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The next “wave” of aquaculture development is coming to eastern Canada, as Burlington (Hants County, Nova Scotia)-based Sustainable Blue announced last week that they will be re-configuring their their production plant to grow Atlantic salmon.

The $4 million-plus expansion is expected to allow Sustainable Blue to produce 350 tons of salmon each year, with a market value of $10 million, because of its “premium” status.

Currently, the facility produces bream and Arctic char.

The fish farm is located on 55 acres of woodland in the valley and employs a proprietary water treatment technology developed by owner and partner Jeremy Lee.

The system cleans, recycles and regulates 500 metric tonnes of water each hour, according to materials provided by the firm.

The company’s web site says that sophisticated automation technology and new water treatment methods allow them “to control all aspects of water quality to very strict tolerances. Excellent water quality leads to faster growth rates and the all important efficient use of natural resources.”

All organic waste from the fish is held on land, with incoming water sterilized to avoid disease, which has historically plagued ocean-based farms. The lack of disease, according to Sustainable Blue, means that no drugs are administered to the fish.

Sustainable Blue has also served as a consultant in establishing a land-based facility for the Millbrook First Nation in Truro, who markets under the name Nova Scotia Arctic Char.

Although most fin-fish aquaculture in Canada is open net and ocean-based, there have been substantial developments in recent years in closed containment systems.

The traditional aquaculture industry is consistent in their claims that land-based systems are not economically viable, but Sustainable Blue has attracted some of the most savvy investors in the province, including the owners and founders of Scotia Fuels, the Stevens Group and others, some of whom have also become directors of Sustainable Blue parent company, Sustainable Fish Framing Canada Ltd.

The Atlantic Salmon Federation recently held a two-day conference on their successful partnership in growing Atlantic salmon in land-based closed containment systems. At the conference in New Brunswick, ASF president Bill Taylor described several similar operations being established in Europe and elsewhere in North America, including an operation in Maine, which has plans to raise 3,000 tons, which could have a market value of $100 million.

Several major food retailers in the USA and Canada have indicated a customer appetite for farmed salmon and other fish products which can be guaranteed to be free of pesticides or other chemicals.

“We find ourselves in a situation now with aquaculture,” a land-based operator told SCT, in describing the logical move from ocean-based to land-based growing operations, similar to that of the Pony Express. “The Pony Express did very well and made a lot of money for a lot of people,” he said. “That is, until the discovery of a new technology, the telegraph.”

According to some sources, investors are also considering additional large, land-based operations in Southwest Nova Scotia.

Sustainable Blue web site

Agri-Marine (BC-based sustainable aquaculture) web site

Atlantic Salmon Federation land-based aquaculture resource page

Alex Ross story on land-based aquaculture