A Maine company’s pending acquisition of a foreign counterpart could give it a boost as it seeks to become one of the first in North America to prove the commercial viability of an emerging industry — fish farms that grow Atlantic salmon in large tanks instead of at sea.
Emergent Holdings’ plan to buy majority ownership of Kuterra, North America’s first land-based salmon grower, should give Emergent subsidiary Whole Oceans of Bucksport access to Kuterra’s experience using an old technology, land-based recirculating water systems, in a new way: to grow Atlantic salmon, said Jason Huffman, a senior reporter at the seafood industry trade journal Undercurrent News.
“The technology works. It is getting to a point where people are beginning to produce on a regular basis,” Huffman said. “The question is, is it a profitable business?”
The Native American ‘Namgis First Nation, which launched Kuterra in 2012 on its portion of Canada’s Vancouver Island, is deciding whether to accept Emergent’s proposal in voting that wraps upnext month. Terms of the deal were not revealed.
At stake for Bucksport are Whole Oceans’ plans for a $250 million facility it plans to start building on the former Verso Paper mill site later this year. With the eventual possibility of 200 jobs, the project could be a boon to the town, which lost 570 jobs when Verso closed in 2014. The project’s first phase is expected to employ 50 people and cost $75 million.
Success could put Maine at the forefront of a fledgling national industry — if land-based recirculated aquaculture systems, which flush seawater through large fish tanks and back out to sea, can make the leap from small-scale or research testing into mass-market production as growers of Atlantic salmon.
While Whole Oceans could be an early player in the industry, it has little chance of becoming America’s first land-based Atlantic salmon grower to make it big in the marketplace. A Florida company is already planning its first harvest for early next year.