecuador or around the globe that excites you the most?
JW: Ok, let me start by saying the aquaculture industry is very dynamic, it has a lot of vitality, a lot of, you know, power. A lot of people involved in this industry, you know, it’s full of innovation, it’s full of ideas, but some of those ideas, could be limited sometimes by the traditional minds. The traditional minds, in the best way to say, are the farmers or the companies that have a protocol. An old way to work and they are not open yet to this new technologies or new alternatives. So, that excites me the most, because If I see an opportunity like this, that many people still not familiar with this specific plan, maybe we can teach them, and show them the benefits, you know, the comparisons before and after. Which are very easy to show. It’s also in short-term. It’s not going to take a long time to show the difference.
The trends that I see that excite me the most are that we can, for example, build this potential customer a specific high concentrated probiotic formula for a different use. For example hatchery, for example grow-out... we can build in different concentration, different strains, that match the best, either for soil, for the soil improvement, the reduction of all the toxic waste that is there, the organic sulfur, ammonia, the nitrates. And also, to build in the probiotic for use in the feed. I go back to my roots, now with MicroSynergies, together, we can build in very high concentrated specific probiotic, for the diet.
Both areas, hatchery and grow-out will be benefit from a new high formulated, high concentrated formulation, specific, probably a tailor-made. And this is one of the trends that excites me the most.
And the other thing, Chris, is, we can have a separate concept of probiotic. Many people say using probiotic, they generalize it. They say; ok, probiotic for me is one formula, and that is it. We are going to teach them there are different formulations for different environments. Let’s say aquaculture, in aqua we have, let's say, few. But for poultry farms we have another group. For swine or pig farms we have another group. And for wastewater, I like to think that explaining that briefly, this idea, they probably understand better. So those are the two things that excite me most. Being in aqua and the other, non-aqua business. It seems they have high potential.
CM: Yeah, that is awesome. So, you’ve touched on this a bit, but your role in MicroSynergies as Chief Technical Director, what are your plans and goals, specifically in that position?
JW: Ok, I think, Chris, with this position now, I see myself trying to create a new platform. I’d like to create a new business platform that has availability worldwide, commercially available formulations for specific markets in this case. I see myself like a business generator, creating strategic alliances between our own groups, let’s say our own distributors that we create in the aqua: Ecuador, Mexico, maybe Peru in the south, Central America, and in Asia. Have development in Asia, until now we have a lot of good friends there, potential partners there that they would be happy to say: “Ok, I will join you guys.” So, my position will be, in a commercial way, as a business generator using strategic alliances/plans among different groups - either distributors or associates.
And also to promote resilience capabilities. It’s very important. If we have a problem (right now we have a pandemic problem) - so how we can change through the problem to a new, let’s say a new opportunity. In my experience, that is why I am very happy to share, Chris, my experience during these months with the pandemic in Ecuador, shrimp production reduced a lot of their normal status. Most of the farmers became very nervous and they stopped using its traditional density and feed consumption and they also switched to their bio-security programs. So for me it was an opportunity because some of my good customers, we had a sit-down conversation with planning and we developed a new strategy to use more biotechnology and use less feed.
So, using more biotechnology probably will sound very expensive, but it’s not. Some of my customers understood our plan. We developed here in Ecuador, in the company I work for, we developed a formulation that has high concentrated micro-organisms... a lot. More than 7 strains, 8 strains, and the customer started to use it, in the pandemic time, when everybody was nervous. And these customers started to reduce their feed. So the microbes started to create new, natural feed available in the shrimp. And then in the moment that they learned it, they saw two things. First, they reduced the cost of the feed. And then the animal became healthier. The animal became more accepted in the market because it has less chemicals in the tissue and the GI track. So those things make me think that under resilience times, we can build alternatives, we can build solutions. So as part of these things as Technical Director of the Latin and overseas markets for MicroSynergies, I believe that using these ideas are going to make, going to have a lot of room among customers because we will teach, the success of others to make them available for their own use and benefit. We will guide them. That is part of the goals that I have with MicroSynergies: teach everybody.
CM: That is fantastic, that is great. So one question. Last question. Is there a question or is there anything I didn’t ask that you would like everyone to know…about John Weir.
JW: Ok, no. For example, about John Weir, it is fine. I am very pleased and happy to have this opportunity and show everyone in this interesting market that myself is a friend, is one good friend, that could help them to produce with less risk, and to produce more efficiency. Simply, I’m not going to teach a farmer how to produce on their own farm, but I can guide the farmer to use these tools to become more successful. To reduce many of their risks or many of their nightmares and to become more efficient in terms of cost. So, I would like to add in these questions,
Chris. I would probably separate the areas in the hatchery, and in the grow-out. And in the hatchery, we can use the biotechnology for the early stages and juvenile stages. And we have another phase or business in the hatchery which is called the raceway system. The larvae/post-larvae up to juvenile. This is called raceway and nursery and these areas are becoming attractive because using the right nursery system you use a lot of microbes, a lot of bacterial probiotics in order to help them collaborate in the carbon and nitrate ratios. But also, they will give you more crops per year in the farm.
We have shown this program, last year in Australia. I forgot about Australia, my good friends there... in Australia we had a good approach last year to one of the main companies there that supplies feeds for all the species - even shrimp or salmon or prawns - in this case salmon. The nursery and the hatchery would be one area, and the other area in the grow-outs would be separate the high-salinity and low-salinity productions. Because low salinity in agriculture soils, typical of agri farm soils that produce different crops like rice, or coco, banana - now they’re transforming to shrimp farms due to a high demand potential.
And these soils have to be prepared for agriculture so, mostly people they will face different challenges. So separate the two areas, low-salinity and let’s say regular-salinity and high-salinity. I can tell you that separating these two groups in every area will become more specific to the needs required by the customers.
CM: Well.. Thank You! I think I speak on behalf of Brad, Roy, and myself: we are really excited to have you on board and I really look forward to working with you.