State of USA Recirculating Aquaculture Systems

Recirculating Aquaculture Systems have been touted as the future of fish farming for decades. However, it was only a few years ago with the booming American economy, and mainstream interest in environmental sustainability that investors have begun seriously considering funding large RAS facilities. In the US a farm needs to most likely reach a size of around 1000 MT per year of production to be able to operate sustainably, and even at that size it needs to not suffer from any setbacks if it expects to keep the doors open.

Currently at least six large projects are finishing construction or are starting on the funding process. Hudson Valley Fish Farm in Hudson, NY has recently completed their 1000+ MT Steelhead farm and is selling fish in the Northeast. The farm was privately funded by its owners with no outside investment. Another currently operating facility is Ideal Fish, in Connecticut, growing 500 MT of Branzino per year.

Superior Fresh in Hixton Wisconsin is now growing salmon to be sold later this year and is currently selling greens from its aquaponic greenhouses. It may be the largest aquaponic operation to date in the US. The farm appears to have been privately financed and has worked closely with Pentair to get the farm up and running

Atlantic Sapphire is currently constructing phase one of a three phase plan in Miami Florida to grow 10,000 MT per year of Atlantic salmon. The company already has a RAS operation in Denmark that is now said to be profitable after a few years of setbacks. They have reportedly raised $80 million for the phase one project with $500 million needed to complete the entire three phase facility.

Nordic Aquafarms is one of two large farms being planned for Maine. Located in Belfast, they are looking to raise $150 million for the initial farm build out. Nordic Aquafarms already operates a Yellowtail farm in Denmark with a Salmon farm under construction in Norway. They are still looking for funding but they hope to use their existing track record to raise money. The city of Belfast commissioned Deloitte, an accounting firm, to do due diligence on Nordic Aquafarms, the report came back that they have faith in the projects success.

The other Maine operation is Whole Oceans, located in Bucksport. The company is also looking to raise money for the farm. So far it has brought together a number of experienced aquaculture professionals to join the company, but there do not appear to be firm plans as of yet.

The most successful RAS company to date is probably Blueridge Aquaculture located in Martinsville Virginia which produces Tilapia for the live seafood market in the Eastern US. They have been operating now for 25 years in their niche market. They replace about 15% of the system water each day, leading to a fairly quick system refresh rate.

All of these companies have ambitions to grow and become major players in the US seafood market. Each will have to find ways to differentiate themselves in the market and find money to grow their businesses to a sustainable size. It is likely that most of them will end up using similar technology. In the end their production costs need to be less than the sales revenue and if a couple or all of them are successful it will be a big step forward towards proving that RAS is a sustainable business.

Andy Davison