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May 10, 2018

Nordic Aquafarms on track to start construction of land-based salmon farm in Belfast next year

Courtesy / Nordic Aquafarms
Courtesy / Nordic Aquafarms
An artist's rendering of what Nordic Aquafarms' land-based salmon farm in Belfast will look like in a view looking south.

Nordic Aquafarms has completed nearly all of its due diligence on the 40-acre site in Belfast where it plans to build a state-of-the-art land-based salmon farm.

Phase 1 of the multi-stage $450 million-to-$500 million project is expected to cost $150 million.

At a May 9 public information meeting in Belfast, CEO Erik Heim said the company will proceed with pre-engineering and preparation the various state and local permit applications necessary for the company to begin construction next year on the first phase of the project, according to a company news release.

"We have confirmed that necessary conditions are in place on the site for our planned aquaculture production, including the availability of clean, abundant and sustainable groundwater from test wells," Heim said in the release. "We now have over 90% confidence related to site conditions and requirements and as a result will be moving ahead with engineering and permitting."

Reached by telephone, company spokesperson Ted O'Meara told Mainebiz that the process that ended in the selection of Belfast as the company's U.S. site began mid-2017, when Nordic hired Ransom Consulting, with offices in Portland and Portsmouth, N.H., to look for sites from Washington, D.C., up to the Canadian border. Land-based farming requires both freshwater and salt water, which limits sites to the coast, he said.

"Apparently it's not that easy to find places along the coast that have really good access to large amounts of freshwater and is also close to the coast where you can pull in the seawater that you need relatively easily," he said. "So it was a fairly tight set of specs." Ransom spent about six months on the search, narrowing it to several sites in Maine and landing finally on Belfast.

Nordic has spent the last few months doing due diligence on the site to make sure there's an adequate freshwater supply that's clean and sustainable, said O'Meara. Those findings were presented at the May 9 meeting.

"It's been confirmed that there's an abundance of clean groundwater," he said.

The site is located on acreage that belongs to the Belfast Water District, but is not a source for the Belfast water supply, he said. Nordic has an option to purchase the land.

The land has a series of trails along the reservoir and river, which Nordic has pledged to maintain for continued public use, O'Meara said.

"What became clear early on is that the view of dam and the reservoir is very important to people," he said. The company is also looking at creating a visitor and education center, with outdoor tanks, at the site, he said.

Land-based salmon farming is an emerging technology, O'Meara said.

"The salmon farming industry seems to be headed in this direction," he said. Nordic has two such farms in Denmark and one under construction Norway. "They're one of the companies really moving forward with this," he said.

A second salmon farm planned for Bucksport

In Bucksport, Maine-based Whole Oceans announced in February its plans to purchase most of the former Verso paper mill site and build a land-based salmon farm, with a phased $250 million investment and annual production of 50,000 metric tons of Atlantic salmon. Whole Oceans said at the time that it had pre-sold 100% of production for 10 years. Construction is expected to begin this August.

And in Florida, according to seafoodsource.com, Atlantic Sapphire USA, a subsidiary of Norwegian farmed salmon firm Atlantic Sapphire A/S, will start construction on a massive $100 million land-based aquaculture facility in Miami.

Atlantic Sapphire CEO and Founder Johan Andreassen told SeafoodSource he expects the facility will be capable of producing around 10,000 metric tons, or 22 million pounds annually, by the time the phase-one build-out is complete, expected by the end of 2019 or beginning of 2020.

New technology driving land-based aquaculture

Courtesy / Nordic Aquafarms
Courtesy / Nordic Aquafarms
A rendering showing the entrance to the Belfast salmon farm.

Farmed Atlantic salmon has up to now been produced in sea-based pens. The emergence of the land-based segment of the farmed salmon industry is due to a combination of economics and technology, said O'Meara.

"This seems to be where the industry is heading and where the investment money is heading," he said, adding that land-based farming has numerous advantages over sea-based.

"Because it's a controlled environment, it addresses a lot of the concerns people have raised about sea farming," he said. "But obviously, there's a well-established sea pen industry in this country and also in Europe, and that's not going to go away. This is simply a new segment of the industry that, for a lot of reasons, is emerging and seems to be the wave of the future."

At the May 9 meeting, Heim said Nordic Aquafarms is committed to developing a "green" facility with "soft" integration into the landscape. He also announced that staffing for the Belfast facility is progressing.

The company is finalizing an agreement with its first U.S. hire, a Maine native who is returning home from Florida to support development activities in Belfast, where the company expects to open a field office this summer.

Heim said he is moving to Maine in October to head up U.S. operations, and expects to establish a small corporate office, to serve as headquarters for Nordic Aquafarms, Inc., the company's U.S. subsidiary, in Portland late this summer.

With headquarters in Norway, Nordic's plans for the Belfast facility includes construction in several phases. Phase 1, with a capacity of 13,000 tons, is being designed in Norway. Construction is expected to start in 2019, with operations starting in 2020.

According to the release, land-based production is based on indoor production in large tanks and water treatment systems.

Benefits are reported to include: the ability to recycle and treat water on site to reduce overall water consumption, recycling of waste resources, the prevention of sea lice and parasites, the elimination of fish escape into the sea and co-mingling with wild species, the application of renewable energy concepts, and a shorter distance to market for a high quality, fresh product, reducing the carbon footprint of air and land transport.

Read more

Zoning change advances Nordic Aquafarms' $150M project in Belfast

Maine company unveils $250M plan to create land-based salmon farm in Bucksport

Norwegian aquaculture company plans to invest up to $500M in Belfast

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