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US salmon farm developer poised to buy First Nation RAS facility

The Kuterra farm in north Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Photo: Kuterra.
The Kuterra farm in north Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Photo: Kuterra.

The company behind plans for an on-land salmon farm in Bucksport, Maine in the eastern United States has agreed to buy a majority stake in the Kuterra on-land farm in British Columbia, western Canada.

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Emergent Holdings is the parent company of Whole Oceans, which is developing a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) facility on the site of a former paper mill in Bucksport.

Kuterra has been growing Atlantic salmon since 2013, in a RAS on north Vancouver Island currently owned entirely by the ’Namgis First Nation, known for its opposition to open net-pen salmon farming in its territory. It has been trying to sell the Kuterra facility for two years.

Emergent’s offer requires ’Namgis approval, expected in early July.

Jacob Bartlett: Kuterra expertise
Jacob Bartlett: Kuterra expertise "will support Whole Oceans' operations on the East Coast". Photo: LinkedIn.

‘Strong base of operations’

In a press release, Emergent chief executive Jacob Bartlett said: “Kuterra’s work has accelerated the growth of our land-based aquaculture industry, and benefits Emergent’s operations in several ways.

“Kuterra's expertise in growing fish will support Whole Oceans’ operations on the East Coast. And when Kuterra’s expertise is combined with Emergent’s new production systems, we’ll have a strong base of operations from which we can build our West Coast capacity.”

Kuterra chair Eric Hobson said the Kuterra board had recommended the Emergent offer to ’Namgis Council.

“We’re delighted with the synergies between Emergent and Kuterra, which will accelerate our companies’ business growth and land-based industry growth, while advancing the mission of the ’Namgis First Nation to develop next-generation Atlantic salmon aquaculture on land.”

Technological expertise

Whole Oceans president Jason Mitchell said: “The Whole Oceans project in Bucksport, Maine will benefit greatly from this arrangement.

“Given Kuterra’s successful proof of concept, we are excited to work with their experienced staff and gain valuable insights and synergies to advance our workforce training, as well as technological and marketing expertise. We look forward to being part of a larger picture that will deliver fresh, premium salmon to both coasts of North America.”

The first phase of the Whole Oceans development in Bucksport will create 50 jobs and produce 5,000 tonnes of salmon annually, increasing to 20,000 tonnes over 15 years.

The Kuterra operation is currently at a much smaller scale, producing around 250 tonnes of salmon annually.

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