Aquaculture for all

Optimism despite mounting losses for GM salmon firm

Salmonids Breeding & genetics +1 more

The head of AquaBounty claims the company had a highly successful year, despite posting a loss of $8.5 million in 2016 up from $7.0 million the year before.

The company, which is best known for its GM AquAdvantage Salmon (AAS) strain, published its 2016 results today and, substantial losses aside, there do appear to be grounds for optimism for 2017 and beyond.

“We achieved a major milestone in receiving regulatory approval from Health Canada, making it the second major regulatory organization, alongside the FDA, to approve the production, sale and consumption of our AquAdvantage Salmon,” stated Ron Stotish, the firm's CEO.

“We also took steps towards progressing our commercial plan by purchasing a salmon hatchery site in Canada for broodstock expansion and egg production. We now eagerly look forward to working to bring our nutritious, safe and more sustainably produced salmon to consumers,” he added.

Other highlights from the year include the dismissal of the appeal brought before the Canadian Federal Court by the Ecology Action Centre and Living Oceans Society – a ruling that effectively permits the continued production of AAS in Canada; the commencement of field trials of AAS in Argentina and Brazil; and the acquisition of a hatchery site on Prince Edward Island for broodstock expansion and egg production.

Moreover, the firm completed a $10 million convertible debt facility with Intrexon and, post-period, raised a further $25 million from Intrexon via an equity subscription, while its shares are now traded on the NASDAQ Capital Market.

“The strong support and financial backing of the company’s majority shareholder, Intrexon, have been crucial to this endeavour and have put AquaBounty on a solid footing,” reflected chairman, Richard Clothier.

In July, the purchase of the former Atlantic Sea Smolt hatchery in Rollo Bay West, on Prince Edward Island, was completed for the purpose of broodstock expansion to increase production of Atlantic salmon eggs. Renovations to the site are proceeding, and, when completed, it is expected to provide sufficient egg production to meet the company’s requirements for the next few years.

The plan to expand commercial development outside North America was advanced with approval for the importation of AAS eggs for local field trials in Argentina and Brazil. These trials commenced in April and the company reports it is encouraged by the progress that has been made to date.

In Panama, the company received approval for the commercial production and export of fish produced from its most recent batch of AAS eggs, delivered to the farm in 2016. These fish are expected to be ready for harvest and export to North America in early 2018. AquaBounty continues to seek full regulatory approval for the production and local sale of AAS in Panama, but does not currently have a timescale for receipt of this approval.

Additionally, the company reports that it has begun an active search in both the United States and Canada for either an existing land-based recirculating aquaculture system facility or a site on which to build a new facility for the commercial production of AAS.

During 2016, a coalition of NGOs filed a complaint against the FDA for the approval of AAS in the United States, claiming that the agency did not have the authority to regulate genetically modified animals. The company believes this action, which remains ongoing, lacks legal merit, but it may have the effect of prolonging the commercialization process in the United States.