Undercurrent News, 4 Sept 2013: Desert farm aims for salmon self-sufficiency in China

Desert farm aims for salmon self-sufficiency in China

September 4, 2013, 8:11 am

Emma Pocklington


The owners of a new re-circulation salmon farm being built in China hope production will start around April 2014, with an aim to expand it in the next five years.

Danish onshore farm specialists Billund Aquaculture announced recently that work was under way on a recirculation salmon farm in the most extreme environment they have dealt with yet, the Gobi desert, which straddles part of China and Mongolia.

The project is the result of two years of negotiations with a Chinese government-owned water company that manages a reservoir in the Gobi desert, close to the border with Mongolia. The company collects water from the mountains and supplies it as tap or bottled water to major cities.

According to Christian Sorensen, chairman of Billund, the water company plotted the growth of aquaculture for a number of years before deciding to expand into it as a growth opportunity.

That’s when they approached Billund with their project.

“They want to produce big salmon,” said Sorensen, “around 4-5 kilos. They see this very much as a starting project.” It is hoped that the farm will be able to expand from producing 1,000 metric tons of salmon to 10,000t within the next five years.

Sorensen is confident that the plant will be a success. The environment may be extreme, but it is not as hot as one might think, he explains, and as long as there is a supply of water they will be able to manage the farm.

In the long run, they hope to include a processing facility at the site, but for now the fully grown Atlantic salmon, bred from roe flown in from Norway or Iceland at the end of this year, will be taken by truck on the one-hour journey to the nearest city from which it can be flown out to the rest of the country.

Construction is currently under way in the Gobi desert and Sorensen hopes, with the aid of local construction companies alongside their own specialist workers, that the farm will be completed by November.

Based in Denmark, Billund Aquaculture has two daughter companies, one in Chile and the other in Norway.

The group itself was started in 1986 by Christian Sorensen and his brother. They started off in 1984 producing eels, sturgeons, seabream and seabass in their own hatcheries and production systems before expanding into supplying recirculation units.

Since then Billund has built 100 recirculation units in 25 countries across the globe. They deal with 25 kinds of warm and cold and salt and freshwater fish.

The group — which will soon be building a plant in Turkmenistan – claims it can set up fish farms anywhere as long as there is access to water and electricity.

Recirculation farms boast good production safety as well as positive effects on the environment, says Billund. The isolation of modules prevents the spread of diseases while wastewater is used as fertilizer instead of being pumped into the sea.

“You know the water quality,” said Sorensen, “and you can control the production much more.”


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