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May 22, 2019

Whole Oceans finalizes deal for part of former Verso mill

Whole Oceans Rendering / Courtesy Whole Oceans Whole Oceans has completed a purchase-and-sales agreement to buy a portion of the former Verso paper mill in Bucksport, where it plans to build a state-of-the-art land-based salmon farm.

Whole Oceans announced Tuesday it has closed on the purchase of property in Bucksport where it plans to build a land-based salmon farm.

The Portland-based company said it completed a purchase-and-sale agreement with American Iron and Metal Development USA LLC for a parcel on the site of the former Verso paper mill, according to a May 21 news release emailed to Mainebiz. Emergent Holdings of  Portland, formed exclusively to invest in aquaculture and agricultural markets in North America, is the parent company of Whole Oceans.

Whole Oceans expects to break ground on its “recirculating aquaculture systems” facility later this year.  In the $75 million Phase 1, it will initially produce 5,000 metric tons of Atlantic salmon annually and expects to quickly grow to 10,000 metric tons of salmon production. One metric ton is 2,204 pounds. 

Over time, the company plans to increase capacity to 20,000 metric tons per year on the Bucksport site and up to 50,000 metric tons in the United States. Whole Oceans is seeking sites for production on the West Coast. It aims to capture 10% or more of the U.S. market for farmed Atlantic salmon.

Progress 'exceeding expectations'

The finalized purchase marks the culmination of many months of permitting as well as negotiations with American Iron and Metal. 

 “The progress on the Whole Oceans project in Bucksport Maine is exceeding expectations,” Jason Mitchell, president of Whole Oceans, said in the release. “Bucksport is an optimal location for this type of operation, and we are looking forward to a long-term relationship with the town of Bucksport, and to making this community a world leader in our industry.”

Courtesy / Whole Oceans
Jason Mitchell, president of Whole Oceans, said Bucksport is an optimal location for its recirculating aquaculture systems operation.

The Bucksport plant is one of two of the world's largest land-based Atlantic salmon farms in development on the midcoast.

Nordic Aquafarms Inc., based in Norway, plans an operation on 54 acres in Belfast. Whole Oceans plans its operation on 108 acres in Bucksport. 

Key to both plans is a technique called “recirculating aquaculture systems," indoor tanks that continuously circulate and treat water. Both Whole Oceans and Nordic plan to deploy the recirculating aquaculture systems for the salmon's entire life cycle, from egg to market. 

“American Iron and Metal is happy that the efforts of various stakeholders have culminated today in the successful conclusion of the sale by AIM of a portion of the former Bucksport Mill site to Whole Oceans,” Jeff McGlin, vice president of American Iron and Metal, said in the release.

 “We look forward to a long-term partnership with Whole Oceans as they develop their land-based aquaculture industry here in Bucksport,” Town Manager Susan Lessard said in the release. “Their commitment to the environment, to setting the standard for this emerging industry, and for being a good corporate citizen in our community has been well received by the people of Bucksport.”

At the Bucksport Town Council’s May 9 meeting, Lessard said American Iron and Metal was a that time still razing buildings at the site.

Other buyers for the Verso site include Castine-based Maine Maritime Academy, which is expected to close on a portion of the American Iron and Metal property, and an undisclosed party that is interested in the site’s port area, which is the only remaining portion, Lessard said.

Maine Maritime Academy plans to build a new Center for Professional Mariner Development at the site. In November, it signed a purchase-and-sale agreement with American Iron and Metal to buy six acres.

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