New fish farm near Miami aims to grow major portion of U.S. salmon supply

Discussion in 'Conservation, Fishery Politics and Management.' started by Whole in the Water, Jan 17, 2020.

  1. Whole in the Water

    Whole in the Water Well-Known Member

    Good news for moving dangerous net pens out of the water and on to land where their negative environmental impacts can be better managed! Needs to happen here in BC ASAP!!!

    ORLANDO, Fla., Jan. 13 (UPI) --A new land-based salmon farm, described by industry groups as among the world's largest, is raising millions of the healthy popular fish in giant warehouses about 30 miles southwest of Miami.

    The subtropical location for the farmed salmon, which love cold northern waters, is unique in the world. The company, Atlantic Sapphire, pulls cold water from underground and keeps it at 59 degrees Fahrenheit in what it calls a bluehouse -- a greenhouse for fish.

    Norwegian entrepreneur Johan Andreassen built the farm in Homestead, Fla., over the past two years, relying on a steady supply of fresh and salt water from underground aquifers, he said. That's because salmon in the wild lay eggs in freshwater rivers, and the young fish swim to salt water to grow.

    Ultimately, the company wants to supply a sizable portion of the U.S. salmon market at a time when more Americans are turning to healthy fish in their diets.

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    Atlantic Sapphire wants to produce 100,000 tons of fish by 2026 and 242,000 tons by 2031. That would represent almost half of current U.S. salmon consumption, but the National Fisheries Institute trade group expects salmon demand to grow rapidly.

    The farm near Miami is rearing its first crop of Atlantic salmon to reach market size, which is close to 9 pounds, according to the company. That takes about 20 months.

    The largest tanks at the fish farm can hold about 25,000 fish in about 450,000 gallons of water, more than half the volume of an Olympic-size swimming pool.

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    Some 3 million fish are being raised there. The average size now is a little over a pound, and the company expects to harvest them in the last half of the year.

    The process involves hatching eggs in small tanks and moving to larger tanks as they grow. The biggest tanks would dwarf a large two-story house, towering over plant employees.

    Once the fish are big enough for sale, a drain will be opened in the tank, whooshing away fish and water into a processing area. The fish are stunned with an electric current before they filleted for sale.

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    Atlantic Sapphire plans to target major retail grocery chains as customers. Most of the fish will be sold fresh, but some 20 percent will be frozen, Andreassen said. He expects the fillets to fetch a premium by persuading consumers that the farm doesn't pollute the ocean like other fish farms. Farmed salmon sell for about $10 a pound or more retail, he said.

    All Atlantic salmon sold for human consumption is farm-raised because Atlantic salmon are endangered. In the United States, the species is only found in the wild in a few rivers in Maine. They grow to 57 pounds on average.

    To start work on his 160 acres, Andreassen received permits in 2016 from the South Florida Water Management District to siphon about 20 million gallons of water per day from Florida's underground aquifers.

    Most of that comes from the Floridan Aquifer, which is as deep as 2,000 feet -- where the water is brackish or salty. It is salty, cold and clean enough to be a perfect medium for growing salmon in oxygenated water tanks, Andreassen said.

    The fish farm will also treat wastewater to remove fish feces and other solids and then inject the wastewater into Florida's boulder zone, which is about 3,000 feet underground -- so deep that water at that level would be filtered through sand and rock for decades or longer before surfacing or seeping into the ocean.

    Andreassen founded Atlantic Sapphire in 2010 with a goal of starting land-based salmon farming in the United States because it is a growing market. His first step was to build a pilot fish farm in Denmark. Then he and his colleagues scoured the United States for a good location.

    "We thought the Northeast would be the ideal place, and Florida wasn't even on the radar," he said. "We sort of stumbled upon the fact that Florida's aquifers were ideal for us because I found a YouTube video about it."

    He said Florida's 21 million-plus population also makes a good local market.

    "America should be able to produce its own food. Americans are waking up to the benefits of heart-healthy fish like salmon," Andreassen said.

    Many health studies have confirmed that societies with high fish consumption have a lower incidence of heart disease, according to the National Institutes of Health. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's dietary guidelines recommend consumption of about 8 ounces per week of a variety of seafood.

    So far, Atlantic Sapphire has run into no opposition to its plan for expansion, but one major environmental group in the area said it is studying the project.

    "This [Atlantic Sapphire] facility only recently came to our attention, and we are currently learning more about it," said Shannon Estonez, vice president of policy with the Everglades Foundation. The foundation has worked for years to improve the flow of surface water to the Everglades, to prevent underground saltwater intrusion from the surrounding oceans.

