When Alpe-Adria region talks about awards, it certainly talks about the Jakob Award annually presented to regional quality and excellence in tourism and granted at Alpe-Adria international fair which has been for 30 consecutive years organised and hosted by GR – Ljubljana Exhibition and Convention Centre. Every year, an international committee selects the best company that contributes a significant part into the mosaic of innovative endeavours in tourist industry in the Alpe-Adriatic region with the emphasis on a sustainable approach. This year, the Jakob Award was presented for the 9th time and it was granted for a realised touristic project related to the topic: »New sustainable hunting, fishing and wildlife observation tourism forms.”
The 2019 award went to the project The Unforgettable Day at the Fonda Fish Garden which impressed the Commission with its impressive innovation in marine fishing tourism. The Fonda Fish Garden is growing the King of Slovenian fish – the Fonda Piran sea bass and is offering interesting accompanying activities for tourists as well.
FONDA FAMILY AND THEIR FISH GARDEN
Fonda Fish Garden was established by three members of Fonda family. Father Ugo, son Lean, and daughter Irena; all of them biologists who successfully combined their love for- and knowledge of the sea biology and seafood into a business endeavour. The farm is situated in the magnificent nature of the Slovenian Istria, in the middle of the Bay of Piran, in the heart of the fishing preserve and the Sečovlje Salina Nature Park. Today, the major share of the company is owned by an Italian entrepreneur who was impressed by the Fonda Family’s skills and spirit and bought the farm a few years ago. The Fonda Family still owns a smaller share and runs the farm on its own.
An Unforgettable Day at the Fonda Fish Garden is also suitable for incentive programmes. International groups are brought to the farm also in collaboration with the Slovenian Convention Bureau. The visit to the farm can be done in kayaks, canoes and even on paddleboards. For those that prefer sitting on boats to rowing, the boat rides to the farm are of course organised as well with a modern and beautiful fish-farming work boat or a solar-powered boat. The visitors can learn about the selection of young fish spawn and the right type of feed, manual feeding and all aspects of caring for the environment, health and growth of several generations of the Fonda Piran sea bass.
There are two basic programmes that interested groups can take: either just a trip to the fish farm where the visitors can feed the fish or visit the farm followed by a tasting of the fish. “This way the participants get an authentic experience,“ says Irena Fonda, a current director of the family-owned farm with a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology, and adds, “The programme can be also paralleled with a culinary workshop where guests learn some basic recipes for preparing the sea bass.”
And the programme is extremely popular. In only a few years since they have been running the programme, they have already had visitors from 98 countries, if counting individual States of the USA as countries, then they had visitors from 128 countries. What is even more impressive is that every visitor’s entrance fee, “buys one bag of food for fish. Last year, for example, our visitors bought 55 tons of food what made for more than one quarter of our yearly needs which is 200 tons. This way the visitors become a part of our story, they become a part of our team and our mission.”
FOR A BETTER WORLD
And the Fonda family’s mission is not a small one, but rather a big one that takes a lot of work and determination but the Fondas are not afraid of the big shoes that they stepped in: “We want to contribute to a better life of people locally and globally. Firstly, around our fish farm a new form of life is being formed. Other fish and different shells and plants and algae that were gone from this area are coming back and growing in numbers. This way we are bringing back more life and variety into the Adriatic Sea.”
The Fonda Fish Garden became a centre of new life, it presents safe haven for different species for the farm does not use chemicals to get rid of unwanted plants growing on the nets but it rather manually cleans all of the nets every few months. “Opposite to usual practice at fish farms, we use no chemicals and we also only use natural and organic fish food, thus the area around our farm is very healthy and safe not only for all the animals and plants, but, very importantly, also for people,” emphasizes Irena Fonda.
“And secondly,” continues Irena Fonda, “with growing our own local fish with which we can provide to our local and regional restaurants, we wish to contribute to sustainability on a global level, for local food causes fewer greenhouse gases than the fish traveling on planes from far away continents.”
AS GOOD AS FREE-LIVING FISH
However, often we have prejudice for the raised, grown fish as if it is not as tasty as the free-living fish. But this is not the case anymore for the fish farming is losing the negative connotation. Particularly in the case of Fonda Fish Garden, is this even more true, says the managing director: “In case of our sea bass, even experts do not notice any difference between the two. The quality of our fish is often praised for the amazing quality of the meat.”
Photo credit: Fonda Fish Garden
THE BEST ONES IN THE WORLD
And the Fondas are certainly coming close to what they want to achieve: “We are not the only ones in the world, but we are doing everything to be the best ones.” The Jakob Award that is a part of a yearly Alpe-Adria fair’s programme organised and hosted in GR – Ljubljana Exhibition and Convention Centre certainly adds a stone in the path towards that praiseworthy goal.
Just recently the project the Unforgettable Day at the Fonda Fish Farm has been also ranked among the top ten experiences branded Slovenia Unique Experiences, confirmed by the Slovenian Tourist Board (STO). The 5-star experience under the name Slovenia Unique Experiences is positioned as a collection of unique authentic premium quality experiences that support the story of the brand I Feel Slovenia and Green Boutique Slovenia for 5-star Experiences.
INCENTIVE - UNFORGETTABLE DAY AT THE FONDA FISH GARDEN
|Best time of the year:||March-October; but also in between if not too windy and/or rainy|
|Duration:||1,5-2 hours; or according to client’s wishes and needs (up to whole day)|
|Number of participants:||1-100; preferably up to 50, but the optimal groups are up to 30 participants|