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Benchmark signs five-year ova deal for US on-land project

A visualisation of an AquaCon facility in Maryland on the eastern seaboard of the US. Image: AquaCon.
A visualisation of an AquaCon facility in Maryland on the eastern seaboard of the US. Image: AquaCon.

Salmon ova producer Benchmark Genetics has signed a five-year agreement to supply AquaCon, the Norwegian company planning to produce around 50,000 tonnes of Atlantic salmon annually in recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) facilities in Maryland in the eastern United States.

Benchmark’s Icelandic company, StofnFiskur, will supply approximately 40 million ova to AquaCon over the contract period.

Geir Olav Melingen, commercial director at Benchmark Genetics, said the company’s experience with land-based salmon farming worldwide and ability to supply ova year-round were competitive advantages.

He added that the company has developed production concepts and products that are adapted to the specific needs of salmon production in on-land facilities.

Geir Olav Melingen: Salmon bred for RAS. Photo: Benchmark.
Geir Olav Melingen: Salmon bred for RAS. Photo: Benchmark.

Optimising growth

“The genetic weighting of growth and quality traits forms the foundation of our product, SalmoRAS4 +. Besides, we have also developed methods in the production of broodstock that produce offspring that will not become sexually mature. This means that the operations like AquaCon can produce at higher temperatures to optimise growth,” said Melingen in a press release.

“We, therefore, have great faith that land-based farming in the future will be competitive on production costs compared to traditional sea-farming.”

Pål Haldorsen: Confident project will receive regular ova deliveries. Photo:  AquaCon.
Pål Haldorsen: Confident project will receive regular ova deliveries. Photo: AquaCon.

Key strategic factor

Pål Haldorsen is the chief executive of AquaCon, which currently has a head office in Oslo and shortly plans to go public.

“We have chosen to secure genetics at an early stage, as we consider ova as a key strategic success factor of our ambitious growth plans,” said Haldorsen, who was responsible for all freshwater operations in Marine Harvest (now Mowi) in Norway between 2001 and 2015.

“Our production plan presupposes regular deliveries of ova throughout the year, and Benchmark Genetics has a production model for land-based broodstock that makes us confident that we will receive deliveries following our plans.”

Three phases

AquaCon has options to purchase land in Maryland that comes with permits for water intake and discharge allowing the production of around 50,000 tonnes (head on gutted) of salmon and with a potential to grow more than 100,000 tonnes HOG.

The company’s initial production volume target of 50,000 tonnes will be phased in over six years, with three phases on nearby but separate sites that will each have around 16,000 tonnes HOG annual production.

AquaCon has four sites in total, located in the counties of Caroline and Dorchester. The decision to use separate sites helps de-risk operations.

The company says all sites have access to abundant fresh water from several aquifers, and access to water discharge through public wastewater treatment plants.

Norway-based aquaculture supplier AKVA group has been chosen to supply the RAS technology.