An illustration of Katahdin Salmon's proposed 10,000-tonne salmon RAS at the One North site in Millinocket.

Ex-Nordic executives reveal site of new US salmon RAS facility

Heim and Naess sign lease for site in Millinocket


Advanced plans for a 10,000-tonne on-land salmon farm in a small town in the US state of Maine have been unveiled.

Husband and wife team Erik Heim and Marianne Naess, former executives of on-land fish farmer Nordic Aquafarms, are behind the new project in Millinocket.

Heim and Naess parted company with Nordic last July and in September announced that they had formed a new holding company, Xcelerate Aqua, and identified a site for a 10,000-tonne salmon farm. They have now formed a new company, Katahdin Salmon, which has signed a lease for an industrially zoned brownfield site within One North, a 1,400-acre former paper mill site in Millinocket.

Katahdin Salmon plans to develop a land-based recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) that will produce 5,000 tonnes of Atlantic salmon in the first operational phase and another 5,000 tonnes in phase two. The project is expected to create 80 full-time local jobs at full production capacity.

A new standard

The egg-to-harvest facility will utilise 100% renewable hydro power, which Katahdin Salmon says will make it the greenest medium-scale RAS aquaculture operation in the United States.

Marianne Naess and Erik Heim have formed a new company to build a 10,000-tonne salmon RAS in Millinocket in Maine.

“We have been following the development of the RAS industry in the US over the last four to five years, and we’ve listened carefully to the concerns expressed regarding aquaculture,” said Katahdin Salmon chief executive Naess in a press release.

“We believe we have created a Maine-based company that is well-positioned to succeed in this industry and set a new standard for environmentally friendly RAS aquaculture by using 100% renewable energy, reducing the water being discharged, recycling waste products on site, and moving the facility away from the coast.”

An easier path

Site preparation and the permit preparation and amendment process are under way.

Naess told Fish Farming Expert: “There are environmental permits already in place from the former paper mill. We have to amend these permits, which is a much easier path forward than starting from scratch at a greenfield site.

“There is also supporting infrastructure such as an outfall pipe, access to power, and a pre-excavated parcel, which take down cost and risk for the project.”

The One North site is owned by Our Katahdin, a non-profit community and economic development organisation.

“We are delighted to welcome Katahdin Salmon to One North and look forward to working with them every step of the way, from the pre-development and development phases through to full production,” said Our Katahdin president Sean DeWitt.

“Aquaculture is a good fit for our industrial site. As world fish consumption continues to grow, aquaculture has emerged to meet demand and is a good option for expanding access to fresh fish locally and in regional seafood markets.”

Communication is a priority

Naess and Heim are very familiar with Maine, having spent several years leading Nordic Aquafarms Inc’s efforts to win permits for a 33,000-tonne on-land salmon farm in Belfast, which is around 100 miles south of Millinocket.

We have prioritised communication with the community and other stakeholders ... this is a community that welcomes development

Marianne Naess

Although ultimately successful, Nordic was hampered by a minority of locals stubbornly opposed to the project, and Naess is intending to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen in Millinocket.

“We have prioritised communication with the community and other stakeholders,” said Naess. “We have had conversations with business and community leaders in the Katahdin region, tribal and environmental groups, and elected officials. The feedback so far has been encouraging. This is a community that welcomes development.”

As in Belfast, the project has the backing of the local council.

A win-win for our town

“This is a solid project and a fantastic opportunity for our community,” said Peter Jamieson, Millinocket town manager. “Katahdin Salmon has proposed a project that will bring good quality jobs to our region and rehabilitate key areas of the former mill site. It’s a win-win for our town.”

Aquaculture is one of the industries Our Katahdin is targeting for One North, and it is not the first time a salmon RAS facility has been proposed for the town, which has a population of just over 4,000.

In 2019, UK-registered Aquabanq Management & Holding Company Ltd announced plans for a 10,000-tonne farm on the paper mill site, but the project never progressed.

Aquabanq has been classed as a dormant company since 2020, and has just one director, Alexander Shapiro, according to documents on the Companies House website.

Low-cost electricity

As well as aquaculture, One North’s target industries are sustainable forest products (sawmill, mass timber, pellet mill, bio-based manufacturing); renewable energy (biofuels, solar, hydro); data storage; and innovative light manufacturing.

Infrastructure includes 200 acres of brownfield land and 1,200 acres of greenfield, 126 MW of low-cost, renewable hydro power, and on-site access to Canadian Pacific Railway.

The One North website lists a number of financial incentives potentially available to a company that chooses to move into the area.

Tax exemptions

These include tax exemptions, annual payments to the company based upon employees’ state income tax withholding, and financing in the form of loans and grants from public bodies and organisations such as the Maine Technology Institute.

Millinocket is located in Penobscot County and is within an hour of Maine’s third largest city, Bangor.

“It is a wonderful community in which to live, work, and play, and a great region appealing to anyone who loves the great outdoors,” Our Katahdin says on its One North website.

A map of the 1,400-acre One North site and the location of some of the tenants.