New aquaculture technology represents a transition towards what ocean-based salmon farms can one day become

Salmon farmer sees net gains with new aquaculture technology

New aquaculture technology represents a transition towards what ocean-based salmon farms can one day become

By Fabian Dawson

One of Canada’s leading fish farmers, Grieg Seafood BC Ltd., plans to install a form of semi-closed containment system (SCCS) at its marine aquaculture operations off the west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

The new CO2L Flow system, designed in collaboration with BC-based aquaculture technology companies, allows for salmon farmers to raise or lower custom designed farm enclosures – ensuring the farmed fish benefit from natural ocean conditions, while providing greater protection for wild salmon.

It has several benefits including preventing the lateral interaction of wild and farmed salmon populations and providing protection for farmed populations from harmful algae, said Rocky Boschman, Managing Director for Grieg Seafood BC Ltd.

The system which was trialled at salmon farms off the Sunshine Coast region will be installed at all three of Greig’s  farms in Esperanza Inlet.

“As a company, we are always looking for ways to improve our operations, and this includes transitioning from standard farming equipment, to new, cutting-edge technology aimed at reducing potential impacts from our operations,” said Boschman.

“During the trial period at our west coast site, we were able to keep sea lice levels so low that the fish did not require treatment for lice. In all the trials, farmers noted better growth, lower mortality, better feed conversion rates and most significantly – a dramatic reduction in the need for sea lice treatments,” he said.

What sets this system apart from others is the use of local knowledge, and on-the-ground learning to guide the development of a system which would work in partnership with nature to address challenges, said Grieg in a statement.

“I have been farming in these waters for over 30 years. In that time, I have learned that nature is the best engineer. If you want to find a solution, you need to work with the ocean and the natural conditions,” said Dean Trethewey, Grieg’s Seawater Production, Certifications and Regulatory Director in BC.

“Overall, we are pleased with the results and there is no denying that this new system represents a transition towards what in-ocean farms can one day become,” he said.

Bowing to demands by anti-salmon farm activists, the Liberal government is pursuing a plan to transition open-net salmon farms in British Columbia’s waters.

The future of salmon farming in BC could involve a range of technologies including hybrid grow-out operations, closed and semi-closed containment systems in the ocean together with an area-based management approach, said Terry Beech, the former Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries.

Another leading salmon farmer Cermaq Canada began testing its version of SCCS at its Millar site in Clayoquot Sound in late 2021 but halted it last October after the third stage of a four stage experiment due to a technical fault and related fish welfare issues.

We have acquired important technical and operational knowledge and will use this to improve the performance of the SCCS in Canadian waters,” said David Kiemele, managing director at Cermaq Canada.

Cermaq’s system was designed and built by FiiZK in Norway and shipped in components to Canada. 

The system being installed by Grieg was done in collaboration with several Vancouver Island based technology and services companies – like CPI Equipment and Poseidon Ocean Systems. A leading international oxygen solution company, Oxzo Technologies, was also involved in the creation of some components for the system.

Kris McNichol, president of CPI Equipment Inc. said the knowledge-sharing and teamwork between Grieg Seafood and his company “shows how people, ideas, and new technology can collaborate to meet the needs of aquaculture for the future.”

Heather Clarke, co-founder of the Campbell River-based Poseidon Ocean Systems said the Grieg project will address some of the biggest challenges faced by the aquaculture industry in terms of sea lice, algae, and improved conditions within the farm system.

Grieg Seafood BC Ltd. has a target of raising 22,000 metric tonnes of salmon harvest in 2022 with 22 farm licenses located on both the east and west coast of Vancouver Island.

(Image courtesy of Grieg Seafood BC shows its salmon farm workers monitoring fish with underwater cameras.)