RAS believers making an early stand on American soil

Domestically produced, fresh Atlantic salmon is hitting the U.S. marketplace. That’s nothing new.

What is new is that these fish aren’t from traditional ocean-based farms. They’re from land-based aquaculture facilities in places most people wouldn’t expect.

For industry insiders, the emergence of land-based aquaculture is not too surprising, seen as a response to demand for Atlantic salmon and locally produced food with a low environmental footprint. Despite the considerable expense to build a suitable facility that can produce fish at commercial scale, two prominent producers are making waves with this market-leading species, recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) and are poised to make an early stand in the United States.

The first RAS producer to bring Atlantic salmon to market did so this past July, when Superior Fresh LLC harvested its first batch at its facility in Northfield, Wisc., a thousand miles from the nearest ocean.

Superior Fresh operates an aquaponics RAS system that produces Atlantic salmon and steelhead trout in conjunction with leafy greens. Its certified-organic produce, fertilized by the fish waste, has been on the market since 2018, but the first yield of market-sized salmon staked the company’s claim as RAS pioneers. In celebration, Superior Fresh announced an expansion plan at its current facility to increase production almost tenfold. Construction is in the works for a new facility that will increase their yield from its current 160,000 pounds (80 metric tons) to 1.5 million pounds (750 MT) annually by 2022.

Atlantic Sapphire is also carving out its position as a leader in U.S. Atlantic salmon production, even though its fish are not yet on the market. The Denmark-based company has a facility under construction outside of Miami, Fla., with some fish already in smolt stage of production. The company expects to harvest its first market-sized yield next summer, with an eye on annual production of about 90,000 MT by 2026.  Read the article.

Editor’s note:  All of the benefits stated for the firms mentioned in the article apply to AquaBounty’s salmon, except ours grows to market size faster.


Opinion: Murkowski is stifling innovation

Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s recent column in these pages touted her many efforts to support Alaskan fisheries and fishermen. I couldn’t agree more with her goals and support the solutions she puts forward that will enhance the livelihood of this great state while enabling more American families to have fresh, healthy salmon on their plates.

Where I disagree with the senator is when the policies she seeks move from support for Alaska to attacking new and innovative efforts by others to bring fresh, healthy salmon to market. And while Murkowski is specifically working to undermine a single company she views as a threat to the Alaska fish industry, her efforts could have a chilling effect on innovators from all industries, both in Alaska and around the country, who now need to fear that their years of investment and research and seeking regulatory approval can all be undone by the efforts of a single senator.

As Alaskans well know, there is no substitute for the high-quality Alaskan salmon caught by tens of thousands of fishermen in this great state. While Alaskan fisheries are to be applauded for their decades of excellent product, the Pacific salmon industry alone cannot feed our country, nor is it sustainable to think it can simply increase production from already over-fished seas.

Like Alaskan salmon, Atlantic salmon are essential to feeding and nourishing a healthy America. Atlantic salmon have been both caught and farmed for decades, providing a different and less expensive alternative to Alaskan and other Pacific salmon for millions of consumers. Unfortunately, the United States currently lacks a sustainable means of providing enough salmon to meet the ever-growing demand of millions of American families across the country. This shortfall is so great, that the United States currently imports 90% of the Atlantic salmon consumed in America from countries like Norway and Chile.

A small, Massachusetts-based company, AquaBounty Technologies, has made its mission to find a sustainable solution to this problem. After 20 years of research and development and countless approvals, AquaBounty is on the cusp of bringing its domestically-raised seafood to communities across the country. Through robust innovation and rigorous testing, AquaBounty has developed a way to use genetic engineering to farm-raise salmon in closed environments that can help meet demand. What’s more, these closed environments are isolated from wild fish populations and pose no risk to any other salmon.  Read the article.


Warming up to climate change

The inconvenient truth about climate change is that not only are temperature changes affecting our natural ecosystems, it’s also causing us to rethink the way we do things, both as consumers and as an industry.

Whether it’s in our personal consumption or in the industrial realm, climate change is forcing us to face the reality that we simply cannot go on the way we used to and expect the climate crisis to resolve on its own. Sustainable production, supply and consumption of goods and services need to be more deliberate to have a more meaningful impact.

The recent deaths of some 2.6 million farmed salmon in Newfoundland in Canada brings the devastating effects of climate change closer to home.

