Seafood – Special Report: A deeper-dive into land-based farms

Following up on our report published in 2017, we (DNB Markets) continue to see solid rationale for land-based fish farming given rising costs in – and ongoing challenges to – traditional methods. We estimate ~500kt of new planned production capacity in the land-based sector, more than double the figure of just two years ago. While some of that is delayed projects, generally developments have grown in number and scale.  Read the report.


DNB: Estimated salmon volumes from landbased production at 500,000t by 2026

Analysts with lender DNB estimate there is around 500,000 metric tons of new planned production in the land-based salmon sector now; more than double the figure of just two years ago.

In 2017 it issued a report on the sector, which found the numbers were beginning to make sense for the land-based sector in terms of financials and scale.

“Following up…we continue to see solid rationale for land-based fish farming given rising costs in – and ongoing challenges to – traditional methods,” wrote Alexander Aukner and Tone Bjornstad Hanstad. While some of the now-estimated 500,000t is delayed projects, “generally developments have grown in number and scale”.  Read the article.


US House panel resumes focus on climate change, warming oceans

Climate change is hitting the lobster industry in two ways, Beth Casoni, the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association’s executive director, told the US House of Representatives’ Natural Resources Committee’s Water, Oceans and Wildlife – or WOW — panel on Thursday.

The Gulf of Maine is warming at a faster pace than 99% of other bodies of water and, by 2050, could lose 62% of its lobsters as a result, she said. Meanwhile, ocean acidification is making it harder for juvenile lobsters to grow shells, leaving them open to predators and disease.

“These threats from climate change are intensified by the other challenges lobstermen are facing,” said Casoni, one of seven witnesses at the two-hour hearing. “We do not have the luxury of looking at any one of these impacts on its own – all of them collectively are causing declines in the resource, hurting our bottom line, and our communities.

The event on Thursday was the second hearing called by the Natural Resources Committee on climate change since Democrats took control of the lower chamber in the 2018 election. The day before representative Raul Grijalva, the Arizona Democrat who now chairs the main committee, held a more general discussion.

This after a decade of no hearings on the subject by the committee or any of its panels, a period of time during which the committee’s agenda was heavily dominated by the Republican majority, according to a Democratic staffer.

The stark political contrast was not missed by Carol Browner, the Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator from 1993 until 2001, under president Bill Clinton, and the second witness on the panel. She focused her criticism on the recently completed 115th Congress, however.

“With a new Congress comes a new opportunity to lead and a new opportunity to act. The eyes of the world are on the United States,” said Browner, now a senior counselor at the Albright Stonebridge Group, a Washington, D.C.-based global strategy firm. “For the past two years, this country has abdicated is leadership in the global community, especially with regard to solving climate change, the most serious environmental and economic challenge of our time.”

“The scientists are issuing the warnings. We are running out of time. You could be our greatest hope to reverse the curve of inaction and instead find the solutions that will determine our economic and environmental future.”  Read the article.


Atlantic salmon demand still outstripping supply, despite likely 2019 production increase

SAN DIEGO, California, US — Global Atlantic salmon production will increase in 2019, but not enough to keep up with demand, according to the salmon panel at the US Global Seafood Market Conference, held from Jan. 15-17 in San Diego, California.

“In the past, producers were able to respond to a lot of demand by increasing the production,” said Andy Wink, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, and analyst on the salmon panel.

However, since production was hit in 2016 by the algae bloom in Chile, the gap has not been closed (see below), he said. “There is a big gap between supply and demand and that is pushing up prices. The gap is probably even larger than shown here. It’s going to take a while to resolve that,” said Wink.

The panel forecast in 2019 is for overall production of 1.32 million metric tons in whole fish equivalent, up 4.8% year-on-year.

Norwegian production is constrained by regulation and the maximum allowable biomass (MAB) cap, he said. Then, Chilean production was up 15% in 2018, but regulations limit growth in the short term.

