Kevin Skarholt, left, and Ashleigh Currie at the opening of Fiizk's UK and Ireland office, in Stirling, last week. Photo: FFE.

Semi-closed containment in Scotland ‘by next year’

Floating semi-closed containment systems (SCCS) will be used in Scottish salmon farming next year, one the technology’s leading suppliers has predicted.

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Kevin Skarholt, chief marketing officer for Norwegian company Fiizk, was speaking at the official opening of the company’s UK and Ireland office at Stirling University Innovation Park.

Fiizk doesn’t yet have any orders for its SCCS in the British Isles but has been talking to existing and potential salmon farmers for the past year.

The Fiizk SCCS uses a tarpaulin bag and an internal net, and draws water from below the lice layer. Click on image to enlarge. Illustration: Fiizk.

Orders by spring

“We hope to close some orders before the end of the winter,” said Skarholt. “I would say that the Scottish market is slightly later in the process than the Norwegian, Canadian and Faroe Islands markets, but I’m quite sure there will closed pens from us or other suppliers in Scotland by the end of 2022.”  

Ashleigh Currie, fish health and business development manager of Fiizk’s UK subsidiary, Fiizk Ltd, said: “The concept of how SCCS could fit it into the Scottish market and how it could help with environment, politics, expansion, has been discussed for a long time. It has gathered a lot of momentum about different production strategies using semi-closed containment.

“The limitations in Scotland are to do with the dynamics of the sites – shallower waters, access to power, that kind of thing. These are challenges that we’ve discussed with potential clients to see how we can overcome those things, because selection shouldn’t be based on limitations that maybe we can find a solution for.”

Kevin Skarholt: "An important focus for the company is introducing the closed pens to the Scottish market and to the Scottish public." Photo: FFE.

A big move

Skarholt said the opening of the Stirling office was a big move for Fiizk, which has its headquarters in Trondheim and bases in four other Norwegian locations – Bergen, Ålesund, Valsnes and Lundamo.

“We are moving abroad with permanent staff for the first time,” he said. “Covid has meant it’s been a difficult year to get established but now we are starting to see the beginning of the beginning, which we are very pleased with.

“Our aim in the company is to develop autonomous closed pens and to do that we need to develop and sell [non-autonomous] pens along the way. An important focus for the company is introducing the closed pens to the Scottish market and to the Scottish public as a solution to the challenges that we are facing in the fish farming industry.

Considerable success

“We have considerable success in the market, selling pens to Canada (Cermaq) and to the Faroe Islands (Hiddenfjord) and several pens in Norway (including Cermaq and Sinkaberg Hansen). Fish are being introduced to very many of these projects right now, and that will give us very good data on how to develop the pens further and develop the production in the pens further.”

One difference with the Scottish market is the likely requirement to capture faeces and uneaten feed from the pens, something not currently done in the SCCS used in Norway or Canada.

85% waste capture

“In Norway the gathering of waste has not been a major issue or a motivation for clients to buy the pens – it’s been other issues like defending against lice – but in Scotland the gathering of waste is an important issue which we need to continue to work with in order to model solutions which make us able to gather a high percentage of the waste. That’s mainly the biggest market, especially for the Scottish market,” said Skarholt.

Modelling has shown it should be possible to capture around 85% of the waste. But as the entire water volume of the enclosure is replaced every hour, the smallest particles won’t have time to settle in the bottom.

Fiizk’s SCCS comprises a tarpaulin bag and an internal net. Water is drawn from well below the so-called ‘lice layer’, the top 10 metres of the water column where most sea lice are found.

Currie has a marine biology degree, a PhD in marine science and spent nearly two years as a fish health and welfare manager for Scottish Sea Farms and has been using her knowledge and experience to help Fiizk develop its technology and adapt it for Scotland’s geography.

“We sometimes have shallower waters sitting at about 40-45 metres, so we changed certain specifications so we can accommodate for different locations around Scotland that may not have the ideal depths, which would be about 60-70 metres,” explained Currie.

“Now that we’ve established ourselves here and can travel and speak to clients face to face, we possibly have closer relationships than some of the other companies that are our competitors. Also, we’ve got the most operational projects ongoing at the moment for companies that use a tarpaulin bag for semi-closed containment.

Important data

“We’re collecting a lot of data and a lot of experience with those projects. That’s invaluable. We need that, especially when talking to regulators, stakeholders, landowners, etc., we want to show that this production system is viable.”

While SCCS may offer the possibility of opening up sites that regulators wouldn’t allow for open pens, they offer other advantages as a replacement farming method for net pen sites that have difficulties with lice or seals.

“These don’t have to be for new licences. You can change your existing site to have semi-closed containment. There are companies considering that,” said Currie.

Predator protection

“Our keys factors here would be sea lice reduction, ultimately aiming for zero lice, and escapes is a huge one. We’ve got double protection – the tarpaulin bag plus a predator net – to eliminate escape risk.

“What we’ve found from our existing projects is that in the areas where they got real problems with predator interaction – in Norway it’s lots of otters, in Canada it’s sea lions – there’s been no record of issues with that.

“So, there’s lots of pros for semi-closed containment, including waste capture.”