FISH FARMING TECHNOLOGY
PAVING THE WAY FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
As a salmon farmer on northern Vancouver Island, AgriMarine had experienced crop losses due to toxic algae blooms, predators and escapes. Preventing the interaction between the farmed salmon and its marine environment seemed like the right solution to these challenges, and lowering the high capital costs of land-based systems was key.
t wasn’t too long ago that salmon farmers viewed closed farming systems with indifference or even contempt. Critics of land-based systems assured us that these systems were cost prohibitive due to their high-energy requirements, high land values, and the difficulty of building structures large enough to rear economically viable crops of fish. Indeed, AgriMarine faced the same issues when it was commissioned to operate a land-based salmon-farming pilot on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, 15 years ago. As a salmon farmer on northern Vancouver Island, AgriMarine had experienced crop losses due to toxic algae blooms, predators and escapes. Preventing the interaction between the farmed salmon and its marine environment seemed like the right solution to these challenges, and lowering the high capital costs of land-based systems was key. With this goal in mind, AgriMarine’s team of engineers and salmon farmers embarked on a journey to create a sustainable, “green” rearing system. It wasn’t clear at the time that it would take over 10 years of R&D effort to arrive at the current concept for the production of fish. The Company set out to design and test a walled, floating enclosure that would enable the separation of cultured fish from the external environment. Over the years, many materials were tested without success until a fiberglass foam sandwich formed under vacuum met the initial engineering criteria. Materials chosen for the first two designs, reinforced concrete and aluminum, were deemed unacceptable. The aluminum system would not able to handle the projected stress and wave pressures, and the concrete system was not easily handled due to material density - both were abandoned before prototypes were built. After a decade of research and development, AgriMarine had created a unique and revolutionary rearing system that was several years ahead of its time. The foam sandwich concept met expectations in low energy environments, such as that found in the Guanmenshan Reservoir installation, in northern China. Shear stress testing determined that higher energy environments, such as that found in the ocean, would require a different materials configuration, so the AgriMarine team redesigned the containment wall layup. The new design provides both strength and flexibility to withstand the robust, highly energetic ocean environment. A feat of engineering genius? You bet. However, creating disruptive technology has its disadvantages. The industry responded with lukewarm interest and there was no quick adoption of the new systems. AgriMarine implemented its proprietary systems in its own farms where the technology has been highly successful at producing healthy fish at a commercial scale, with excellent growth rates. The Company proved its system for the rearing of salmon and trout in Canada and in China, where the tanks operate in dissimilar water temperature environments. The Company has completed the installation of a total of twelve AgriMarine System™ tanks in its farms in China and in British Columbia and continues to innovate and improve its technology. Years later, we are now witnessing a wave of interest in closed systems that aim to mitigate disease 42 | July | August 2016 - International Aquafeed