£300 million land-based salmon farm to be built in tunnels beneath Shetland?

Editorial Staff

Norwegian Mountain Salmon is exploring potential locations in the Shetland Islands for a substantial land-based salmon farming project.

Land-based farming company Norwegian Mountain Salmon is looking at a site in the southern end of Shetland to construct a large scale underground salmon farm using flow through technology.

Representatives from Norwegian Mountain Salmon were in Shetland earlier this month for discussions with the landowner and the local authority.

The site at Fora Ness, near Spiggie and opposite the uninhabited island of Colsay, will now be investigated further, according to the company’s chief executive Bård N Hjelmen.

A decision whether to go ahead with the proposal will be made later this year, he told Shetland News.

The company is also looking at a potential site at Mealista near Uig in Lewis (Western Isles) and is planning a first production site on the Norwegian island of Utsira.

The company is proposing to drill large tunnels into the rock to house up to 112 large fish tanks which could, over time, produce up to 45,000 tonnes of salmon per annum.

Norwegian Mountain Salmon CEO Bård Hjelmen. Photo: Tina Totland Jenssen

If this goes ahead, the company said it would invest more than £300 million between the start of construction, envisaged for 2028, and full production by 2035.

“We are now investigating the sites in Lewis and in Shetland, and then we are going to decide which of the two locations we are going to go forward with first,” Hjelmen said.

He said the advantages of land-based salmon production were clear and he was surprised that no-one in Scotland was already doing this.

The chief executive added that Scotland had the optimal water temperature profile for land based through-flow salmon farming.

With the fish tanks required to be located below seawater level and the water being taken from around 50 metre of depth, the company said it was confident it could produce salmon in the most sustainable way.

Hjelmen added that underground salmon farming would have 90 per cent less visual impact compared to traditional fish farming.

Chief technology officer William Vossgård said the company would like to hear from businesses and private individuals interested in investing in and contributing to the venture.

Asked how drilling large tunnels into the rock could be financially feasible Vossgård said it would be more costly to constantly pump sea water to a higher up and visible land-based fish farms than blasting tunnels.

“In Norway tunnelling is well known and there is a lot of expertise. Tunnelling is not that big an exercise for Norwegians, and it is less stone to move than excavating the whole site,” he said.


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