Trond Williksen on Ocean Farm: “It could work”

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SalMar says salmon-farming in open waters could provide “enormous opportunity”

A drone sweeps over the yellow-painted steel colossus “Ocean Farm 1”. It scouts the area where the big rig lies at the mouth of Trondheim Fjord.

When SalMar CEO, Trond Williksen, shows the short film of Ocean Farm operating at sea, he had the audience’s attention. With the 143,000-tonner, SalMar advances to the fore of offshore aquaculture, and now the results of those operations are beginning to trickle in.

“This should give you an idea of what we’re doing off Froya in the Fro Sea,” he told an audience at the North Atlantic Seafood Conference in Bergen on Tuesday.

Now vs. 1971
There was enormous interest in the spectacular rig and Williksen’s keynote speech. In contrast to this year’s estimate of 1.2 million tonnes, he said that in 1971, Norway harvested just 98 tonnes of farmed salmon, good for five truckloads.

“Production concepts have to a great degree remained the same since then —- aquaculture in open net-pens along coastal zones,” he said, adding, “During the past five or six years, the industry has entered into a new phase, a more stagnant phase. That’s blamed on the availability of (new) areas, and the concerns of other stakholders have increased.”

Towards open sea
It’s these factors that have forced a look at other technology to make use of new areas and increase production.

“We have gone from unexposed to more open sea. We have seen that at SalMar, that in order grow we have had to make use of the sea. We have worked with this project now for three or four years,” Williksen said.

He doesn’t hide his pleasure at what he sees: “The experience so far has been, “This can work. This will work. We see that the fish are thriving. They’re eating and growing. We see low mortality and few sea lice. At the stage of production we’re at now, we see that it works, and this is a vector we can develop production towards.”

Tech-orientation
“We have started to cooperate with the Kongsberg Group to look at see how we can develop this production. We have cooperated with (research community) SINTEF, and we see that in order to grow we need more area. We believe this is just the beginning of how this industry might look in the future. We see an industry that wants to be more technology-driven. That could bring about an enormous opportunity to exploit more of the sea.”

Knowledge is the key, he says, underlining that the rig is equipped with 20,000 sensors.

“This represents a fantastic opportunity. Not just for SalMar and fish-farmers but also for Norway and the supplier industry to join in technologically,” Williksen said.