More than 46 years have passed since April 1971 when MOWI harvested the first commercially farmed salmon, thereby kicking off a historic industrial adventure for salmon.
This is where it all started.
The first smolts, produced at Tveitevagen in Askoy, outside of Bergen, Norway, were released into Flogoykjolpo inlet, in 1968. “Flogo”, as it was known by locals, was blocked off by reinforcement rods in vertical gratings with 12-millimeter openings, according to the book “En plog i havet – historien om MOWI” (A plough in the sea – the history of MOWI). The smolt were released inside a net cage bag.
However, a storm hit the farm site, the wire that held the net bag broke, and the smolts escaped out to sea. The 50,000 square meter large inlet is shallow, ten meters at its deepest point, and close to the open sea.
New smolts were released here a year later.
It soon became apparent that the water flow-through was not ideal, and the reinforcement rods were covered in slime and jellyfish. A pump was installed to blow in air to ensure a supply of oxygen.
Based on the experience gained at Flogoy, MOWI founder Thor Mowinckel established a new production site a kilometer away as the crow flies. That was Veloykjolpo, a new inlet that was closed off. The first smolt were released here in 1970.
In the autumn of 1969 Norsk Hydro laid € 140,000 on the table to secure 50 percent of the shares in MOWI. The Norwegian industrial giant would later buy the remaining shares to take over full control of the company.
In April 1971 the 1969-generation of fish was slaughtered in a shed at Flogoy. A herring salting house on the wharf at Movikthat, which had been converted to a slaughter plant, was where the first salmon were collected by Hallvard Leroy’s refrigerated trucks. Sotra island was first connected to the mainland in December 1971, when King Olav V cut the ribbon and officially opened Sotra Bridge. Before that, the fish had to be transported by ferry from Brattholmen to Alvoen, and onward to Bergen. From there the fish left for Oslo, Denmark, Belgium and Germany.
In total 60 tonnes of salmon were sent from Flogoy and Movik in 1971.
In the period 1971 – 1975 half of all the farmed salmon in Norway were harvested by MOWI, which eventually was rechristened Hydro Seafood.
The large, capital-intense farm sites at Flogoy and Veloy were costly and cumbersome, and were quickly faced with the challenge of salmon lice. In 1987 Hydro vacated the two inlets, and moved the fish over to floating cages.
Hydro Seafood was sold in the year 2000 to the Dutch feed conglomerate Nutreco for € 210m. The Norwegian pioneer company was merged into Nutreco’s subsidiary Marine Harvest, which in 2006 was acquired and flagged home to Norway by shipping magnate John Fredriksen.