BATON ROUGE, LA - Walk a mile in someone else's shoes and you have the chance to experience the needs of another. Walk around in mud boots and waders for two years, and it is possible to get a pretty clear idea of what fish farmers need to efficiently recirculate and reuse their water resource.
That's what Terry McCarthy and Glenn Snapp did in 1995 as they began to develop the business plan for Water Management Technologies Inc. (WMT), a company specializing in providing packaged water management systems for the aquaculture industry.
WMT was created from the diligence and creative problem-solving on the part of the principals, who have worked hard to earn a reputation for distributing high quality equipment backed up by service and support.
"Traditionally in the North American aquaculture industry, and even today, a site has to find suppliers for every item a supplier for monitoring equipment, another one for filtration, for pumps," explained McCarthy, WMT's marketing specialist.
By putting themselves, literally, in the farmer's boots for two years, the WMT founders gained an understanding of how their equipment fit together to best serve the needs of the producer.
McCarthy and Snapp, WMT's president and chief engineer, provide packaged systems that integrate mechanical filtration, hydrotech microscreens, moving bed filtration, biological filtration, CO2 stripping, oxygen injection, monitoring/motor control live product handling, feeding, and overall system management. The emphasis of WMT's service is on the M-word: management.
Technology is overrated, according to McCarthy. "There's a concept out there that there's this black box, that somebody has figured it all out with the technology. Not true," he said. While strides have been made over the last decade in technical design of energy efficient systems, McCarthy cautioned against total dependence on the hardware.
"Aquaculture is a complex business," he said, "and you need an agriculture mentality to know how best to manage a system. You can have the greatest filter, the greatest pumps, but if the system is managed poorly, it will fail ... quickly!"
By management, McCarthy means careful, hands-on, and efficient use of the available resources. A fish farm's water reuse needs can vary depending upon species and location, requiring special considerations.
Snapp and McCarthy employ their fish farming experience, equipment knowledge, and respective backgrounds in science and business to help their clients maximize their water resources.
In creating custom systems for aquaculture applications, Snapp oversees the design, construction, and installation while McCarthy gathers worldwide product information and defines how it might apply on the farm.
Snapp grew up on a dairy farm in New York. From those roots, he has an intuitive understanding of the time commitment and practical savvy necessary to manage any successful agricultural operation.
"Glenn is a graduate of Cornell and has his BS in agriculture and bio-engineering," explained McCarthy. "And I have a graduate degree in business. I'm the sales and marketing guy and Glenn is the technical, hands-on guy."
WMT principals Terry McCarthy, left, and Glenn Snapp bring complementary expertise and skills to their business.
Snapp and McCarthy began working together in the early '90s as employees of a feed manufacturing company, marketing European aquaculture equipment.
During those years, they learned a lot about aquaculture not only in North America, but also the European and South American industries. "Traditionally, Europe has led the US in terms of aquaculture technology," said McCarthy.
In 1995, when the pair decided to create their own systems design and distribution company, most of the European manufacturers with whom they had a working relationship aligned with WMT. The company had products and knowledge all it needed was a client to use them.
Southern States Cooperative Inc. was a ground-floor customer for the WMT packaged systems approach to water management. Brian Squyars, director of Southern States's Farmer's Catch division, watched the evolution of WMT during the early stages and was impressed enough to call upon Snapp and McCarthy to develop a packaged water recirculation and treatment system for all of the Southern States's contract tilapia farms (see story page 25).
"We spent three years developing a packaged system," said McCarthy. "Not only does this allow us to offer a proven product at a lower cost, but it enabled us to design and build in safety factors, making the system's performance more robust and durable."
WMT, which distributes aquaculture products from manufacturers around the world, emphasizes the importance of reliable, robust technology in its packaged water recirculation and treatment systems.
In fact, service and support are what sets WMT apart from its competition, according to McCarthy. "Our advantage is our responsiveness to the needs of our customers," he explained.
One of the keys to the success of WMT is the distribution of products from a network of manufacturers worldwide.
"These are industry market leaders, in their own country and in the world," said McCarthy. "We can go to any of our manufacturers with a custom application, call upon product specialists at the manufacturing end, tap the resources of people who make the equipment, and thereby bring new products into the market."
WMT distributes aquaculture products from manufacturers in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Germany, and Japan. The company strives to make customers happy by selling quality products at reasonable prices.
"We feel that good, reliable technology will advance the aquaculture industry," said McCarthy. "We're talking technology that is simple and robust, not complicated and finicky."
McCarthy and Snapp are the two primary people who meet with customers, and seven employees assist them in running the business. To date, WMT has focused on the domestic market, although a recent assignment was a project for the Chinese government, designing a holding tank system for an indigenous species of crab that is considered a delicacy during the Chinese New Year.
WMT's marketing efforts include a web site, but it is more educational than sales driven. "It's a technology information tool," McCarthy explained. "We offer engineered solutions for the industry. We're not trying to be a catalog."
The WMT web page shows descriptions, diagrams, specifications, and performance charts on each model of equipment. It also has a "special projects" section to describe innovative uses of equipment, so visitors to the site can understand the breadth of application for WMT products.
McCarthy noted how lucky he feels in being able to do what he does. Besides the obvious childhood outdoor fishing experience, he learned about fish from his uncle who had a crawfish farm in Louisiana. That was one of the first farms to grow a species of freshwater prawns that were marketed to the New Orleans landmark restaurant Antoine's. As a young man he had the opportunity to travel and see shrimp farms in Central America, and salmon farms in Maine and Nova Scotia. His interest was piqued enough to build a career in aquaculture.
After 10 years in the industry, McCarthy said with satisfaction, "I still enjoy what I do."
Phone (225) 755-0026; fax (225) 755-0995; e-mail: info at w-m-t dot com