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‘Transparent’ Nova Austral reveals 31% mortality

Nova Austral is located in the southernmost part of Chile.
Nova Austral is located in the southernmost part of Chile.

Chilean salmon farmer Nova Austral has reported mortalities of 13% for the second quarter of 2019 – but if the 12 months to June 30 are considered, that figure grows to 31%.

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The US and Norwegian owned company’s quarterly report is the first since it was exposed by a Chilean investigative news website for falsifying mortality figures, a scandal that led to a change of chief executive and the filing of complaints by both aquaculture authority Sernapesca and Chile’s environment agency, SMA.

Introducing the report, Nova Austral’s directors wrote that no punishments have yet been imposed by either organisation, and said that the board is “committed to transparency”.

Some of Nova Austral's Q2 metrics and targets. Click on image to enlarge. Table: Nova Austral.
Some of Nova Austral's Q2 metrics and targets. Click on image to enlarge. Table: Nova Austral.

Lower costs

In Q2 2019 Nova Austral, which operates in the Magellanes region, experienced an average mortality of 13% in all farms. Meanwhile, in the 12 months ending June 30, fish loss figures reached 31% in the seawater phase of closed cycles, a figure the company has blamed largely on poor smolt quality in 2018.

On the plus side, it improved its production costs, with an ex-cage figure of US $4 per kilo WFE, down from $4.4 per kilo WFE of 2018.

Its economic feed conversion ratio (eFCR) - the weight of the food administered during the lifespan of the salmon divided by the weight of the fish – was 1.31. Nova Austral is targeting an eFCR of 1.15.

Revenue up, profit down

Revenue grew 4% to $33.9 million due to the 15% increase in its volumes sold despite the loss of approvals such as the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification, with an improvement in the biological indicators. 

Nova Austral’s EBITDA therefore grew 44% to $9m, but its profit fell 86% to $1.2m in the quarter.

Its smolt facility in Tierra del Fuego is reported to be 90% complete and is expected to be fully operational by the end of October. Currently, there are two batches of smolts in production at the site, with a mortality of 13.9%, which Nova Austral said is a positive performance in accordance with expectations.

The company will host a global call for investors at 2pm BST tomorrow, during which investors will be able to ask about the operational and financial performance of the company.

Read the Q2 presentation here.

Nova Austral's smolt plant is reported to be 90% complete. Photo: Nova Austral.
Nova Austral's smolt plant is reported to be 90% complete. Photo: Nova Austral.
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