Kuterra still seeking investor

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B.C.’s Namgis-run, land-based salmon farm, Kuterra, is at last turning “a small profit” but is still looking to sell or find investors able to ramp up beyond the site’s original 400-tonne goal, newspaper The Colonist writes.

“For it to continue, it has to be at a large scale. That was always a known thing,” Nambis First Nations chief, Don Svanvik, was quoted as saying. The company is on the record since 2016 as seeking an investor, and the Vancouver Sun reported in March 2017 that the Namgis were “ordered” to wind down operations at Kuterra after talks with investors fizzled.

On the surface, Kuttera’s a steal for an investor. The Colonist reported the farm’s chief exec, Garry Ullstrom, saying Kuterra planning suggests that at 5,000 t or more, an investor “should expect about 20 per cent return on investment.”

The farm’s success and failings are widely cited in documents created in Ottawa that cite the importance of First Nations’ engagement in the business of salmon-farming. The CAD 7.6 million investment lies south of Port McNeil at the northern end of Vancouver Island.

Although water quality and fish health are proven to be good on the land-based facility, a stopper for some is the smaller, slower growth of fish on land and the limited volumes. As in a child’s aquarium, fish size is commensurate with tank size.

While the Colonist story cites a Norway-based DNB Bank source saying “the prospects for land-based farming worldwide have never been better”, SalmonBusiness had earlier looked at a struggling Danish land-based cite and learned the opposite might be truer.

Like Kuterra, the Danish site had achieved “a positive balance sheet”. The trouble was, that some of the land-based facility’s fixed-costs had appreciated to eclipse the total investment of marine grow-outs growing up to 15 times the biomass. For Kuterra, government grant and generous donations have run out, and “a modest profit” is the only lure to investors interested in a business known to have debt.

However, there are clear advantages to land-based salmon in the recycling of water and generally disease-free, antibiotic-free farming operations. Kuterra said in March that it would breakeven in 2017, and it has.

Read Long way to go for Danish pioneers