One of the world’s largest land-based salmon farms to be built in Maine

Published on
January 31, 2018

Norway’s Nordic Aquafarms has zeroed in on Belfast, Maine, U.S.A., as the future site for what will be one of the world’s largest land-based salmon farms, according to a recent report from the Portland Press Herald.

The company, which develops land-based aquaculture facilities internationally, plans to purchase 40 acres on the outskirts of Belfast to build the farm, and will invest an initial USD 150 million (EUR 120 million) in the project. The development will create 60 jobs within two years, said Nordic Aquafarms CEO Erik Heim, and up to 140 jobs once it’s completed. 

The decision to base the project out of Maine came after a six-month search beginning in Japan and China, then traveling through Ireland and Spain before eventually settling on Belfast, Heim explained during a press conference at the University of Maine’s Hutchinson Center. Maine’s “pristine environment, cold-water conditions, long history as a leader in the seafood industry and proximity to major consumer markets in the Northeast United States,” were some of the factors driving Nordic Aquafarms to settle its new salmon farm there, Heim told the Press Herald. 

The Belfast farm will be nearly five times the size of Nordic Aquafarms’ developing facility in Norway at Fredrikstad Seafoods, which is considered to be the largest land-based farm of its kind in Europe.

“We’re building the pilot in Norway, then we’re taking it big in Maine,” Heim said. 

Construction will tentatively begin on the Belfast-based farm in 2019, with the site being fully operational by 2020, according to the company’s plans. The farm is expected to produce as much as 33,000 tons, or 66 million pounds, of salmon annually once it’s completed. As the project ramps up, it’s intended to accommodate full end-to-end operation – from hatcheries to fish processing – and require a total investment of USD 450 million (EUR 361 million) to USD 500 million (EUR 401 million), the Press Herald reported. 

Nordic Aquafarms is still in the process of completing its land purchases for the site, which will be located near Little River. The company has signed a sale agreement for 26 acres of its planned 40 currently occupied by the Belfast Water District, which will relocate to secure the transaction. Nordic has also signed an agreement with a private landowner for 14 more acres. 

The announcement of the planned land-based operation has been met with praise from state legislators. 

“Maine’s fishing industry is a vital part of our economy, our coastal communities and our state’s heritage,” said U.S. Senator Susan Collins, to the newspaper. “Nordic Aquafarm’s decision to build an innovative, environmentally friendly aquaculture facility in Belfast will help expand this important industry and create new jobs for Mainers.”

Fellow U.S. Senator Angus King noted the potential that the Nordic Aquafarms development offered to the communities of Maine.  

“Aquaculture is a growing force in Maine’s economy, bringing new jobs and opportunities to our state’s fishing industry,” he said. “Nordic Aquafarms’ facility will build on our state’s rich fishing traditions and promote innovation and sustainability that can help Belfast and the surrounding community thrive. This is an investment in Maine people, Maine jobs, and the future of our economy.”

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