Hans Erik Bylling turns 70
Anders Bylling is now ready to hold the reins and will be the fourth generation of the Bylling dynasty.
Hans Erik Bylling, co-founder of Aller Aqua, celebrated his 70th birthday on March 15, 2023, leading a company with 650 employees, activities in 70 countries and an annual turnover of €270m.
Looking back at seven decades of being part of what began as a family business over 100 years ago, he is ready to embrace what will be the fourth generation of Byllings.
The foundation for the family dynasty was laid in 1912 when Bylling’s grandparents, Frederik and Ane Kirstine, took over the operation of the local mill, Aller Mill. The couple developed the business to include fodder for traditional farm animals, and after Hans Erik’s father, Hans Joergen, took over, high-quality fish feed was added to the portfolio, too. That, in particular, turned out to be a very good idea.
“My father succeeded in making dust-free fodder for pigs,” Hans Erik Bylling explains. “A Swedish consortium heard about it, and they asked him if he could develop a similar feed product for fish farming.”
Despite knowing next to nothing about fish metabolism, Hans Joergen took on the challenge, and over the following 20 years, he meticulously continued to improve and refine products for fish, slowly allowing the company to expand its radius of action. However, it wasn’t until the founders’ grandchildren, Hans Erik and his brother Povl, took over that the fish feed production turned into a true business adventure.
That part of the family’s history begins at the end of the 70s. As the youngest sibling of four, taking over the family business was not at all on young Hans Erik’s mind. He had left the hometown of Christiansfeld and was busy finishing his education as a technical assistant. But then disaster struck. The old factory mill was destroyed in a fire, and seeking a way to rebuild the mill, his oldest brother Povl asked Hans Erik to return home to help the family business back on its feet. Fortunately, Hans Erik said "yes".
“We always found it difficult to say ‘no’ in our family, when a big challenge presented itself,” says Hans Erik. “My father hadn’t thought about fish feed when he was asked, but he took the challenge upon himself anyway and said, ‘Yeah, let’s try that’. I think that’s a healthy attitude to have. Sometimes, of course, it blows up in your face. But usually, it works out just fine. You just have to give it a go – that’s what I did, too.”
The story about the Byllings taking on tremendous challenges with something brand-new, underlines the key element in the family DNA. Courage. This showed itself again in 1996. Despite all advice and recommendations, the two brothers decided to create an independent sister company, dedicated to the development and production of fish feed. Together they formed Aller Aqua, and ten years later both the family mill and Aller Aqua had grown so much, the brothers decided to split their shared responsibilities in order to give both companies the attention required. Povl took over full responsibility for the mill, while Hans Erik continued the development of Aller Aqua.
The lively yet respectful debates around the dinner table are among Hans Erik’s fondest memories. To him, good discussions are still a valuable source of continuous development.
This approach has not only helped the 70-year-old CEO to achieve consecutive decades of success. It also led Aller Aqua towards an international accolade, culminating in 2017 when Hans Erik Bylling was invited to Copenhagen to receive the national “EY Entrepreneur of the Year” Award. A recognition to have a major impact on the company and its employees.
Though grateful for the international accolade, winning prestigious awards is not what Hans Erik finds the most satisfying as the CEO of Aller Aqua. “Apart from being lucky enough to have some of the best minds and most skilled people in our field here at Aller Aqua, I think our R&D facilities in Büsum in Germany are what I’m most proud of.”
Fourth generation in the Bylling dynasty ready
At home, the next generation of the family business is ready to take over. After working at the company’s Chinese branch for a few years, Hans Erik’s son, Anders Bylling, is now ready to hold the reins. He will be the fourth generation of the Bylling dynasty in Christiansfeld.
“The entire family went through an open and honest process, where everybody had their say and everybody listened. We have three children, and they all played an equal part in the solution we ended up with,” the 70-year-old CEO explains. “And they are all fully behind the solution we reached.”
“I find the future looks very bright indeed. Not just for Aller. Fish farming is growing rapidly, and it WILL play a key role in the world’s food programs looking ahead. Here Aller stays true to our commitment to both local farmers and the communities we operate in,” he concluded.