Farmed supply has shown more downside risk in recent years due to environmental and biological issues, such as disease and sea lice, said Wink.

“So, where is the growth going to come from? Offshore farming, land-based farming, genetic modification and developing remote areas in Chile could eventually add supply,” he said.  Read the article.


Aquabounty unleashes the Wulf. Alaskans unamused.

By Jason Smith

CEO: AquaBounty will benefit Alaska fishers, RAS producers 

Sylvia Wulf, the incoming CEO of genetically engineered salmon producer AquaBounty Technologies, believes that despite the controversial reception her company has received from fishermen, its innovation could benefit the seafood industry as a whole.

Alaskan sockeye fishermen have been particularly opposed to GE salmon as has their US congressional delegation with Republican senator Lisa Murkowski leading a push for GE labeling requirements that have stymied AquaBounty’s US plans for its AquAdvantage salmon.

At a meeting of fishermen that occurred amid the 2015 announcement that the Food and Drug Administration had approved AquaBounty’s salmon for US sale, one captain quipped that “farmed salmon” should be spelled “pharmed sammon” so that “when people look at it, they say ‘that’s not right’”.

Such sentiment is common among the state’s fishermen, but Wulf said that that perception is unfortunate. AquaBounty’s development has brought a lot of attention to seafood and that’s good even for fishermen, she told Undercurrent News.

“We want consumers to want salmon and I think the positioning of wild-caught Alaskan and AquAdvantage salmon can work very, very very well together and I don’t think that they should view AquaBounty as a threat to their livelihood. I think they should view it as a way to position their product differently,” she said.

Likewise, Wulf said that AquaBounty’s salmon will be a good fit for US recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) producers.

“I think that the RAS technology and AquAdvantage technology are synergistic because RAS systems are expensive,” she said. “We believe that having production close to the consumer minimizes transit time, it’s also a protected environment so you’re not susceptible to some of the challenges that ocean-based farming is susceptible to.”  Read the article.


With new CEO, AquaBounty looks beyond US for markets, partner

SAN DIEGO, California, US — Two weeks into her new job at what is as much of a tech company as it is a seafood company, AquaBounty Technologies’ CEO Sylvia Wulf said that her role would focus on ramping up sales of a product that has faced steep barriers to consumer acceptance.

The company’s genetically engineered AquAdvantage salmon, an Atlantic salmon modified with snippets of genetic code from Chinook and the eel-like ocean pout to enable much faster growth, first received approvals from US and Canadian regulators in 2015 and 2016 stating that its fish is safe for consumers to eat.

However, with opposition led by US senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has imposed an “import alert” that bans AquaBounty, which is majority-owned by biotech firm Interexon, from bringing its fish or eggs into the US until labeling guidelines are issued.

Wulf told Undercurrent News that she believes the issuance of those guidelines is “imminent” but that the company is having discussions with potential partners outside of North America to bring AquAdvantage into other markets.

“We’ve had conversations with potential Chinese partners; we’ve had conversations with potential partners in the Middle East. One of the things that is a priority for me is to be sure we frame what a great partnership will look like and where we need to prioritize and focus,” she said.  Read the article.


Rabobank: Salmon is “winning the battle of the proteins”

Demand for salmon in the Western world and beyond is growing – and will continue to do so. However volatile prices are not sustainable in the long run judging by an analysis by the Netherlands-based, Rabobank.

There’s much to celebrate about in Rabobank’s “Keeping Salmon On Top Of The Menu – How To Maintain The Hugh Demand.” Analysts Beyhan de Jong and Gorjan Nikolik summarise that the pink fish has outpaced growth in all other proteins – effectively “winning the battle of the proteins” such as pork, poultry, beef, and wild-caught seafood and that trend will continue to do so.

Three factors
Rabobank attributes growth to three factors: consumer trends favouring salmon consumption, the unique feature of the salmon supply chain compared with other seafood categories, growth strategies through new markets and new value-added products. These will also support further growth, the report noted.  Read the article.


