A startup company that already has received state and federal permits to cultivate salmon at a proposed land-based aquaculture facility in Gouldsboro is looking for a buyer.
Palom Aquaculture first proposed in 2012 to develop a salmon farm on waterfront land formerly owned by the Navy. At the time, an official with the company said that its goal was to construct the facility and ramp up to a production level of 2 million pounds a year, possibly by 2017.
But seven years later, the firm has yet to break ground at the site where the Navy used to maintain a radar array near the Gouldsboro village of Corea.
Maine has long been home to salmon aquaculture operations along the coasts of Hancock and Washington counties, where Canadian firm Cooke Aquaculture cultivates the fish in pens that float at sea. How much farmed salmon Cooke produces each year is considered proprietary information, but in 2010, the most recent year for which the state Department of Marine Resources released the fishery’s annual production figures, 24.5 million pounds of salmon were grown in Maine, producing $76 million in gross revenues for the fish farmers.
Palom was the first company to propose growing salmon in Maine on land in tanks filled with water that circulates from the ocean through a filtration system and back out again, which is known in the industry as a recirculating aquaculture system, or RAS.
Since early 2018, two companies have joined Palom in trying to establish recirculating aquaculture system salmon farms in Maine. Nordic Aquafarms has proposed one in Belfast while Whole Oceans has been doing the same in Bucksport, at the site of the former Verso Paper mill.
Bryan Woods, managing partner for Palom, said Tuesday that Nordic Aquafarms and Whole Oceans are big firms compared to his startup company.
Whole Oceans hopes to produce as much as 44 million pounds of salmon a year, while Nordic Aquafarms has a goal of producing 78 million pounds annually. By contrast, Palom’s annual production target, according to Woods, is between 2 million and 3 million pounds.
Woods said his firm still is looking to raise $15 million to get up and running — $10 million for capital construction and, when it is complete, $5 million for two years of operations.
Palom has some commitments from investors, but piecing together multiple financing parties has proven to be tricky, Woods said. For that reason, Palom’s six partners decided this past winter to look for one main investor to either give them the cash they need or to buy them out and take ownership of Palom.
“I am willing to talk to anybody,” Woods said, adding that the company has fielded some inquiries and even has had a couple of suitors visit its undeveloped 17-acre site in Gouldsboro. He declined to say which firms have expressed an interest, saying that doing so would violate Palom’s nondisclosure agreements with those firms.
Woods did say, however, that he has not had any contact with Kingfish Zeeland, a Dutch firm that cultivates yellowtail amberjack or kingfish. Kingfish Zeeland recently told the trade publication Seafood Source that it was considering expanding to Maine and has narrowed its search for a location to two sites in the state. The company did not say where in Maine the potential locations are.
Woods said his firm is permitted for cultivating salmon, arctic char and steelhead trout. In addition to having the needed state and federal operating permits, he said, Palom is licensed to import foreign broodstock, which should have appeal to any overseas firm that is looking for a site on the East Coast to grow out salmon eggs.
Despite the benefit of having the regulatory approvals, Woods said he is not sure how long it might take for Palom to secure its needed capital or to find a buyer. He said the town of Gouldsboro has treated his company “fantastically” and that he does not anticipate having difficulty in securing local building permits, once the financing is lined up.
“I really don’t know” how long that might take, he said.
Palom is not the only aquaculture firm looking for a possible buyer for undeveloped land it owns at the former Navy radar site.
For seven years, Acadia Harvest Inc. sought to build a recirculating aquaculture system facility in Gouldsboro for cultivating yellowtail kingfish — the same species that Kingfish Zeeland grows. But the company has decided to liquidate and sell its land, according to a report this past February by Undercurrent News, another seafood industry publication.
Efforts Tuesday by the BDN to contact Ed Robinson, Acadia Harvest’s former CEO and chairman, and Kingfish Zeeland to inquire whether those two firms have communicated with each other about a possible deal were unsuccessful.