Ocean Aquafarms continues to work on its ambitious project, even though the appeal for its refusal of development licence has not gone ahead.
It was the weekend that the message came. The Ministry upheld the refusal of the Directorate of Fisheries to apply for 13 development permits for the “Hex Box”. The concept is able to operate at sites with a wave height of up to ten metres, thus allowing salmon farming in areas that are inaccessible with today’s technology.
“We are very surprised and, of course, disappointed by the refusal of the Ministry of Trade and Industry when it comes to our application for development licences for our “Hex Box” design. Our view is that our concept is clearly within the criteria for permits, and believes this is well documented in the application. We register that the ministry agrees with us that the steel construction is both sufficiently documented and represents significant innovation,” said Chairman of the Board Heidi Baugstø of Ocean Aquafarms to SalmonBusiness.
“We will use the time ahead to evaluate the rejection that came on our project against the clarifications given in other cases,” added Baugstø.
Dialogue with stakeholders
Baugstø and her husband Steve Adshead developed “Hex Box” after they got the idea during the oil price plunge of 2014.
“We developed our concept when it became difficult to see many new opportunities in the rig industry. As a result of “Hex Box”, we have continued to work on several water-related projects. This is technology development without being able to go into detail at the present time. We have many strong partners in China, including the authorities in Yantai and Shandong Province,” said Baugstø.
Baugstø said that “Hex Box” has been continuously developed and significantly upgraded since the application for development permits was sent in November 2016. Recently, they have been working specifically on the web solution.
“Network development for large wave forces for which “Hex Box” has been developed is a groundbreaking development. Therefore, Ocean Aquafarms has spent significant resources over the past three years on analysis and solutions to ensure a robust and secure solution with minimal risk,” she said.
In its refusal, the Ministry felt that the net concept was based on known technology from the aquaculture industry. They also felt that the note was no improvement compared to conventional nets.
According to Baugstø, the third stage of the development is undergoing a detailed examination of the connections between the groove and steel structure as well as the clamping system.
“The overall network system, including ropes, has been demonstrated for the third time to meet Norwegian requirements. The first time was in October 2017 for waves heights of 10m, and the second time was in July 2019 with even higher sea conditions. A scaled model to test web management functionality is under construction with promising results,” she said.
Analysis, detailed web design and models are handled by Aqua Knowledge, a company in the Mørenot group.
“We are currently in dialogue with several parties interested in the “Hex Box”, only we will have the opportunity to test this in full scale to document relevant operating parameters. These are from different nations outside Norway. We have always focused on the concept being designed to be industrialized and mass-produced, and that remains our focus,” emphasised Baugstø.
The couple believes in stronger relationships after the coronavirus but of course, Ocean Aquafarms is also aware of the coronavirus crisis.
“The main challenge is that we have not been able to travel to China or visit from there. We had planned a busy travel business this spring in connection with several of our new projects. We are in a situation where our partner in China was first hit by the virus before we even had to deal with the same situation,” said Baugstø.
She goes on to say that in terms of work, colleagues have not been hard hit except for the first few weeks when the country was shut down.
“They have thus been able to work on projects as planned,” she said.
Now the parties keep in touch in other ways.
“I talk to our partners on a daily basis. At Easter, we recorded a video greeting related to our projects, and this one will be shown at a conference we cannot attend. The authorities are well informed about the situation with us, and the mayor of Yantai has also sent sympathy letters to the mayor of Stavanger,” said Baugstø.
She says they look forward to travelling to China as soon as possible. It will also be the first trip to China under the auspices of the company for newly appointed communications manager Ragnhild Sofie Selstø.
“We choose to believe that we strengthen the relationships with our partners by having to deal with the corona challenges while working towards common goals,” Baugstø concluded.