Bachtellachs ‒ Going against the Flow

 

 

Since the day the erstwhile banker quit his job to dedicate himself full-time to his fish farm, the glamour of his cherished boyhood dream has faded somewhat. In 2004, after importing Japanese Cherry salmon to Switzerland and buying a fish farm – which was much too big for hobby farming – he decided to make fish farming his new profession. An extremely work-intensive and fiercely competitive business, yet Yves Sacher still stands by his decision.

Yves Sacher is a quirky sort of person, even if this isn’t apparent on first sight. He waves down to us from his balcony and immediately asks us in, although we have turned up much too early for our appointment. Tightly gripping his Border collie Bo by the collar and opening the door, he tells us he was just having lunch and invites us to join him at the table. Pointing at the dining room table, which is set for one, complete with a wine glass containing raspberry syrup, he combs his graying, chin-length hair back with his fingers and serves us coffee and tea before sitting down again himself. During the next three-quarters of an hour, Yves Sacher will completely fail to finish his meal. This fish farmer, we soon find out, has a lot to say. Possibly, because he likes to talk. Or, possibly, because he rarely has anybody to listen to his tales about the object of his passion. He originally moved to this house in Gibswil with his former girlfriend, but she moved back to Zurich some time ago. "I guess she missed the concrete in the city and the nightlife too much." And so Yves Sacher tells us about different kinds of fish, their traits and geographical occurrences, and about the obstacles that he deals with in his daily work as a fish breeder. That he likes lists becomes clear as he quotes articles from the Welfare of Animals Act, enumerates the cantons with the largest fish farms, counts off fish types that are especially noteworthy on his fingers ‒ while the macaroni on his plate grows cold and despairs of ever being eaten.

Not counting the collie and about 10'000 fish, Yves Sacher lives here alone. And he does most of his work alone too. Only when the caviar production reaches its peak can he afford a trainee to assist him. He does everything else on his own: pond maintenance, breeding and raising the fish, slaughtering and filleting a number of them, supplying restaurateurs, business transactions, running the small shop – seven days a week. Perhaps all the hard work is what has fostered his obvious affection for his fish – a fondness that becomes readily apparent in how he talks about them. He would have liked to show us "Pfeil", "who sadly passed away recently." Instead Samantha and Rosalie put in an appearance. Yves Sacher needs less than a second to pick them out in the school of fish. "Each fish is an individual,” he says. "That's how I treat them and that's what my business stands for."

Even without the brand, my fish are one-of-a-kind. But the brand helps me to transport certain values and link my story with the product.

Some of his fish have been with him for 8 years. "And I will never slaughter them. I keep them on for breeding purposes, or just let them spend their remaining years here." Yves Sacher is constantly busy catering to the needs of his fish. "Salmon have specific requirements when it comes to water quality and maintenance," he explains. The facility that he took over from his predecessor is a pass-through system with its own spring water. Meanwhile Yves Sacher has refined the facility, adding an independent water cycle with its own purification plant that has lowered water consumption considerably. "This plant works the way facilities functioned back in the sixties," he says and raises his eyebrows. "When all those programs to improve efficiency were introduced, this facility wasn't included. The way I breed my fish here is purely artisanal, a time-honored process that hasn't changed." Yves Sacher quite obviously loves his hands-on job, however hard the work may be at times. "Working in the financial branch was very cerebral," he says. "Working on my fish farm has more of a nostalgic feel to it. It also means that my approach has been extremely ecological from the start, so now I'm coming out ahead of the others again."

I'll never get rich doing this work. But it's an honest, ecological project, and that's more important to me.

"The brand Bachtellachs is not simply a concept. In reality it stands for a manufacturing process that aims to be sustainable," Yves Sacher concludes. "I decided to turn it into a brand because the brand gives me the opportunity to define the product and link it to my story and my values – for example Swissness and an ecological approach." Glossy pages and marketing, however, are not his thing. "A polished appearance is not important to me. I prefer to be transparent and consistently ecological." For which (surely) not just Samantha and Rosalie are grateful.

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