Danes, Norwegians linked to 3nd giant U.S. RAS project

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Danish expertise, Norwegian investors and a U.S. seafood start-up appear to be behind plans for a second land-based aquaculture megaproject in Maine, a local newspaper on the Eastern Seaboard has reported.

Bjarne Hald Olsen, Billund Aquaculture CEO, seen when the company opened in Oslo last year

As Nordic Aqua Farms last week was announcing it would build a 40-acre, USD 150 million, land-based grow-out near Belfast, Maine, news circulated that Danish Billund Aquaculture Service — supplier to a giant land-based project in Florida by Atlantic Sapphire — had also gotten involved with U.S. seafood start-up, Whole Oceans, of Portland, Maine.

Newspaper The Ellsworth American reported on the possible use by these business partners of an old mill in Bucksport, Maine, near Portland for a large recirculating aquaculture site, or RAS. The newspaper contacted Whole Oceans.

“We cannot confirm anything about Bucksport at this time,” an email from Ben Willauner, director of Whole Oceans corporate development, was reported to have said. Willauner, however, referenced his company’s Web site which listed Billund Aquaculture as one of its five “partners”.

Capital partners
Shares in Denmark-based RAS-builder Billund have, since 2017, been 100-percent owned by Broodstock Capital Partners, a new but rich Norwegian fund. Billund opened in Norway in 2017.

Read Nordic to invest up to USD500 million in Maine

SalmonBusiness reached out to Billund and Broodstock by phone and email on Thursday but had not received a reply by the time we published on Friday.

Whole Oceans CEO is none other than Robert Piasio, “a specialist in land-based aquaculture technologies, species, markets, distribution and personnel”. He’s described as a “finance and investment banking professional” with 20 years of experience and a Bachelor of Arts degree; company CFO Michael Chorske is said to have 25 years of private equity and venture capital plus “demonstrated experience in land-based production”.

Ocean start-up
“Whole Oceans is a Maine company, on track to become America’s premier, land-based producer of sustainable farm-raised Atlantic salmon,” the company’s Web site trumpets, before adding, “Beginning in 2018, we are building a state-of-the-art Atlantic salmon (RAS) facility in Midcoast, Maine.” Chorske and Piaso are hoping to capitalize on the just four percent of U.S. demand for salmon that’s being “produced” domestically.

Read Insiders buy into Atlantic Sapphire

“This project will be one of the largest land-based aquaculture projects in the world,” the Whole Oceans Web page promises.

The persistent Ellsworth American contacted a Bucksport Town Manager, who on Monday said that while no property deals had been made yet, “There have been a number of entities that have been in contact … land-based fish farming was one of them.”

U.S. No. 3
If the story fits —  if Whole Oceans is for real — this second major investment by Norwegian capital in the U.S. Eastern Seaboard’s seafood market and network will mark yet another dramatic entry into North American salmon by Norwegian players. The first wave turned Canada into a major producer. Apart from Whole Ocean’s unspecified tonnage and Nordic Aquaculture’s 30,000-tonnes-a-year plan for Maine, the Sapphire Project in Dade County near Miami plans 90,000 t.

SalmonBusiness is working on this story, and new developments are expected.