Genetically modified food opponents know less than they think, research finds

The people who hold the most extreme views opposing genetically modified (GM) foods think they know most about GM food science, but actually know the least, according to new research.

The paper, published Monday in Nature Human Behaviour, was a collaboration between researchers at the Leeds School of Business at CU Boulder, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Toronto and the University of Pennsylvania.

Marketing and psychology researchers asked more than 2,000 U.S. and European adults for their opinions about GM foods. The surveys asked respondents how well they thought they understood genetically modified foods, then tested how much they actually knew with a battery of true-false questions on general science and genetics.

Despite a scientific consensus that GM foods are safe for human consumption and have the potential to provide significant benefits, many people oppose their use. More than 90 percent of study respondents reported some level of opposition to GM foods.

The paper’s key finding is that the more strongly people report being opposed to GM foods, the more knowledgeable they think they are on the topic, but the lower they score on an actual knowledge test.  Read the article.


Genetically modified food fears are misguided, according to Nobel Laureates

American professor Frances Arnold and British biochemist Gregory Winter, this year’s winners of the Nobel Prize in chemistry, say that misguided overreaction to fears about genetically modified food is preventing society from reaping the benefits of the technology.

“We’ve been modifying the biological world at the level of DNA for thousands of years,” Arnold said, citing examples such as new dog breeds. “Somehow there is this new fear of what we already have been doing and that fear has limited our ability to provide real solutions.” Winter said that the current regulations on genetically modified food need to be “loosened up.”

Arnold pointed out the many benefits of genetically modified food, suggesting that genetic modification can make crops more resistant to drought and disease, make food production more environmentally sustainable, and produce enough to feed the world’s growing population, according to the GuardianRead the article.


Can humans survive without genome technology?

Each year enough rice to feed 30 million people is lost to flooding. Pam Ronald and her lab have been working to change that, using genome-editing technology and tools such as CRISPR to create strains of rice that are heartier and have better yields.

As populations expand and the effects of climate change grow in severity, nothing short of our ability to feed the world’s people is at stake. Ronald’s book, “Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food,” co-authored with Raoul W. Adamchak, her husband and an organic farmer, seeks to bridge a divide between her community of scientists and his of organic farmers. Each group must work together to create a more sustainable landscape for farming. When Ronald thinks What the Future, she’s wondering if people realize what’s at stake and understand the benefits of genome-editing technologies such as CRISPR.  Read the article.


Land-based fish farming: Why is it the world’s most sustainable fish?

The aquaculture landscape of the modern world is one of innovation and prospect. As the world continues to innovate and improve its methods of sustaining itself, and technology and biological awareness increase and develop, we often find more streamlined and effective methods of going about these processes.

An interesting example of this is currently emerging out of the fishery sector (the aquaculture subsector to be precise), onshore fishing, or land-based fish farming. Most people are aware of the fishing industry and its premise, although exploring its sub sectors leads to a thorough understanding of what makes up the industry itself, and aquaculture in particular is one which many professionals expect to experience significant growth and development in the coming decades.

This growth is due to the emergence of an industry based upon onshore fish farming, brought on by technological advancements within the last several decades allowing the development of full scale land-based fishing operations capable of yielding considerable returns-even when compared to traditional offshore fishing operations.  Read the article.


Climate change report predicts drastic changes in US marine economy

Increasing temperatures, ocean acidification, and deoxygenation are the outcomes from climate change that will cause the most damage the world’s marine economy, according to National Climate Assessment report released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program on Friday, 23 November.

The federal program that released the report was mandated by Congress to coordinate federal research and investments in understanding the forces shaping the global environment and their impacts on society. Compiled by top scientists at 13 U.S. agencies, it paints a grim picture of the future of both U.S. and global fisheries as the effects of climate change continue to advance.

