Growing salmon on land has always been a major part of the production cycle for salmon farmers. Since 1988, Marine Harvest Canada has been growing smolts (prior to seawater entry) in recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) and today the technology is responsible for growing 800 tonnes of smolts each year.
"Our experience with smolt RAS afforded us a great learning opportunity which made it easy to transition to raising our parent (broodstock) groups ten years ago," said Jamie Gaskill, Marine Harvest Canada's Production Director.
"Our research has helped perfect the correct use of current velocity, lighting, water chemistry, and stocking densities."
While Marine Harvest has proven that Atlantic salmon can be grown to market size in RAS, it adds that there are still concerns about the larger use of resources that comes with more production. The company has analyzed the concept of growing more fish on land for human consumption, but has decided against it due to concerns of cost (capital investment and power), environmental footprint (groundwater use), and animal welfare (higher stocking densities).
Speaking to the company's use of sea cages and land-based technologies, Mr Gaskill stated "Professional salmon growers don't think in terms of 'either/or' but instead 'and'. We'll continue to use RAS as one accelerator of our business, but we shall also use advancements in sea cage technology to continue to produce a high quality, healthy, and affordable farm-raised salmon."
In addition to providing technical assistance, Marine Harvest has provided smolts and equipment to startup companies attempting to prove the viability of growing market-sized salmon for niche markets.
Marine Harvest Canada is British Columbia's largest aquaculture company and supplier of Sterling brand salmon.