Land-based salmon: ‘The technology is proven, the bottle neck is people,’ says veteran exec

Editorial Staff

“Even if this is a fantastic product and a great tasting product, it is still a commodity.”

“I thought I was going to be the first person up to talk about land-based salmon farming today. But then I saw that others are talking smolt and post smolt,” Atle Eide, Chairman of China-located land-based salmon farmer Nordic Aqua Partners told attendees at the North Atlantic Seafood Forum in Bergen on Thursday.

“Which is to say that land-based salmon farming is a proven technology,” said Eide, underlining his point. “Competent people is what you need to succeed in land-based salmon farming. The technology is proven. The bottle neck is people.”

Front loading talent

With this in mind, Eide revealed that from May the company will have the complete crew necessary to grow its full 20,000 tons, despite that target being years off.

“We are front loading the operating costs. we believe that is an important investment to make even though we are just a fraction of that,” he said.

Oslo-listed Nordic Aqua Partners plans to start harvesting commercially in March, underscoring the viability of this technology in a sector where traditional methods are reaching capacity limits.

Eide, the former chairman of Norwegian salmon farming giant SalMar, – and onetime CEO of Pan Fish, the company that would eventually become Mowi – said that the context within which land-based salmon farming needs to be understood is that conventional farming technology and areas are out of capacity.

Jet set?

“Traditional net pen farming is still going to be the most important part of salmon farming, but there is a 5% growth in consumption. The growth, however is 1.5% in traditional farming, and that gap, he says, needs to be made up.

Eide points out the environmental benefit of reducing air transport and the strategic advantage of their proximity to major markets like Shanghai, just 4 miles away, and boasting a middle class of some 14 million people.

“One of the reasons we think it is important to develop land based salmon farming is air transport. You cannot fly salmon to a market,” he told attendees. “I am sixty, for me its okay, but for the younger generation is an absolute that you cannot do it.”

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However, he cautions that despite high-quality production, salmon remains subject to the usual market cycles.

“We are 0.8 percent of Mowi’s 500,000 tonnes, we are a niche player in a giant market,” he said. “The fish looks fantastic, the conditions are superb. We have excellent quality, no mortality and will sell the fish into the biggest market into the world by far. But it is still a commodity,” warned the industry veteran.

Nordic Aqua Partners has set a target weight of 5.2 kg for their salmon and aims to achieve an ongoing harvest of 8,000 tons per year by the end of 2026.


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