Tilapia Tales, Issue 8

In this issue, we will not being sending any of our normal news, as we would like to pay tribute to Alfonso Delfini Jr.  Alfonso was not only a great person, but an incredible colleague.  He was part of the Tropical team from the beginning and he will be greatly missed.  Below are some of our reflections on Alfonso's life as a leader of tilapia aquaculture as well as the reflections of those who had the pleasure of calling Alfonso a friend.

A Tribute to Alfonso Delfini Jr.
January 19, 1964 - August 12, 2010


Farewell Alfonso.  

I first met Alfonso in mid to late 1997; it was not long after that, that we became partners in Tropical Aquaculture Products.  Alfonso was the "farmer" for Aquamar, a newcomer in the relatively young business of commercial Tilapia production.  In those years, it was a classic scenario: he farmed it and I couldn't sell it; only to be followed by,  I sold it and he didn't have it.  Sometimes months would go by while he was immersed in the farming end, and just when we, in sales, were about to run out of excuses........Alfonso would call with good news.  He never stopped.......trying new things, pushing for better results, testing science, testing ideas.....he was truly, totally committed.  I remember hearing of him spending endless nights at the farm; perhaps this sounds normal, but I assure you the conditions are more rugged than most "gringos" can imagine......in the middle of 1200 acres, in a maze of ponds and roads, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, no air conditioning,  mosquitoes the size of elephants, noises totally unfamiliar; but all the while.......living the dream.  

Here we are, scattered across North America, standing in the stalls of the fish markets, packaging the finest, freshest catch of the day for the consumer, driving the express truck from Miami to Boston or wherever...not to be a minute late, sitting behind corporate buying desks, inventory managers, stressed out salespeople on the phone selling our fresh fish; but few of us ever really get to know the "Farmer".  A farmer is many things; an entrepreneur, a scientist, an engineer, a handyman, a thinker, a doer; unfortunately it takes a tragic loss to think about things or people in a way much different from the norm.  How many times have I been asked why couldn't we just plan our production better.......after all, it's aquaculture.   How many times have I jumped on farmers (my partners) with both feet,  in the hopes that a few more pounds would appear.........I truly have lost count.  Did we ever consider that they were already giving it their all, perhaps, but we pushed a little harder.  That is the business.  

Alfonso gave it his all.  The farm was a huge part of his world.  He was quiet, but very involved; sharing, learning and making things better.  Alfonso was also a gentleman, relaxed and cool.  He had definitely followed a calling at the farm.  Here is what I came to know of Alfonso; he was a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a partner and a farmer; unfortunately I can only wish I knew him on a deeper level.   For the most part he accepted my short comings........being a sales person and all.  Alfonso was definitely a fighter, I know this simply because of the challenges he endured over the past 2 years.  

Alfonso's passing is the second I know of in the fresh tilapia biz, Bill Marshall was the first; both brothers in production.  Two passings may not seem like a lot, but it's a small business.  I know they respected each other, so I hope they get to cross paths on the other side and perhaps share an umbrella drink and a pile of stone crabs; I know they'd like that.  

Tropical has been on the receiving end of Alfonso's efforts for roughly 12 years.  While one person makes not the team, the team will surely miss him.  A heart felt farewell from  all at Tropical and our condolences to his family and team in Ecuador.  

John Schramm, President
Alfonso Delfini Jr. was a nice person and a very progressive aquaculturist who was recognized as a leader in the tilapia industry.  He made great efforts to promote environmentally-friendly and socially- acceptable aquaculture in Ecuador.  He had friends in many countries, and he will be missed.
Claude Boyd, Auburn University

The level of grief over the passing of Alfonso is immense. I first met Alfonso in 2005 during my first visit to a tilapia farming operation to solicit support for the formation of the Tilapia Aquaculture Dialogue (TAD). I was apprehensive to say the least - I immediately became fond of Alfonso, though. We chatted and talked as people not as industry and an environmentalist. I asked Alfonso to take an enormous leap of faith in trusting me and the efforts of WWF. I think Alfonso had a gift for seeing the truth and soul of a person because he was the first producer to publically acknowledge the TAD and commit to the unforeseen. What transpired over the next 5 years of the TAD process was a roller-coaster ride of emotions, criticisms and finally success - the creation of the first set of Aquaculture Dialogue standards. We did it Alfonso! We did it! Alfonso was more to me than a fellow steering committee member of the TAD, he was a true friend and one of the kindest, most intelligent people I knew. He would often tell me, "Aaron, you have got to chill out, everything will be ok." I wish that I could be saying that to him now, but since I cannot I have to come to grips that my memories of him will need to sustain me. There is a gap that I wish wasn't there now, but if this gap is as large in my heart, I cannot begin to imagine the sadness of his family for Alfonso was truly, one of the "good guys". My heart and wishes pour out to the Delfinis in such a traumatic and difficult time.
Aaron McNevin, WWF.

I've known and respected all the Delfini men now for the last 20 years, we've worked together on a number of different tilapia industry projects. Most recently, Alfonso and I were on the steering committee of the World Wildlife Funds tilapia dialogues. I found him fair, honest, knowledgeable and fun as hell. Having a competitor that you respect and get along with is rare and a good thing in business, especially pioneering a new species like tilapia. Alfonso was indeed a pioneer and will leave his positive contribution permanently on the tilapia industry. Everybody in Regal Springs Group feels the same about Alfonso, we will miss and remember him.
Mike Picchietti, Regal Springs Tilapia

I will never forget my first encounter with Alfonso when I was working for Whole Foods. I traveled to Ecuador and  met with a conglomeration of tilapia farmers who shipped fresh tilapia fillets into the US market through Tropical Aquaculture.  I immediately noted during my time in Ecuador that Alfonso was a smart person who loved the tilapia aquaculture industry and was always willing to offer unconditional support. His passion for the aquaculture industry and his innovative approach to the advancement of tilapia aquaculture, mixed together with his charismatic personality, will surely be missed.
Dick Jones, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership
Questions? Comments?  Contact us by email or or call us toll-free at 1-800-277-3459  www.eattilapia.com

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