Northern Harvest Sea Farms, a subsidiary of Mowi Canada, suffered a significant setback last fall after roughly 5,000 tons of fish died in the net pens, resulting in the temporary suspension of the company’s farming licences. Company representatives blamed the massive mortalities to an extended period of higher-than-usual sea water temperatures that lasted up to 13 days.  Read the article.


Study to look into role of RAS in addressing US seafood deficit

Could Atlantic salmon farmed in recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) help narrow down the United States’ growing seafood trade deficit? This is one of the many questions that an initiative launched in September aims to address.

Called the National Coordinated Recirculating Aquaculture System Network, the initiative has received $1.2 million in funding from NOAA’s National Sea Grant Office.

It aims to develop a “roadmap” for policymakers and federal agencies in promoting an economically feasible and environmentally sustainable land-based domestic aquaculture industry.

Maryland Sea Grant and University of Maryland, Baltimore County, are lead partners in the initiative. Industry collaborators, which matched the fund from NOAA, include Superior Fresh in Wisconsin, Whole Oceans and Nordic Aquafarms in Maine, and American Salmon in Maryland.  Read the article.


Jim Anderson: Fillets might replace drumsticks at Thanksgiving in future

While you enjoy a turkey feast for Thanksgiving, public scientists are thinking about what’ll be on your holiday table 20 years from now. There’s a good chance it’ll be something other than turkey.

I predict that much of it is going to come from farming the sea. Aquaculture — fish farming — now accounts for more than half of the world’s seafood. In the United States, four of the top five seafoods consumed — shrimp, salmon, tilapia and catfish — are dominated by fish farming.

U.S. shrimp consumption per person has more than doubled in the past three decades, salmon consumption has gone up five times and tilapia was not even in the market three decades ago. But we haven’t seen anything yet.

Aquaculture is an efficient way to raise food. Anyone who’s sprinkled fish food in an aquarium can understand that you don’t need truckloads of food to grow fish. They need water to swim, but not to drink, so they’re not a drain on water resources.  Read the article.


UF Announces Future of Food Forum

Future of Food Forum will be held on the University of Florida (UF) campus, Gainesville Florida, on January 15, 2020.

The Institute for Sustainable Food Systems within the UF Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences is hosting this Forum to bring together leaders, innovators and experts spanning the global food system to explore what the future of food will look like in 2050, how we will get there and the role of the private sector, universities and governing institutions.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Louise Fresco, President of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, will focus on responsible agriculture and food consumption as crucial to world stability.

At the forum you will hear some of the world’s changemakers give their perspective on the future of food systems and what we should be doing now to embrace the innovations and challenges of the future of food. There will be four high impact sessions:

The Innovators – Hear from inventors and entrepreneurs who are shaping the future of food.

Food from the Land – Panelists will discuss new technologies: what will be useful, who will use them, where will they be most useful, and what the impacts will be.

Food from the Sea – Analysts will present the state of current seafood systems; predictions for future trends in aquaculture and fisheries.

Food and Human Well-Being – One Health perspectives on health and food including antimicrobial resistance, foodborne disease, and nutrition.

This will be an insightful event for anyone who cares about the future of food – from producers to consumers; from researchers to innovators; and from business leaders to policymakers.

More details and registration information are available on the Future of Food Forum website.

Please note: Aquaculture and fisheries presentations are a prominent part of the agenda including The Innovators:

Johan AndreassenCEO, Atlantic Sapphire, Miami, FL
Matthew JohnstonHead, Global Vegetable Seeds and Flowers, Syngenta, Downers Grove, IL
Sylvia WulfPresident/CEO, AquaBounty, Maynard, MA
Dickson DespommierProf Emeritus, Environmental Health Sci, Columbia University & Author of The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st
Gary WishnatzkiCo-Founder, Harvest CROO Robotics/Owner, Wish Farms, Plant City, FL
Andy JarvisDirector of the Decision and Policy Analysis, International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, (CIAT), Cali, Colombia

Ocean warming assessment illustrates climate challenge facing salmon farming

The temperature challenge facing Scotland’s salmon farmers has been illustrated by a new report on how ocean warming, especially of the North Atlantic, is affecting the mix of species in the seas.

Although the assessment is focused on wild species and not farmed fish, the trend it shows indicates a potential long-term problem for Scottish salmon farmers who have pointed to unusually high average sea temperatures as one of the reasons for an increase in mortalities this year.

A map with the assessment shows increases in the populations of warm-water species around coasts of northern Europe, including the west coast of Scotland.

