Undercurrent News, 11 Sept 2014: Danish on-land salmon farmer predicts return to strong market after production halt

Danish on-land salmon farmer predicts return to strong market after production halt

Undercurrent News

September 11, 2014, 8:57 am

Neil Ramsden

Danish on-land salmon farming firm Langsand Laks expects a return to the strong demand market it has been experiencing once its ten-month hiatus to combat bacteria is completed.

In mid-October the firm will harvest the last fish from its grow-out tank, before emptying and cleaning it. The firm will then install new technology, worth $1 million, to ensure the bacteria cannot return.

“This bacteria had been present in the water since we started operating, but we had noticed it was limiting our production,” Thue Holm, CEO and founder of both Langsand Laks and US-based Atlantic Sapphire, told Undercurrent News.

“It wasn’t being brought in from outside, by people, but was coming in via the water intake. So, now, there will be more powerful disinfecting technology to act as a double firewall.”

While the cycle of salmon growing will continue, harvesting will be halted until August 2015 – a date the firm can be fairly sure of given the understanding it has gained of its workings over 2014′s production.

So far in 2014 the company has harvested 250 metric tons of its high-quality salmon, and plans to harvest further 200t before harvesting is stopped.

The market for Langsand salmon has been strong since harvesting began this year, said Holm, and he is not overly concerned about having to wait ten months.

“There will be some knock-on for sales, for AquaPri too [a fellow farmer and supplier within the EU, holding a 10% share of Langsand].”

“But demand has been strong for a product like this, and we want to deliver top quality and good sizes to customers. We’d rather take a break and ensure that quality long-term,” he said.

The demand has been from high-end foodservice, “where there is a chance to communicate the story of sustainability and where they are willing to pay for low fat content and firm texture”, said Holm. “The market won’t just disappear.”

Thue Holm, CEO Atlantic Sapphire & Langsand Laks

The said market has reportedly responded well to Langsand’s first year of harvesting, with prices for the fish getting on for a 60% premium over market price, according to the CEO.

The firm plans to continue where it leaves off in 2015, expanding its European, Scandinavian and US markets with a view to eventually expanding production to exploit potential economies of scale.

An application for Monterey Bay Aquarium green ranking has been made, and may be in place by August 2015. While not a huge difference to the firm – it says it is finding a strong market in the US already thanks to connections made with Atlantic Sapphire – it is “always good to get the stamp”, especially for menus, said Holm.

Optimization of the recirculation technology and farming method will continue, and if market building is successful Langsand hopes to be able to expand the facility by 4,000t, to a total capacity of 5,000t a year. Further down the line, the technology could make its way to the US in the form of a new on-land facility.

Watching with bated breath

On-land salmon farming will not remain the preserve of high-end foodservice and wealthy consumers forever, believes Holm. He thinks both on-land and sea cages have a part to play in increasing salmon production.

“I think both production methods will co-exist, like tomatoes are grown in greenhouses and on open fields,” he said. “As it is now a little more expensive to grow on land, but in places where the fish is air-freighted the production on land is more profitable. The thing that can change is if the regulatory system limits the sea cage more, as happened with wind mills.”

Back in January 2014 Holm told Undercurrent the costs of the Oceanus recirculation system are only 20 – 30% higher than those of the most efficient Norwegian salmon farmer.

“In time this will not just be a high-end product,” he said.

The wider salmon industry is watching the few on-land pioneers with great interest, it seems. Holm confirmed they had received visits from all of the major established salmon farmers, as well as many questions.



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