The best lessons I’ve learned from a failed land-based salmon farm project

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I have been involved in one of the ambitious salmon farming projects around. It did not work out as planned but what I learned from its results has greatly changed my understanding of salmon and even humans.

I feel obliged to share some of the insights in this regard to contribute to greater benefit to the aquaculture industry.

The following below are the main reasons why it did not work. The salmon died and eventually, the whole project collapsed (only technical reasons here):

  • Water quality. The water quality of the groundwater is extremely important before jumping in. Oxygen alone will not solve all biological problems. A deep understanding of the local groundwater is key. This was the cause of a lot of the mortality.
  • Overfeeding. Despite the fact that this problem is widely discussed in technical circles; overfeeding remains one of the main reasons for mortality at RAS facilities. It just literally destroys everything.
  • Biosecurity. It has to be implemented. It’s one of the main drivers of infection at facilities. Over the last few years, I have thought about these points and I want them to be considered by experts and investors.
  • Power outage. It may come to a surprise to some of your readers, but it’s one of the factors you need to consider. You will need to have a backup plan. It is also important to have pump reserves.

The main success factors

Feed
Salmon feed is a factor that is typically ignored when planning or carrying out land-based salmon farm projects. For example, if you are planning fish farming in an imaginary country, let’s call it “Newfound landbased Salmo land”, how would you deal with the availability of feed? You will either cooperate with a feed company or have to produce the feed yourself. In both cases, make sure that the feed ingredients are richly available in the region, otherwise, it will destabilise your business model later on. I think it is extremely important to understand the nutritional and feed aspects of the fish. For example, are the salmon going to be raised on plant-based or carnivore diets?

Should you produce your own feed?
But realistically, it’s much better to leave it in the hands of large feed suppliers, as they have more capacity and strategic depth to cope with your demand in the event of an unexpected event.

The love of pink fish
Most the land-based fish farm projects (over 80) are under planning or construction revolve salmon. The RAS water environment for salmon is more challenging than the freshwater environment. Why not look for other commercially important species based on the local demand in the markets? In total, aquaculture has more than 600 species to work with.

Is land-based salmon farming a bubble?
The right question should be whether salmon production in is a bubble, as this is relatively new. But many freshwater species have been farmed to market weight around the world. It is too early to declare land-based salmon as a bubble, as it takes years to understand it? But even if it is, the knowledge that comes out of it will, at least, give greater smolt.

Against all odds
For example, up to one kilogram, can be transferred to sea cages or offshore for the growth phase. This ultimately contributes to increased production. The success of land-based salmon farming projects depends mainly on the people involved in the project. That’s obviously the case for Atlantic Sapphire – they are doing well – against all odds. The knowledge gained by the salmon industry is the most important asset that can be utilised for other farming projects around the world. The salmon farming world is expanding. The constant work of the meat industry has given the aquaculture industry a privileged position to be in.

This is a great opportunity for seafood companies to explore aquaculture globally and not limit themselves to just salmon. If done correctly, it can provide knowledge of salmon farming, technology and finance in a larger context of farm production globally.