Species mix

Warmer water is linked with an increase in harmful algal blooms which can kill fish by lowering the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water, and cause disease by damaging the fish’s gills.

An international group of marine scientists led by Professor Michael Burrows of the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) in Oban has compiled the comprehensive assessment of how ocean warming is affecting the species mix. It is published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Researchers analysed three million records of thousands of species from 200 ecological communities from the North Atlantic, Western Europe, Newfoundland and the Labrador Sea, east coast USA, the Gulf of Mexico, and the North Pacific from California to Alaska.  Read the article.


Genetically modified salmon to be sold in the U.S.

On the outskirts of Albany, a town in the U.S. state of Indiana, a pair of nondescript, factory-sized white buildings are located. It is here that biotechnology firm AquaBounty Technologies is producing genetically modified (GM) salmon, scheduled to hit the U.S. market next year. The company hopes that the fish will become the first genetically engineered animal to be produced and consumed in the U.S.

The genetically modified salmon grow quickly – reaching market size in half the time as conventional salmon. Gene manipulation allows the salmon to grow year round, instead of just in spring and summer. The process was first developed by Canadian researchers thirty years ago. Silvia Wulf, chief executive and president of AquaBounty Technologies explained that the process involved taking a gene from a Chinook salmon and injected it into an Atlantic salmon.

But, one area of concern is containment. Some worry about what would happen if the fish were to escape into nearby rivers and streams, potentially becoming an invasive species.

According to farm manager Peter Bowyer, a range of measures are in place. “We take it really seriously. We are in Indiana where there aren’t any salmon,” he said. “The fish are sterile. They are all female. But even after all of that, we still have physical barriers in place,” Bowyer explained.  Read the article.

Genetically modified salmon to hit US markets

Genetically modified food is a hot topic.

Already, the majority of corn and soy grown in the U.S. has been genetically modified.

But the science has also reached a range of other consumer products, and that includes salmon, which is set to hit U.S. restaurants and markets next year.

Genetically modified salmon grow quickly, reaching market size in half the time as conventional salmon.

Gene manipulation allows the salmon to grow year round — not just in spring and summer.

The process was first developed by Canadian researchers 30 years ago.

“He took a gene from a chinook salmon and he injected that into an Atlantic salmon,” said Sylvia Wulf, chief executive and president of AquaBounty Technologies. “Because it is one gene from a chinook and 44,000 genes from an Atlantic salmon, that actually accelerates its growth at its most vulnerable stages.”

One area of concern is containment and what would happen if the fish were to escape into nearby streams and rivers, potentially becoming an invasive species.

Farm manager PeterBowyer says the company has a range of measures in place.  Read the article.


Gone global?

The assault on genetically modified salmon coming from Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and others appear to be making life difficult for the company trying to bring the fast-growing fish to market.

Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing only time will tell given that AquaBounty CEO Sylvia Wulf has now told SeafoodSource the company is looking to farm its salmon overseas.

“China is of significant interest to us, and we’re having a couple conversations with partners over there to build the next farm,” Wulf told SeafoodSource reporter Chris Chase. “We have approval for field trials in China, and the Chinese government has been very receptive in trying to navigate the regulatory approval process.”

She said the company is also exploring the possibility of building a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) farms in Brazil and Israel, a country at the forefront of agriculture technology. 

North American efforts to eliminate or limit the sale of the fish – at the Canadian Seafood Show in Montreal in September the Aquaculture Stewardship Council said it will not certify genetically modified (GM) salmon – is no guarantee the spread of the fast-growing fish will be slowed given its apparent market advantages.

AquaBounty claims its salmon are 25 percent more efficient than non-GM salmon in converting feed to body mass and reach marketable size 8- to 10-months faster than non-GM salmon.  Read the article.


AquaBounty aiming to build new RAS sites overseas

For more than two decades, AquaBounty has been developing its genetically modified AquAdvantage salmon, which the company plans to grow in land-based recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS).

Since the company gained regulatory approval, and finally had an import alert lifted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May, the it has been busy growing the first batches of genetically modified salmon at its land-based facility in Indiana. That step was a big moment for the company, AquaBounty CEO Sylvia Wulf told SeafoodSource.

“I think the next-biggest moment for us was when we imported our first batch of AquAdvantage salmon eggs, and they went into the Indiana farm in late May,” Wulf said. “And we just imported our second batch. The fact that we have fish in the water, and another batch of eggs that are going to hatch, that’s a huge thing for us.”

