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  5. Meet a Benchmark Innovator: Jamie Dawson, CleanTreat® Product Manager

Meet a Benchmark Innovator: Jamie Dawson, CleanTreat® Product Manager

What is CleanTreat®?

CleanTreat® is a water purification system that is used alongside medicinal bath treatments. It is the first of its kind to be used in the aquaculture industry and works by removing medicines from treatment water before returning purified water into the sea.

What drew you to work in the aquaculture sector?

I studied marine biology at Aberdeen University, which was heavily focused on commercial fisheries. As part of my course, I spent some time in Shetland visiting fish farms and found the aquaculture modules of my degree particularly interesting. I actually ended up focusing on parasites in commercial fisheries as part of my final project.

After graduating, I decided to go into the aquaculture industry. It is a relatively ‘young’ industry compared to other food production industries. As a result, there have been lots of opportunities for me to make a difference and be involved in developing innovative products like CleanTreat®.

Tell us about your career trajectory.

I joined Benchmark in January 2017 as an Intern. Within my first year of working, I got heavily involved in the CleanTreat® project, including spending two months in Norway as part of the CleanTreat® team supporting the field trials of Ectosan® Vet.

I was offered a permanent role on the project and spent the next couple of years working on field trials on and offshore in Norway. When not offshore, I began to get more involved in the commercial and development side of CleanTreat®, which led to me taking on the product management role I have today.

The role allows be to dip in and out of different project teams from operations, to development to commercial. Now that CleanTreat® is operating commercially, my core activities center on enhancing the CleanTreat® solution for our existing customers, evaluating future commercial opportunities and supporting industry awareness of CleanTreat® amongst relevant stakeholders. The last few years have been heavily focused on field trials, as well as regulatory activity, customer planning and, ultimately, bringing the product to market. I am delighted to be part of the team to bring the product to market and can’t wait to see what happens next.

What was it like working on the CleanTreat® vessel?

Being on the CleanTreat® vessel was an incredible learning experience, especially since I had no practical engineering or offshore experience. I had to get used to living, working with and managing people all within the same four walls for several weeks at a time, in a high-pressure environment. While challenging, we managed to build some really strong working and personal relationships.

The highlight from my experience was being on the vessel and seeing the Northern Lights display over our heads. It was incredible to work in the Arctic Circle in winter, in complete darkness, and then the same location in the 24-hour sunlight of summer. It was a really special experience that I will never forget.

What is the proudest moment of your career so far?

I am most proud about being part of the team that achieved the authorisation for Ectosan® Vet, the first salmon sea lice treatment to be introduced into the Norwegian market in the last 10 years. Delivering this new solution in combination with CleanTreat® was a huge achievement that required dedication and commitment from the whole team over a number of years.

To cap this off, I was incredibly proud when the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) confirmed in September 2021, one month after our commercial launch, that they had included CleanTreat® as a mitigation tool in their current ‘Weighted Number of Medicinal Treatments’ – resulting in all treatments receiving a score of zero. I am proud that a project I am involved in has been recognised by the ASC and can help farmers and the wider industry take a responsible approach to medicine use.”

How do you retain the enthusiasm for your work on a daily basis?

When I first joined Benchmark, and for the majority of my 5 years at Benchmark, everyone has been focused and motivated to get CleanTreat® and Ectosan® Vet to market. Being part of a team that was so dedicated to achieving this goal definitely made it easier to be enthusiastic each day.

It was great to be part of the team to win the prestigious Nor-Fishing Foundation Innovation Award for CleanTreat® in 2019. It was fantastic recognition for all the work the team had put into the project, from concept to the field trial – it really gave the team a boost at that time.

Now the products have launched, the motivation and focus comes from the excitement of the products being used and having a positive impact on our customer’s operations and looking at how we can expand going forward.

In general, having variety in my role, working with enthusiastic colleagues and working on innovative products in an exciting industry helps retain that enthusiasm.

What challenges in the sector would you most like to overcome?

The key challenge we are looking to solve is how to manage sea lice – which costs the salmon industry over $1 billion a year. We are committed to providing sea lice solutions that improve fish welfare and improve the sustainability of the aquaculture industry, while increasing the yield of our customers.

I think that our skills and technical knowledge around water purification can be applied to other challenges, beyond sea lice, in the future. For example, water quality challenges in aquaculture such as algal blooms.

How do you like to spend your time off?

Before the pandemic, I would use my spare time to travel and see new places, at home and abroad. While this has been on pause recently, I’m hoping to get abroad in 2022.

Aside from travel, I’ve been out running, cycling and trying to improve my golf. In fact, I recently returned from a cycle trip from Edinburgh to York with a colleague. While it was fun, I have rarely been on my bike since…

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