The report stated with “very high confidence” that the world stands to suffer “the loss of iconic and highly valued” habitats, and said intensifying ecosystem disruption as a result of ocean warming, acidification, deoxygenation, and other aspects of climate change will result in major changes in species composition and food web structure. In fact, these changes are already underway and have caused significant shifts in how the marine environment is functioning, especially in the warmest and coldest environments, and the report stated – also with very high confidence – these transformative impacts on ocean ecosystems cannot be avoided In the absence of significant reductions in carbon emissions.

“Warming, acidification, and reduced oxygen conditions will interact with other non-climate-related stressors such as pollution or overfishing,” the report said. “Conservation measures such as efforts to protect older individuals within species, maintain healthy fish stocks, and establish marine protected areas can increase resilience to climate impacts. However, these approaches are inherently limited, as they do not address the root cause of warming, acidification, or deoxygenation. There is growing evidence that many ecosystem changes can be avoided only with substantial reductions in the global average atmospheric CO2 concentration.”

When it comes to fisheries, the impacts of climate change are hard to predict with precision, as the effects of each aspect of climate change are likely to compound the others, causing cascading effects across ecosystems. The report notes that differences in how species respond to changing physical conditions could lead to drastic shifts in both the abundance of certain species, and the locations where they may be found in the future, as they abandon areas where conditions are no longer favorable to them, or as they seek to colonize new locations that may be more amenable to their existence. And this is likely to happen around the world – the report found that 86 percent of global marine ecosystems will experience combinations of temperature and acidification that have never before been experienced by modern species.  Read the article.


Explaining the benefits of genetically engineered foods

During Biotech Week, on a warm, sunny afternoon in late September, Ag-West Bio held a reception to celebrate foods developed through genetic engineering. I was asked to attend and write an article on the event and the food. My views on GM foods are moderate; I grow my own organic vegetables and tend to buy organic when the price is right. I avoid farmed salmon but enjoy stocked trout from Lake Diefenbaker. And I’m definitely not a vegetarian.

Although the setting was relaxed and sumptuous, with platters of AquAdvantage® salmon, Innate® potato chips, Arctic® Apples, vegetables and dips – and a jazz duo playing in the background – the message felt urgent. If we are going to tackle the challenge of feeding the world in a changing climate, the application of emerging technologies, like gene editing, will be essential.  Read the article.

Editor’s note:  see this excerpt – “I move on to sample the genetically engineered salmon. The Boffins chefs have outdone themselves, with offerings of beet-cured salmon; salmon rillette on salmon skin crisps topped with tobiko and dill; and smoked salmon. The fish is firm, flakey and delicious – and grows twice as fast as its non-GMO counterpart. Using genetic material from Chinook salmon and the ocean pout, AquAdvantage® salmon reach market size of four to five kg in 18 months and use 20-25 per cent less feed to grow to market size than other farmed salmon. Because they are grown in biosecure tanks in land-based facilities, they will never mix with wild fish populations. They are also all female, so breeding is controlled. AquAdvantage salmon has the potential to reduce the demand on wild fish and increase availability of Omega3-rich salmon to consumers.”


The Center for Aquaculture Technologies and AquaBounty sign research agreement to produce sterile finfish

The Center for Aquaculture Technologies (CAT), a leading aquaculture R&D company focused on improving productivity, efficiency and sustainability in the aquaculture industry, has signed a licensing and research agreement with AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: AQB), a majority-owned subsidiary of Intrexon Corporation (NASDAQ: XON), to employ CAT’s patented sterility technology for use in products developed by AquaBounty.

AquaBounty and CAT are co-funding CAT’s research using gene editing to produce a sterile finfish for use in aquaculture. CAT will hold the patents and AquaBounty will receive a non-exclusive, royalty-free, license to those patents and the technology. The development work will be performed at CAT’s facility in San Diego.

Dr. John Buchanan, CEO of CAT, commented: “We are delighted to work with AquaBounty to develop this technology and realize its potential in aquaculture.”

