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Supply meets demand at Global Food Alaska

Food, glorious food

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2007

 

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  King crab sits on ice at The Crab Broker┐s display. Photo by M. Scott Moon

Bernie Karl of Chena Hot Springs Resort describes how his company harnesses geothermal energy near Fairbanks for a number of uses, including power for the facility's greenhouses, during a presentation at Global Food Alaska 2007, under way through today at the Soldotna Sports Center.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

There’s nothing fishy about the Global Food Alaska 2007 conference and trade show that began Wednesday and continues today at the Soldotna Sports Center.

“This is not a typical trade show. This is a completely different animal,” said Robin Richardson, member manager of Global Food Collaborative LLC, one of sponsors of the event.

Rather than consumers buying small amounts of a product as with other trade shows, Richardson said the purpose of this event was to get those involved with Alaska’s supply chain of food, beverage and bio-products to connect, communicate and collaborate with each other.

“We don’t have vendors looking to sell salsa. Our vendors are looking to find a buyer that wants to use their salsa as a base ingredient in a recipe. They’re looking for a buyer to form a long-term, sustainable business relationship with,” she said.

 

King crab sits on ice at The Crab Brokers display.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

The event brought together roughly 320 vendors and buyers, some small, local family-owned business, others huge, multinational entities. There were fishermen, seafood processors, ice packers, transporters, importers and exporters, sellers and buyers, and government organizations, to name just a few groups in attendance.

“It runs the gamut,” said Rick Roeske, program manager for Cook Inlet Salmon Brand, another sponsor of the event.

Roeske added that having so many varied, but interrelated entities under one roof served as a valuable opportunity to learn from each other and collaborate on ways to maximize generating sustainable business and economic developments from Alaska’s bounty.

“People Outside are kind of removed from the food source, but this gives national and international buyers a chance to visit Alaska, sit down and ask questions about the process from harvest to market. And, with it being closed to the public, sellers and buyers can — in a non-stress environment — discuss what is done, negotiate prices and strike deals,” he said.

Sean Crosby, of Kenai River Seafoods, said attending the event was beneficial to his organization.

“It’s a great deal for us as producers and sellers, because there are a lot of buyers, packagers and transporting companies here, so we’re getting exposure to all the people we need to talk to in order to do business,” Crosby said.

While some came looking to forge business deals, some participating in the event — such as the crab boat captains of the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” — said they came to discuss their roles working in the seafood industry.

“It’s important to have people aware of what is going on with catching crab in the Bering Sea,” said Phil Harris, captain of the Cornelia Marie.

Harris said viewers of the show may learn a lot about crab fishing, but they’re only getting half the story.

“They don’t get to see the politics and they’re are a lot of politics to crab fishing,” he said.

Larry Hendricks, captain of the Sea Star in season one of the reality show, said he was also interested in informing people that crab fishing is a sustainable and renewable industry that is being challenged by crab from other countries, caught by fishermen that may not abide by the same standards as American fishermen.

“We follow regulations, we use methods to better target select species, and we harvest responsibly so the product will stay sustainable for generations to come. But, foreign importers are selling back to America crab caught by fishermen from other places — such as Russia — that aren’t held to the same standards, so we’d like to see crab become a certified fish product, similar to the way Angus beef is a certified beef product,” he said.

Rick Roeske said based on the success of the event, he was hoping it would become a regular occurrence.

“We’d like to do this every two years,” Roeske said.

The Global Food Alaska 2007 conference and tradeshow continues today beginning at 10 a.m. The public will be admitted from 3 to 5 p.m. for a $10 admission.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at joseph.robertia@peninsulaclarion.com.



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