Meet our Team

Keo Fish Farms, Inc. is a case study in social capital, defined loosely as shared values and understandings that enable groups to trust each other and work together. With the help of 21 employees, including Mike Freeze and Martha Melkovitz, the company now accounts for 80 percent of the market for hybrid striped bass fingerlings in the US, and also dominates the triploid grass carp market.

“Your employees are your most valuable asset ever,” Freeze tells Aquaculture North America (ANA). “One should never forget that. You want your employees to want to work here, you want them to feel like they’re vested in your company.”  

Enhancing employee experience to engage and retain their talent is Freeze’s philosophy as an employer. Keo’s profit-sharing plan enables its workers to feel more vested in the company’s overall success, giving them the initiative to go above and beyond one’s job. “When our employees are loading fish on a truck and one of them spills fish, I don’t say a word to him or her, but the other employees are going to say: ‘Hey, you need to be more careful!’ Because that is profit they co-own, through our profit-sharing plan,” Freeze says.

Staff members have 25 days annually to take as personal time, including 10 days during the Christmas holidays. Paying workers a living wage that will give them a decent quality of life is a win-win for both employees and employers, Freeze adds. People work so they can have time off and be with their family and do things they want, and if they’re not making enough money to do that, they’re not going to be happy and you’re not going to keep them,” he says.  

Measuring employee accountability can be a difficult task to accomplish, but at Keo Fish Farm, staff does not have to clock in and out. Instead, they have devised a way to hold them accountable. “Occasionally, you’ll have a little bit of an issue with some not showing up on time because they’re not punching a time clock. But instead of calling them out, they pay $10 into a pot that’s divided among the on time employees at the end of the year. So it’s almost comical – they’ll sit there with a watch, trying to see if any employee comes in late. It’s just a way you motivate your employees. Instead of penalizing them, you’re rewarding them.”

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Liza Mayer. “Employer in focus: Keo Fish Farm.” Aquaculture North America, Annex Business Media, Employer in focus: Keo Fish Farm - Aquaculture North America. May 14, 2019.