The Nordic Aqua Partners construction site pictured last month. Phase 1, outlined in blue, covers 38,000m² and Phase 2, outlined in orange, covers 19,000m².

Chill out! Salmon farmer lowers temperature to slow growth

China RAS plant’s first crop was outpacing construction plan


Nordic Aqua Partners (NAP), which is building a land-based salmon farm in Ningbo, eastern China, has revealed that it had to slow the growth of fish in its tanks so that they didn’t overtake the plant’s construction schedule.

As with most land-based fish farm developers, NAP completed its hatchery and nursery first, so that fish would be ready for the next stages when they were completed.

But better-than-expected growth so far has prompted NAP to gently apply the brakes on growth by lowering the water temperature.

“Biological performance has been very good for all batches, with survival and growth rates exceeding budgeted levels,” the company wrote in its report for the first quarter of 2023. “The adjustments were successful and without complications.”

4,000 tonnes in Phase 1

Phase 1 of NAP’s recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) facility will have a production capacity of 4,000 tonnes annually, and construction is continuing according to plan and within budget. Phase 2 will double capacity, and a possibly accelerated third phase will take capacity to 20,000 tonnes by 2027.

The first batch of Atlantic salmon eggs was added to hatch in March 2022 and new batches are being introduced every three months. In April 2023, the facility therefore had five groups of fish.

NAP chairman Ragnar Joensen said: “The project implementation has been excellent in the first quarter, and biological performance for all batches has been in line with or even better than planned, with high survival and good growth.

Inside the completed section of the NAP facility.

“Our ambition for the first slaughter in the first quarter of 2024 therefore remains. Alongside bringing the first phase into operation, we are continuing preparations for the development of our business towards 8,000 tonnes capacity with financing and critical infrastructure in place.”

AKVA technology

In Q1, NAP reached important milestones in the preparations for Phase 2. In February, the company carried out a private placement of NOK 300 million (£22m), which secured financing through project implementation.

During the period, the company also signed contracts with AKVA Group for the supply of RAS technology and with the Chinese authorities for the construction and development of infrastructure for the additional capacity.

In addition, the company has contracts for the delivery of sluicing and weighing solutions, as preparation of infrastructure for the first harvest in 2024.

Total investments in Q1 were DKK 60m (£7m), mainly related deliveries of RAS technology.

As of 31 March 2023, accumulated Phase 1 capital expenditure amounted to DKK 330m, out of a total project capex of DKK 370m.

First harvest in Q1 2024

According to the current growth plans, the first harvest is expected in the first quarter of 2024.

With the prospect of continued strong prices for Atlantic salmon, the company expects this to yield positive results. And while the company is currently in the final preparations for the launch of Phase 2, it has also initiated a project to investigate all aspects of a possible accelerated expansion plan to reach a capacity of 20,000 tonnes by 2027. This process is expected to be completed by mid-2024.

Due to the general inflationary pressure in the last 12-18 months, the investment estimates for Phases 2 and 3 have been increased from NOK 125 (£9.19) per kilo to NOK 145/kg, or around 15%.

However, construction of infrastructure and facilities is carried out under a lease agreement with local authorities, with fixed conditions for Phases 1 and 2 (to 8,000 tonnes), which significantly reduces the investment risk for NAP, the company said.

What the fish farm will look like.