Former seafood analyst on his new Belgium land-based salmon farm project: “You have to dare to be a little crazy sometimes”

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For the last 24-25 years, Kolbjørn Giskeødegård has had various roles in the investment bank Nordea. Now he has put sustainability and food resource on the agenda with a land-based salmon farm project in Belgium.

The last time SalmonBusiness met Kolbjørn Giskeødegård was at Nordea’s offices in Ålesund, Western Norway. This time he was smiling and with a wave rather than a shake of hands, in the canteen of the Norwegian Maritime Competence Centre at Ålesund University College. However, it is not only the first impression, given by a firm handshake, but that has also changed this time:

“Yes, now I have completely changed pastures! It’s a bit strange too, not being in Oslo several times a week. Now I only “commute” between the home office and the office here at NMK (Norwegian Maritime Competence Center .ed)” said Giskeødegård.

Major investment in land-based salmon farming
With EUR 30 million in initial capital, the company Columbi Salmon will build a land-based salmon farm outside Ostend, Belgium.

“In addition to farming the fish from purchased roe to finished harvested, we will produce lettuce from waste substances that would otherwise have been discarded. That way we get to take advantage of all the resources, which in turn makes us feel good. It’s one thing to talk about sustainability and environmental friendliness, but something completely different to show it in practice. That’s what we do in this company,” said an enthusiastic Giskeødegård.

The word “sustainability” goes again at every stage of the company: “We produce both fish and salad in the local market, we can reach all the largest consumers in one day,” he said.

The plant to be built has an estimated construction cost of EUR EUR 151 million and the production capacity is 12,000 tonnes of salmon annually. The salad production will come in addition.

“We are committed to taking the first shovel roof during the first half of 2021, and to harvest the first fish in early 2024,” said Giskeødegård.

Abrupt time to other
The news that Giskeødegård went from Nordea seafood analyst to CFO of Columbi Salmon became known in August. However, the plans have been clear for some time:

“We had probably talked about it for a year before we started the process, which is now still in a planning phase,” he said.

The former salmon analyst said that that the new role had a different pace to that of investment banking.

“It’s quieter right now. Now I actually have time for other things, now that I don’t commute that much. There are some advantages, too, with a pandemic,” he said with a smile.

From familiar and safe to new venture
“It’s clear that it feels a bit special to leave a workplace I’ve had for 24-25 years, to pursue something completely different that is again a little more “risky,” he said, after sitting down with a chai latte.

“But it’s clear, I have so faith in the concept. Financially, we are well secured and the other seven I have gone into this together are all the great people who know what they are doing. You have to dare to be a little crazy sometimes,” he added.

Joining him on the team is the CEO of the company, Anders Hagen, who is a former colleague from Nordea Markets. Until a year ago, he was the global head of Nordea’s stocks analysts and other securities. He skipped the top job to help build what he describes as a “sustainable, community-building and value-added business”. These are considerations that Giskeødegård said he shared with Hagen:

“I wouldn’t bet if I didn’t have so much faith in what we’re doing. It’s a good feeling to know that we’re going into something that secures a lot of jobs in a place with relatively high unemployment. We are sustainable at all levels and we make the most of our food resources. It all feels very right,” he added.