“We are now well set to put out 1.5 million big smolts,” says HiddenFjord managing director Atli Gregersen. “We started last month and are continuing in October. The fish have an average size of 650 grams, and we are halfway through the process.”
The largest fish HiddenFjord has put out have been around 1.4kg, but Gregersen explains that there have been several individual fish of two kilograms grown in the RAS facility, and the largest one was around 3kg.
“The average is 650 grams, which is a milestone for us, and the work with big smolts is going very well,” he adds.
He expects the fish recently deployed at the Vestmanna site to be harvested within a year, significantly reducing sea time. The company also has a strong focus on the fact that the harvested fish should never have been treated with chemicals.
But such big fish take time to transport, points out Gregersen.
“We do not use a wellboat for transporting the fish, but instead we have big lorry tanks for transporting the fish overland. The tanks are then loaded from trailer to boat and pumped into the sea.”
Gregersen says this removes the need to load the fish from a lorry to a wellboat and causes the fish less stress.
“But it has been a challenge to transport such big fish. We have had to use pumps and hoses intended for food fish, but I have to say I am very pleased with the work and the fish are fine,” he says proudly.
In total, HiddenFjord will put out 2.6 million smolts in 2018.
“The target for next year is three million, with an average weight of at least 600 grams,” explains Gregersen to Fish Farming Expert’s sister site, Kyst.no.
According to Gregersen, the big smolts have had a very good appetite since they were put into the sea.
“They eat very well, the growth is good, and not least there is low mortality,” he says.
Gregersen says he believes that a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) is a prerequisite for producing big smolts on land and points out that in the Faroe Islands all smolt production takes place in RAS plants.
Nitrites and CO₂
“We started with RAS in 1999 and have a lot of experience with this system. But the main challenge is to keep nitrites and CO₂ at acceptable levels,” he says.
HiddenFjord has been working to produce larger smolt since 2010 at its Fútaklettur facility in the Faroes. The major investment in smolts began seriously in 2010, and the smolts have increased in size from 88 grams to around 650 grams.
The company has also built several new departments and invested large sums in new production facilities.
The three salmon farmers currently operating in the Faroe Islands are Bakkafrost, HiddenFjord and Marine Harvest. All three have been concentrating on growing larger smolts which will spend less time in the sea, so they can make the best use of a limited number of sites.
Regulations designed to prevent the spread of disease means only one salmon farmer is allowed in each fjord.