New salmon farm concepts no threat – yet – to traditional methods –

New salmon farm concepts no threat – yet – to traditional methods Published:  13 August, 2013

A lot needs to happen to threaten the prodiminance of the net-based production concept in salmon farming, according to a new report from Norwegian food research institute Nofima.

In the long term, more efficient land-based aquaculture can come close and report authors scientists Audun Iversen, Otto Andreassen, Øystein Hermansen, Thomas A. Larsen and Bendik Fyhn Terjesen also see that land-based aquaculture in countries with low production costs may be somewhat of a threat.

On commission from the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, the scientists have evaluated whether new operational concepts within aquaculture can threaten Norway’s position as an aquaculture nation.

The following systems were evaluated: recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) both in Norway and in countries with low production costs, offshore sea cages and closed-containment sea-based systems in both exposed and sheltered locations.

“We see that land-based or closed-containment sea-based systems, often using recirculating technology, are being built in Denmark, North America, Scotland and China. Land-based and closed-containment sea-based systems will involve much higher investment costs, but some of this disadvantage is expected to be offset by lower operating costs. However, there is a long way to go before closed-containment constructions will be as economical as today’s net-based solutions,” said Audun Iversen.

The average production cost of the current net-based aquaculture is NOK 24 per kilo of salmon produced. The production costs for the other concepts are far more uncertain. Consequently, the scientists developed an analytical model, which enabled them to take much of the uncertainty into consideration.

They saw that there were much higher costs in the closed-containment or semi closed-containment concepts. The costs were at least NOK 5-10 higher than today’s net-based concept.

But major policy changes, such as stricter environmental requirements, could change the picture. The scientists also envisaged that the technological paradigm shifts, that would give considerable changes in the cost level, could have an impact on the probability of the success of the various technologies.

The scientists believe that there will be examples of combination models, where more of the salmon’s weight (e.g. up to 1 kg) occurs in land or sea-based closed-containment systems.

This would have advantages both for the environment of the fish and that of the surrounding area, as well as limiting the investments significantly in relation to having the entire growth phase in land or sea-based closed-containment systems.

“Norway’s natural advantage will possibly become less important with new production concepts, but other advantages are also important for Norway’s competitive position and are also hard to copy,” said Iversen.

“Norway’s salmon farming industry benefits from proximity to the important European fresh fish market, strong knowledge environments, a leading supplier industry, good infrastructure and good resource management. This broad competence around salmon farming is also a major competitive advantage. And that’s difficult to copy, if not as difficult as copying the nature.”