PORT ALICE – Forty percent of salmon purchasers want responsibly-raised salmon and they are willing to pay a premium to get it, said Dr. Andrew Wright in his presentation to Port Alice Council Feb 9.
Couple that with a demand for salmon that is three times what the market currently supplies and the public’s reluctance to see an increase in the number of open-net salmon farming operations and you have a perfect storm in favour of land-based closed-containment systems, said Wright.
Wright spent more than an hour taking councillors through the intricacies of raising salmon in his land-based closed-containment system. An example of Wright’s system is in the initial stages of being built by the ‘Namgis in Alert Bay. The 200 tonnes-per-annum project is aimed at optimizing the design for future large-scale commercial facilities and is expected to produce 5.5 kilogram Atlantic Salmon by the last quarter of 2012.
Wright said starting small is the key to building competencies among staff and ensuring that a failure if/when it comes does not wipe out the operation financially. The system he designed can start as small as 100 tonnes per year and be scaled up to as much 100,000 tonnes per year.
A 100-tonne facility has a footprint of 67 metres by 24 metres. The cost of energy for a plant that size would be $80,000 said Wright.
Wright just returned from working with Dr. Steven Summerfelt who operates the Freshwater Institute in West Virginia. and was part of a panel of four experts at the Seafood Summit in Vancouver earlier this month.
Wright cited closed containment operations that are successful. Bruce Swift, of Agassiz who raises salmon in a closed system and sells all of his product to high-end Vancouver restaurants. Washington-based, Domsea Farms sells 100 percent of its coho salmon to Canadian grocery chain Overwaitea who in turn market it under their premium SweetSpring label.
According to Wright, the advantages of being a “first mover” in this new industry on the North Island would be access to clean water, feed, knowledgeable employees, low cost land, equipment suppliers, and tax incentives.