AquaBounty's under-construction salmon farm in Pioneer, Ohio. The cost of the build has risen to almost $500m.

AquaBounty farm cost estimate rises to nearly $½ billion

Labour and materials inflation blamed for big jump in capex


The price of land-based salmon farmer AquaBounty’s under-construction recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) facility in Pioneer, Ohio, has risen to nearly half a billion dollars, it said today.

Gilbane Building Company, which was selected as AquaBounty’s new contractor for the project earlier this year, has spent several months working with the subcontractors on the project to estimate the remaining cost to finish the 10,000-tonnes-per-year farm.

“The new estimate for the total project cost is now in the range of $485 - $495 million (£395m - £403m), of which approximately $140 million has been spent to date,” said AquaBounty chief executive Sylvia Wulf in a press release.

“We recognise this is substantially higher than previous ranges, but the updated estimates incorporate the highly inflationary environment for labour and materials, particularly concrete and piping, that have impacted construction projects over the last three years.”

Guaranteed maximum

The estimate includes a water/wastewater treatment facility to return water used in the farm to the local environment in an “as clean” condition as when it was withdrawn.

Sylvia Wulf: Exploing a wide range of funding alternatives.

Wulf said AquaBounty is negotiating elements of the estimated costs with Gilbane, and once complete, will finalise a guaranteed maximum price that would provide a contractual cap on the total expenditure to complete the farm.

“We are continuing our collaboration with Wells Fargo Corporate and Investment Banking on our plans to place a mix of taxable and tax-exempt bonds through the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority in an amount up to $425 million, and we are exploring a wide range of alternatives with Oppenheimer & Co. to complete the additional capital requirements to allow construction to resume on the Ohio farm,” added the CEO. “Though there are significant steps and risks remaining to complete this process, we are excited to be working with our team of collaborators.”

Higher Q3 loss

AquaBounty farms AquAdvantage salmon that inherit a 30-year-old genetic modification from their male parent which enables them to grow from hatch to harvest in just 18 months. It operates a 1,200-tonne-capacity RAS facility in Albany, Indiana, and a broodstock facility and hatchery on Prince Edward Island, Canada.

The company generated US $733,000 in product revenue in the third quarter, a year-over-year increase of 12% compared to $653,000 in Q3 2022. More than $630,000 in revenue came from fish sales, and almost $90,000 from sales of non-GE fry produced in Canada. Net loss in Q3 was $6.1m, compared to $5.4m in the same period last year.

“Our third quarter results were impacted by a decline in market prices for Atlantic salmon that began during the second quarter, even though our Indiana farm exceeded its planned output,” said Wulf.

The company’s net loss for the first nine months of 2023 is more than $19.1m. It made a net loss of $16.1m in the same period last year.

An illustration of how AquaBounty's 10,000-tonnes-per-year salmon RAS in Pioneer, Ohio, may look.