A U.S.-based start-up with backing from the founder of Global AS, which founded Norwegian cod-farming firm Norcod in 2019, is investigating a site in Gouldsboro, Maine, U.S.A. for an extensive salmon-farming operation.
American Aquafarms announced on Friday, 16 October, it had reached an agreement to purchase the 100,000-square-foot Maine Fair Trade Lobster facility owned by East Coast Seafood Group. The project will include the construction of a hatchery, fish farm facilities, and a processing plant at the site along the coast of Maine.
The company has plans for 30,000 metric tons of yearly production in its "stage-one" phase of operations, which it hopes to ramp up to within three years.
"Long-term will be detailed later," the spokesperson said.
A press release from the company identified its president and CEO as Mikael Rones, the founder of Global AS, an investment company based in Trondheim, Norway. Rones exited Norcod and founded American Aquafarms in 2019, according to the release, which also named Eirik Jors, the founder and former CEO of an unidentified securities firm based in Norway, as American Aquafarms’ vice president. Mark Blair, the former executive director of real estate services at healthcare services firm Athenahealth, has been appointed project manager.
“American Aquafarms, based in Maine, will serve the U.S. market demand for finfish, thus reducing the carbon footprint of long-distance air freight required currently by imports to the U.S.,” Rones said.
American Aquaculture has proposed the use of “Eco-pens,” which it described as “next-generation closed-pen technology currently used in Norway,” for the farm.
“This eco-friendly technology for finfish farming leverages deep-water sites and eliminates fish escapes, controls waste from entering the ocean, and eliminates the threat from sea lice with an overall low environmental impact,” the company said.
The company is not listed as having any active permit requests submitted to Maine’s Department of Marine Resources. A company spokesperson confirmed it has not yet applied for permits.
According to Rones, American Aquafarms is currently meeting with area lobstermen as it considers sites for its pens. Rones said the Eco-pen technology addresses many of the concerns previously raised regarding net-pen salmon aquaculture in the U.S.
“Our new technology addresses major challenges in the traditional aquaculture industry, through the use of an eco-friendly closed-pen system that will set a new standard for finfish farming in U.S,” Rones said.
American Aquafarms is partnering with aquaculture equipment and technology provider Scale Aquaculture, aquaculture service-vessel builder AMAR Group, aquaculture technical services firm Aqua Knowledge, and processing and distribution specialist Isfjord Norway on the project, it said. Local companies assisting in the site location and project development include law firm Bernstein Shur, construction company Cianbro, aquatic animal health services firm Kennebec River Biosciences, location consultancy Maine & Co., and engineering firm Ransom Consulting.
“We strongly believe that finfish should be farmed in its natural habitat, in the ocean, with the focus on using the best possible technology to reduce our environmental footprint,” Rones said.
American Aquafarms is developing a workforce strategy plan to support local skilled and unskilled labor for both the construction of the facility and its operation, Rones said.
“We look forward to continuing our work with the town of Gouldsboro and area fishermen to share our cutting-edge aquaculture technology that can provide year-round jobs for residents of the region,” Rones said.
Other project partners identified on the company's website include Bjorn Apeland, the founder and CEO of AMAR Grou; Ingolf Midtveit, the founder and CEO of marine engineering and construction company MCS Group; Fredrick Friis, named as American Aquafarms' water quality expert; and Jan Erik Kyrkjebo, the founder and CEO of Ecomerden.
On its website, the company said it is "currently funded through an investor group from Norway, and has so far not been seeking external capital."
"The company has however already been contacted by several investors that have voiced an interest in the project, and American Aquafarms will together with advisors now enter a dialogue with potential strategic investors for future capitalization of the company," it said. "American Aquafarms is open to enter[ing] into a confidential dialogue with potential investors."
Photo courtesy of American Aquafarms