The Refsnes family is the prime mover for the new Columbi Salmon initiative, which will combine salmon farming and salad production, through so-called aquaponics where lettuce is grown on manure from the fish.
Witzøe’s latest move is interesting, especially since he and SalMar are at the forefront of offshore salmon farming. Offshore farming, together with land-based production, is seen as the preferred choice for global supply growth of salmon in the years to come.
While SalMar’s offshore investment, which last week included Aker as a strategic partner, might be dependent on the government’s blessing in the form of licenses, it is free to establish salmon production facilities on land.
Witzøe has closely followed the development of land-based salmon, and has, among other things, visited Atlantic Sapphire’s giant facility just outside Miami. He has repeatedly stated that the construction boom in land-based farming, driven by easily accessible and cheap financing, can present a significant challenge for the salmon market in a few years’ time.
However, Witzøe has noted the sky-high operating costs and the risk that the land-based investment entails.
Still, now he has chosen to put money into such a project. Although the investment gives the impression that Witzøe is spreading risk, thinking about portfolio theory and hedging his bets on the future, he is not investing much. Kverva is one of several investors participating in this issue round for a total of NOK 162 million (€15.7 million). Even the entire issue represents only a fraction of what it costs to build a single rig for offshore farming.
Thus, the investment in Columbi Salmon is more like a listening post. It is, at least for the time being, not a major strategic investment. Only a position that allows Witzøe and SalMar to stay continuously informed about what is happening in a branch of the aquaculture industry that will develop enormously by the end of the 2020s.