Thus far, all signs point to the process being successful, Wulf said. Now that its salmon has started its growing process, the company is already setting its sights on developing markets for the product, both in the United States and abroad.

The company’s core concept of producing salmon in land-based aquaculture has allowed it to set its site on producing salmons in locations – and countries – that have a robust demand for salmon, Wulf said.

“We’ve begun conversations with a number of states in the U.S. in terms of where the next facility will be,” Wulf said. “We’re looking at probably three to five different sites in the U.S., we’re looking at additional sites in Canada as well.”

The main requirement for the production facility, Wulf said, is that it needs to have an adequate supply of groundwater. AquaBounty has been raising salmon in freshwater for years, without any need for a saltwater phase, allowing the company to be flexible when it comes to selecting a site for a facility.

Wulf said the company also aspires to take its aquaculture model overseas.  Read the article.


GM salmon set for Q4 2020 harvest

AquaBounty has announced that it expects to harvest the first of its genetically modified AquAdvantage salmon from its farm in Indiana by the end of 2020.

Its Q3 report, published this week, reports that the firm currently has 77 tonnes of salmon at its RAS farm in Indiana.

However, they explained to The Fish Site, this tonnage is accounted for by a cohort of conventional Atlantic salmon. The next cohort, which was stocked in June 2019, consists of its GM AquAdvantage strain, the first of which are destined to be harvested in Q4 2020.

Meanwhile in the company’s Q3 report, Sylvia Wulf, CEO, stated: “We are thrilled with the progress of our salmon at our Indiana farm. The fish are growing extremely well, and they look fantastic. A new batch of AquAdvantage salmon eggs was recently received at the farm, and we now have three cohorts of fish in the water. Every day we move closer to our first harvests, which we expect to commence in June of next year.”

On a less positive note the North American company reported losses of $9.8 million for the nine-month period up to the end of September, up from $8 million in the corresponding period of 2018.

The company attributes these losses to “increases in production operations, headcount, and legal fees in support of the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) defence of their approval of AquAdvantage salmon.”  Read the article.


Leading by example: how AquaBounty, Oxford Biomedica, and Berkeley Lights have successfully brought products to market

Chances are, you’ve personally used or benefitted from bioproducts – products made from renewable biologic materials. Alternative protein sources such as the Impossible Burger and Pivot Bio’s nitrogen-fixing PROVEN™ fertilizer are just two of many successful bioproducts. In December, North Face Japan will offer the Moon Parka – a high-performance ski parka manufactured with Spiber, Inc.’s  bioengineered spider silk. Geltor’s HumaColl21TM , a biocompatible collagen for human skin cells, is a key component of Kolam Korea’s anti-aging face cream.  Once bioproducts like these reach the market, it’s easy to overlook the fact that the work needed to adapt a biological process for use in the manufacture of a marketable product is just one step in a complex series of steps necessary for success.  Read the article.

“What I really admire about [AquaBounty],” says Hallinan, “is that they had the persistence to just keep going” even when the public wasn’t ready for their product and they had to continue on despite that. “I think that on a larger scale, aquaculture is going to become increasingly important as we start to reduce the use of protein sources with significant greenhouse gas impacts like beef and pork.”


The sea is running out of fish, despite nations’ pledges to stop it

Major countries that are promising to curtail funding for fisheries are nevertheless increasing handouts for their seafood industries.

As global fish stocks that feed hundreds of millions of people dwindle, nations are scrambling to finalize by year’s end an international agreement to ban government subsidies that fuel overfishing.

Yet as negotiations at the World Trade Organization resume this week in Geneva, Switzerland, new research shows that governments have actually increased financial support for fishing practices that decimate marine life, despite public pledges to curtail such handouts.

In an exhaustive survey of 152 countries, scientists at the University of British Columbia found that ocean-faring nations spent $22 billion on harmful subsidies in 2018, or 63 percent of the total amount expended to support the global fishing industry.

That’s a 6 percent rise since 2009. Harmful subsidies is a term that refers to those that promote overfishing and illegal fishing that would otherwise not be profitable, such as subsidies that underwrite fuel costs allowing industrial trawlers to sail to the farthest reaches of the planet. Fuel subsidies alone accounted for 22 percent of all fishing subsidies last year.