    The type of fish farm Atlantic Sapphire is building is known as a recirculating aquaculture system, or RAS, even though wastewater leaves the plant regularly. Such farms avoid the impact of net-pen farming in the ocean, which can harbor disease, create pollution from fish waste and release domesticated fish into the wild.

    Fish farms like Atlantic Sapphire's have been endorsed by Seafood Watch, a popular seafood advisory program affiliated with Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. The group tries to advise the public about harmful practices in seafood production.

    "Recirculating aquaculture systems like this are pretty new, and we are still evaluating them, but we believe they are better than alternatives for fish farming," said Ryan Bigelow, senior program manager at Seafood Watch. "In confined tanks on land, the fish are grown with less interaction with wild populations, which is what we encourage."

    The impact of withdrawing fresh water from Florida's aquifers is believed to be reaching a crisis point in the northern half of the state, said Robert Knight, executive director of the Florida Springs Institute, a non-profit group based Gainesville. But he said the southern end of the Floridan Aquifer has a much larger volume of salty water.

    Still, Knight said, many utilities and manufacturing plants are allowed to tap the Floridan Aquifer in South Florida, and the cumulative effect of that is unknown. "Twenty million gallons per day is a lot of water either way you look at it," Knight said. "That's like the entire city of Gainesville's water consumption."

    About 72 percent of the world's salmon consumption is farmed, and those farms largely are in ocean nets in Norway, Chile, Scotland and Canada, according to the United Nations.

    Atlantic Sapphire has raised up to $3 billion from investors and has about 1,000 shareholders around the world, Andreassen said. The company has its primary offices in Miami, but trades publicly on the Oslo Stock Exchange. It employs over 100 people in Florida and intends to double that by the end of the year.

    "We have more and more U.S. ownership, and we consider ourselves a U.S. company now," Andreassen said. He said the company has spent about $250 million on property and construction in Florida.
  2. wildmanyeah

    wildmanyeah Crew Member

  3. Sino

    Sino Active Member

    Thanks for the article WMY. That's really good news and I certainly hope more are going to be removed in the near future, not just in the Broughton.
    With any luck the Miami land based farm will be the end of the BC industry if the industry here continues to refuse to adapt.
  4. wildmanyeah

    wildmanyeah Crew Member

    I believe the Broughton was actually mention as one of the potential problem areas in the Cohen commission.
  5. Sino

    Sino Active Member

    I believe it was also specifically mentioned in the Cohen. My point above was that I hoped farms would begin being decommissioned in other areas as well, such as Clayoquot. They are in desperate need there of relief from the sea lice issue the farms have caused there. 2 cycles have been hit very hard and coming up to number 3 this spring.
  6. IronNoggin

    IronNoggin Well-Known Member

    So... What are they feeding this huge amount of growing fish??

  7. Sino

    Sino Active Member

    Well, that's a whole other issue. Obviously feeding them wild forage fish would still be part of the unsustainable model, but I hold out hope that there will be a shift away from wild forage fish to maybe some type of a vegan diet? This is why raising protein by feeding it protein at a net loss is ridiculous.
    The atlantic salmon farming industry has caused the collapse of many forage fish populations around the world, so they will have to come up with something soon I would think.
  8. spring fever

    spring fever Well-Known Member

    My first thought as well-wonderful if it could be plant based!! Maybe like beyond meat--say beyond Fish! LOL
  9. Fish Camp