Ronald Stotish, Chief Executive Officer of AquaBounty, added: “Although AquaBounty has been very successful in routinely achieving levels approaching 100% sterility using triploid induction technology, we are very pleased to be working with CAT and using their innovative gene editing approach to ensure 100% sterility genetically. Sterility of farmed fish has many environmental and production benefits and we believe this project has a broad range of potential applications in the industry.”

CAT operates two laboratories: its research hub in San Diego, California, and the world’s only Level 3 certified pathogen containment, private aquaculture research facility located on Prince Edward Island in Canada. Owing to the expertise of its team and the unique versatility of its labs, CAT is enabling the aquaculture industry to achieve efficient production growth without endangering the natural environment.

For further information, please contact:

Dr. Debbie Plouffe at or 902-687-1245


The world’s first GMO fish is stranded in Albany, Indiana

Thanks to an Alaska senator, it’s caught in a net of politics, money, and fear.

Here in Albany, Indiana, a town of roughly 2,000 just a few miles from Muncie, the roads are flanked by fields of genetically modified corn and soybeans. Albany isn’t unique in this regard. More than 90 percent of the corn and soybeans in America are GMO commodities. However, one farm in Albany stands out. In fact, there’s no other agricultural operation in America like it.

AquaBounty Farms of Indiana is a land-based fish farm designed to raise the revolutionary AquAdvantage salmon. Scientists created the fish in the 1980s by inserting a Chinook salmon growth-hormone gene into an Atlantic salmon, adding a DNA sequence from an eel-like ocean pout to activate it. The result is an Atlantic salmon that grows to market size twice as fast as a conventional one.

After a tortuous 20-year regulatory journey, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the AquAdvantage salmon for human consumption in 2015, making it the first genetically modified animal ever to receive the distinction. For AquaBounty Technologies, based in Massachusetts, the approval was cause for celebration. After spending decades and millions of dollars fighting for the right to sell their product, they could finally bring it to market. They purchased the Albany farm in 2017 hoping to make it a historic site: the birthplace of America’s first GMO food animal.

The champagne, however, remained corked. As it turned out, not all Americans were eager to embrace a genetically engineered fish. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, whose constituency includes that state’s $4 billion salmon industry, emerged as one of its most strident opponents. Murkowski has long enjoyed the Alaskan salmon industry’s support, and it was understandable for her to go to bat for them. Murkowski claimed the issue wasn’t one of money, but of health and environmental safety. Joining several activist environmental groups, she expressed concerns about the fish’s suitability as food. (“I don’t even know if I want to call it a fish,” she said.) After the FDA approved it, she slipped a rider into a spending bill blocking the sale of the salmon in the U.S. until labeling guidelines for bioengineered food animals could be established.

AquaBounty CEO Ron Stotish dismisses claims that his fish is unsafe, pointing out that it has undergone “two of the most rigorous scientific reviews in history” by the FDA and Canada’s ministry of public health. Last summer, AquaBounty petitioned the FDA to allow it to label its salmon voluntarily and move forward. More than three years after receiving FDA approval, though, the AquAdvantage salmon continues to swim upstream against a current of opposition. “This is the worst of American politics,” Stotish says of Murkowski’s power play. “It’s the brass-knuckles, smash-mouth corruption people are complaining about in Washington.”  Read the article.


P.E.I. approves $2M loan for genetically-modified salmon grower

Production expected to begin in 2019

The P.E.I. government has approved a $2-million loan to help AquaBounty, the genetically-modified salmon grower, complete construction at its Rollo Bay site in the eastern part of the province.

AquaBounty produces salmon that grow twice as fast as traditional, farmed Atlantic salmon.

Officials with the province say the money is to help construct two new plants.

In a news release, AquaBounty said one is a grow-out facility designed to produce 250 tonnes of salmon a year, and the other a broodstock facility. The province says it was told this construction will cost approximately $12 million.

“This loan should enable us to complete construction of the grow-out facility at Rollo Bay by the end of this year and to commence commercial production of our innovative AquAdvantage Salmon in early 2019,” said AquaBounty CEO Ron Stotish.