AquaBounty planning to label GM salmon in the US

AquaBounty is planning to preemptively label its genetically modified salmon in the United States in 2020, a company spokesperson told SeafoodSource soon after Canadian seafood industry executives and NGOs spoke out against the fish.

At the Canadian Seafood Show in Montreal, Quebec, in September, a panel of seafood industry executives and environmental groups said that they do not plan to sell or support AquaBounty’s AquAdvantage salmon in Canada.

While Dave Conley, spokesperson for Maynard, Massachusetts-based AquaBounty, previously told SeafoodSource that the suppler is considering labeling its GM salmon in Canada, this is the first time the supplier has revealed its plans for labeling the salmon in the U.S.

“We are committed to transparency and are proud of the product we produce using biotechnology. Therefore, we plan to pre-emptively label in 2020, in advance of the USDA [United States Department of Agriculture] requirements to label in 2022, using the bioengineered foods symbol developed by USDA,” Conley told SeafoodSource.

AquaBounty is “conducting consumer research to determine how best to communicate the benefits of our product and where/how it is raised so we may augment our label based on the learning from the research,” Conley said. “We will also be working closely with customers to insure we provide them with the information they require for their consumers.”  Read the article.


Young defends Indiana salmon facility, free market principles in The Star Press

Senate provision threatens to cease production at AquaBounty Technologies in Albany and put Hoosiers out of work

In an op-ed for The Star Press, U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) argues for protecting jobs and the production of genetically engineered salmon in Albany, Indiana.

Senator Young recently led a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee voicing concern over a provision in an agriculture appropriations bill that would prohibit the commercialization of genetically engineered salmon. If enacted, this provision would cause AquaBounty Technologies in Albany to have to cease production immediately and put Hoosiers out of work.

“The results would be this: 160,000 fish currently maturing in Albany would be euthanized. Dozens of Hoosiers would be out of a job. The operation would be moved to another country — likely China — which sees the incredible value in dominating agriculture innovation,” Senator Young writes. “If one legacy industry can manipulate Congress to unilaterally kill one innovative company, how free is our free market? I’m doing everything I can to keep this provision out of our funding bills to protect innovation and ensure the free market is allowed to operate.”

 Read the full op-ed here


AquaBounty counters Montreal panel’s concerns over GMO salmon

Based on comments made here in a four-person panel held at a conference Thursday, AquaBounty Technologies will have a hard time selling any of its genetically engineered salmon, known as AquAdvantage, in Canada after it has its first major harvests almost exactly a year from now.

The Maynard, Massachusetts-based company, however, remains “very optimistic”, spokesman Dave Conley told Undercurrent News on Friday morning after providing a statement from CEO Sylvia Wulf.

“Customers are interested in learning more about the product, particularly when they realize it is grown closer to their shopper base and can provide a fresher alternative to the current imported product,” Wulf said.  “Conversations with those customers are framing our communication plan and requirements.  The landscape is evolving and there is receptivity to engage in a dialogue.”  Read the article.


It’s a fish-eat-fish world. Scientists want to change that

Farm-raised fish and shrimp eat other wild fish, which is leading to overfishing and damage to marine ecosystems. Insect- and bacteria-based alternatives just might turn the tide.

For the first time in history, humans are poised to harvest more fish and seafood from farms than they catch in the wild.

This milestone, expected within two years, would help keep the oceans from being overfished except for one issue: Those farmed fish eat wild fish.

Around 12% of the world’s wild whole-fish catch goes to feed fish and aquatic creatures like shrimp raised on farms, according to The Marine Ingredients Organization, a trade group for the international fish feed industry. Captive salmon and shrimp are fed fishmeal composed of smaller fish like sardines and anchovies, which themselves are being overfished in some parts of the world, damaging marine ecosystems and reducing an important food source for locals.

As aquaculture has expanded over the past few decades, scientists have tried to replace fishmeal with plant-based feeds, including soy. But these efforts have had only limited success for carnivorous fish like salmon, which rely on protein-dense fishmeal to reach market weight quickly. Salmon and other species also rely on fish oil—a crucial feed ingredient derived from wild-caught fish—to absorb the omega-3 fatty acids that consumers want. The result is a fish-feed bottleneck that could slow the expansion of global aquaculture.

To solve the problem, teams of scientists and entrepreneurs are developing fish-free fish food from bacteria and insects, along with replacements to fish oil derived from algae and genetically modified canola. They are attracting funding from major investors like BP PLC and Temasek, Singapore’s national investment vehicle.  Read the article.