    Fish Camp Well-Known Member

    Morte bin maggot farms to feed fish.
  10. ChinookExerciser

    ChinookExerciser Active Member

    "The Trudeau government’s intention to close down the open-net salmon fish farming industry in BC in the hope it will magically reappear as localized land-based containment operations could well drive the industry completely out of Canada. That’s the perverse consequence when economic realities are laid out. In a previous column I suggested reasons why Alberta could be the ideal location for a world-scale land-based salmon feeding operation – the economics, expertise, logistical, tax and regulatory advantages are superior to any BC location. The point is that if you want to incentivize land-based fish farming it doesn’t have to be near an ocean – it needs to be near feed sources and large markets. That may give Alberta the edge in Canada, but not necessarily the world. In fact, it may soon be too late to develop a large Canadian based land-based salmon farming operation no matter the Alberta advantages.
    At present under construction are massive land-based salmon farming facilities in Scandinavia and in the USA. The Americans are well-ahead with operations being built in Florida, California and Maine. Much of the development is with Norwegian and Danish investment and expertise. Once these facilities are built, they could supply much of the demand for salmon – including Canadian demand. Does that sound familiar – it’s the same economic consequence of destroying the Canadian energy industry for some noble environmental cause. The twisted logic is that Canadian energy demand will just be supplied by other countries. I suspect such ramifications have little impact on the ideological mindset of the shallow-thinking Trudeau Liberals. But I digress.
    The companies developing these vast land-based salmon operations would have investigated the strategic and marketing advantages of their locations but also the tax, regulatory, environmental, and permitting atmosphere of governing jurisdictions. I suspect Canada would have been found to be woefully inadequate in many of those matters. Why would any commercial entity propose a large facility in Canada if they are going to be faced with years of bureaucratic delay, and layers of conflicting assessments and restrictions. Besides fish farming companies that are going to be kicked out of coastal BC, may not be in the mood to invest millions in a jurisdiction that is hostile to their present investments. Its just human nature.
    But wait, is there a secret agenda to the Trudeau government’s mandate to terminate open-net fish farming in BC. There may be; the federal directive refers specifically to the BC coast not to the Atlantic coast. The east coast seems exempt even though there is some limited open-net salmon feeding going on in that area. One expects that the rationale for terminating fish farming near the BC coast would be the same for the Atlantic – that being disease and environmental threats to local wild salmon. The Trudeauites seem to be once again applying the east/west double standard. Remember the ban on oil tankers on the BC north coast but not on the St Lawrence river. However, there may be a more cold-blooded political approach being conspired by the Trudeau strategists.
    BC produces around 100,000 tonnes of farmed salmon per year generating about $1.2 billion in economic activity. If that industry could be transferred to the Atlantic coast it would be an economic jolt to a traditionally depressed area – what a harvest of Liberal votes that would reap. By coincidence a global salmon farming company owned by Mitsubishi of Japan is proposing to invest $500 million in Nova Scotia to establish 30 farms to produce a minimum of 30,000 tonnes of salmon. An existing operator in the same province also wants to expand to 30,000 tonnes. Both would use open-net fish farming technology – the only production method that can produce salmon at a substantially lower cost than expensive land-based systems. Both companies also operate in BC – but I suspect with enough compensation, incentives and a guarantee that open-net salmon farming will be allowed to continue on the Atlantic coast they would be happy to move from hostile BC to friendly Nova Scotia.
    Land-based salmon farming is costly and has a higher carbon footprint, but technology and economies of scale will change that soon. At present open-net production is still very competitive and is the only way that salmon farming can survive in Canada. Is there any hope for commercial industrial land-based salmon farming in Alberta – perhaps – but it will need to involve genetically modified salmon – it’s the key to low-cost production. More next time. Will Verboven is an ag opinion writer and ag policy consultant."
  11. Sharphooks

    Sharphooks Well-Known Member

    If the intent was to use vegetable based protein for fish feed, they’d be raising tilapia, swai, or carp. In order to get an efficient Food Conversion Ratio of 1.2kg feed to 1 kg salmon, aquaculturists require at least 30 - 40% animal based protein in their pellets.....with typical forage fish under pressure from warming ocean temps, it’ll be interesting to see where such high-volume farms intend to get that protein.

    Maybe from human carcasses that are starting to stack up from the Wuhan coronavirus?

    In my first day of classes at the UW School of Fisheries I distinctly recall one of the professors warning that aquaculture will always be constrained by the food source necessary to sustain it. The problem with cutting back on protein: lower food conversion ratios, higher feed costs, and more addition of drugs due to stress.

    It’ll be interesting to see how Atlantic Sapphire meets these challenges....and the aquifer they’re drawing their water from....with encroaching sea water levels expected to hit Florida the worst, their work will be cut out for them
  12. wildmanyeah

    wildmanyeah Crew Member
    littlechucky, Sharphooks and Dave H like this.
  13. Sino

    Sino Active Member

    that's a pretty interesting article...
  14. chris73

    chris73 Well-Known Member

    Yeah, but only if you conveniently disregard the cost of cleaning up the environmental disaster they leave behind, if it can ever be cleaned up at all. And put a price on spreading deadly diseases to Pacific salmon!? What a hollow phrase of corporate diarrhea.
    Get out, you won't be missed here!
  15. Dave

    Dave Well-Known Member

  16. Whole in the Water

    Whole in the Water Well-Known Member

    Yup missed just like all the towns, people and families that relied on the production of lead for gasoline, or whale oil for lamps, or asbestos for fire retardant, or thalidomide for morning sickness, or cosmetic companies using animals for testing, or CFC's used for refrigeration, etc.... Just a tiny list of various examples of industries that died out and/or had to change due to their negative environmental impacts or advances in technology. It is unfortunate for those directly involved but it is one of the unavoidable costs of progress. The sustainable future for salmon farming is on the land where the negative environmental impacts can be better managed.
    Birdsnest, fshnfnatic and Dave like this.

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