The P.E.I. government wouldn’t give specifics on why it approved the loan, but said loans of this sort are based on the strength of the business plan, the economic impact, potential job creation, and the ability of the applicant to pay the secured loan back.

AquaBounty said once construction is done 20 to 30 technical jobs are expected to be added.  Read the article.


We need smarter regulation of food and agricultural biotechnology

Executive Summary
In the early 1970s a group of scientists — none involved in agriculture or food — raised concerns about the hypothetical hazards that might arise from the use of the newly discovered molecular genetic modification techniques (recombinant DNA technology) that could alter the inheritable characteristics of an organism via directed changes in its DNA.

That led to an initial voluntary moratorium on the use of the new recombinant DNA (r-DNA) techniques, and subsequently the creation by the National Institutes of Health of guidelines for the application of these techniques for any purpose. These “process-based” guidelines, which were applicable exclusively to the use of these new techniques, were in addition to the existing “product-focused” regulatory requirements of FDA, USDA and EPA. For example, without regulatory approval the “intentional release” of “recombinant organisms” into the environment or fermentation (in contained fermenters) at volumes greater than ten liters of was prohibited.

No similar blanket restrictions existed for plants or other organisms similarly modified by traditional techniques, such as chemical or irradiation mutagenesis.

Thus, premature and ultimately ill-founded concerns about the risks of r-DNA organisms in agriculture and environmental applications precipitated the regulation of r-DNA organisms triggered simply by the “process,” or technique, for genetic modification, rather than the “product,” i.e., the characteristics of the modified organism.

The regulatory burden on the use of recombinant DNA technology was, and remains, disproportionate to its risk, and the opportunity costs of regulatory delays and expenses are formidable. According to Wendelyn Jones at DuPont Crop Protection, “A survey completed in 2011 found the cost of discovery, development and authorization of a new plant biotechnology trait introduced between 2008 and 2012 was $136 million. On average, about 26 percent of those costs ($35.1 million) were incurred as part of the regulatory testing and registration process.” Thus, given that at least 120 genetically engineered seeds with new traits have been approved by USDA, the public and private sectors have spent billions of dollars on complying with superfluous, redundant regulatory requirements that have priced public sector and small companies’ agricultural research and development (R&D) out of the marketplace.

These inflated development costs are the primary reason that more than 99% of genetically engineered crops that are cultivated today are large-scale commodity crops — corn, cotton, canola, soy, alfalfa and sugar beets. Virus-resistant Hawaiian papaya, bruise- and fungus-resistant potatoes and non-browning apples are among the few examples of genetically engineered “specialty crops,” such as fruits, nuts, or vegetables. Early concerns from the food industry about possible food contamination led to onerous USDA restrictions on the once-promising sector of “biopharming,” which uses genetic engineering techniques to induce crops such as corn, tomatoes, and tobacco to produce high concentrations of high-value pharmaceuticals. Likewise, the once high hopes for genetically engineered “biorational” microbial pesticides and microorganisms to clean up toxic wastes are dead and gone. Not surprisingly, few companies or other entities are willing to invest in the development of badly needed genetically improved varieties of the subsistence crops grown in the developing world.

While multinational corporate crop developers can bear these high regulatory costs for high-value, large-volume commodity grains, excessive regulation disproportionately affects small enterprises and, especially, public research endeavors, such as those at land-grant universities, which lack the necessary resources to comply with burdensome and costly regulatory requirements. Therefore, land grant universities have been put at a substantial competitive disadvantage and are seldom able either to expose their students to state-of-the-art breeding programs or to create important new varieties.

The global regulatory compliance costs associated with a new insect-resistant or herbicide-resistant recombinant DNA-modified variety of corn, for example, which are, as noted above, around $35 million, do not include the resources spent on products that are never approved; the costs borne by growers, shippers and processors associated with segregation, traceability and special labeling; or the opportunity costs of compliance with unnecessary regulation.  Read the article.