Moment of truth
By Monica Dick
This fall will mark an important milestone that can potentially offer some indication of the future of land-based aquaculture.
The much-anticipated first commercial salmon harvest at Atlantic Sapphire’s Bluehouse facility in Homestead, Florida, is expected to take place this fall. According to recent media statements from the company, it is on track to achieve its planned 10,000-metric-ton annual harvest volume beginning in the third quarter of 2020.
Also awaiting first commercial output later this year is AquaBounty’s RAS-raised AquAdvantage salmon, the industry’s first genetically engineered salmon to be sold commercially. This fish is being raised exclusively on land at AquaBounty’s RAS farms in Indiana in the U.S., and in Prince Edward Island, Canada. According to the company, the first commercial batch of AquAdvantage salmon will be harvested in Indiana in the fourth quarter, and then in Prince Edward Island by the beginning of 2021.
If all goes according to plan, the U.S. market will see a significant increase in sales of fresh salmon raised exclusively on land before the end of the year. It is a significant development in this emerging sector of aquaculture. It is also one that is certain to get significant attention from all corners of the industry as well as the investor community.
While this is an important development, it’s worthwhile to note that this is not the first time RAS-grown fish will be sold in the market. In recent years, we’ve seen a steady flow of fish produced in land-based, recirculation facilities make their way to consumer’s dining tables, and not just Atlantic salmon but also other high-value species like branzino, yellowtail, pompano and steelhead. For the most part, these land-based producers that were ‘first to market’ are painting a bright picture for RAS and the potential for profitability. While they are on a scale much smaller than where Atlantic Sapphire will operate in, these smaller RAS producers have paved the way for the entry of the bigger players. Some of these companies are scaling up their production capacity. The Netherlands’ Kingfish Zeeland, for example, is building a U.S. RAS facility in an attempt to produce and sell Seriola lalandi to the North American market.
As more RAS-grown fish proliferate in the market the need to get consumers interested and buying into the RAS sustainability story becomes a critical component of market success. We’ve all heard market analysts say that 21st century consumers are increasingly becoming interested in the sustainability story of the products they buy and will likely show their appreciation of companies’ sustainability efforts through their wallets. Marketing and and consumer engagement will be critical to the success of RAS-raised fish on the market.
The designers of the technoloy, the investors and the producers are on-board; now all we need are the consumers to hop on because the best part of this journey is about to begin.