Land-based aquaculture doesn’t make sense for N.L. industry pioneer

Alex Whitebrook/ February 2, 2018/ News/ 0 comments

A Norwegian company is investing half a billion dollars in land-based salmon farming in Maine, but a local aquaculture pioneer doesn’t see similar facilities as viable for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Norway-based Nordic Aquafarms is developing a 40-acre land-based salmon farm in Maine that aims to eventually annually produce 33,000 tonnes of fish, which represents eight per cent of American salmon consumption, Reuters reported on January 30.

But Jonathan Moir — who has worked in aquaculture in the province, and around the world, for more than 25 years — says land-based farming just doesn’t make sense here.

“There’s no strategic advantage in Newfoundland,” Moir said. “From my perspective I can’t understand why you would invest in Newfoundland to produce salmon on land when you have lots and lots of water here that is good-quality water.”

Seen as more sustainable

Sea-based aquaculture involves farming fish such as salmon in cages placed in ocean waters. Land-based aquaculture involves raising fish in tanks that never seen the ocean.

As the technology develops, land-based aquaculture has become increasingly economically viable, Moir told The Broadcast this week.

“It’s not a simple process, and it’s only very recently that there have been technologies produced which look like they’re gonna be able to reduce the capital cost and also reduce the actual operating costs of the facilities,” Moir said.

Land-based production is also appealing in the United States because fish raised in these facilities are considered more sustainable and locally produced, and can therefore command higher prices.

“People are keen to sell salmon with a Made in the U.S.A. label to it, and they see opportunities to be able to do this and to satisfy the markets that are local to where they’re doing the actual production,” Moir said.

“Why would you do that here?”

However, there are two main problems with developing land-based aquaculture facilities in the province, said Moir: our location and our electricity costs.

Feed for land-based salmon would have to be imported, Moir said. And much of the fish produced in the province would end up being shipped elsewhere for sale and consumption, which also adds costs for any land-based facility.

Also, with Muskrat Falls development still underway, and expectations that electricity costs will rise in the coming years, the uncertainty around electricity costs — a significant expense for land-based facilities — represents a business disadvantage for Newfoundland and Labrador, Moir said.

“Why would you do that here rather than do it in Quebec where it’s six cents a kilowatt hour [for electricity] and you’re eight hours from New York on a truck?” Moir said.

A Norwegian company is investing half a billion dollars in land-based salmon farming in Maine, but a local aquaculture pioneer doesn’t see similar facilities as viable for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Norway-based Nordic Aquafarms is developing a 40-acre land-based salmon farm in Maine that aims to eventually annually produce 33,000 tonnes of fish, which represents eight per cent of American salmon consumption, Reuters reported on January 30.

But Jonathan Moir — who has worked in aquaculture in the province, and around the world, for more than 25 years — says land-based farming just doesn’t make sense here.

“There’s no strategic advantage in Newfoundland,” Moir said. “From my perspective I can’t understand why you would invest in Newfoundland to produce salmon on land when you have lots and lots of water here that is good-quality water.”

Seen as more sustainable

Sea-based aquaculture involves farming fish such as salmon in cages placed in ocean waters. Land-based aquaculture involves raising fish in tanks that never seen the ocean.

As the technology develops, land-based aquaculture has become increasingly economically viable, Moir told The Broadcast this week.

“It’s not a simple process, and it’s only very recently that there have been technologies produced which look like they’re gonna be able to reduce the capital cost and also reduce the actual operating costs of the facilities,” Moir said.

Land-based production is also appealing in the United States because fish raised in these facilities are considered more sustainable and locally produced, and can therefore command higher prices.

“People are keen to sell salmon with a Made in the U.S.A. label to it, and they see opportunities to be able to do this and to satisfy the markets that are local to where they’re doing the actual production,” Moir said.

“Why would you do that here?”

However, there are two main problems with developing land-based aquaculture facilities in the province, said Moir: our location and our electricity costs.

Feed for land-based salmon would have to be imported, Moir said. And much of the fish produced in the province would end up being shipped elsewhere for sale and consumption, which also adds costs for any land-based facility.

Also, with Muskrat Falls development still underway, and expectations that electricity costs will rise in the coming years, the uncertainty around electricity costs — a significant expense for land-based facilities — represents a business disadvantage for Newfoundland and Labrador, Moir said.

“Why would you do that here rather than do it in Quebec where it’s six cents a kilowatt hour [for electricity] and you’re eight hours from New York on a truck?” Moir said.

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