Millinocket could be the next place in Maine to spawn an aquafarm as part of a fledgling but potentially lucrative industry of growing Atlantic salmon in land-based fish tanks.
Aquaculture Management & Holding Co. of the United Kingdom announced Tuesday that it is ready to start building a “modern aquaculture plant” in Millinocket after two years of planning and preparations, according to the industry trade publication Undercurrent News. The company, which calls its U.S. subsidiary Aquabanq, said earlier this year it intended to open a land-based salmon farm in the U.S. by 2022.
Steve Sanders, director of mill site redevelopment at Our Katahdin, a volunteer economic development group that owns the site of the former Great Northern Paper Co. mill, said the organization has been in discussions with many companies about launching businesses at the mill site.
“Land-based aquaculture is certainly an opportunity that we can envision happening in Millinocket,” Sanders said.
He declined to comment further.
Development at the Millinocket mill site has been hampered by an IRS lien that Our Katahdin has been trying to resolve since it bought the site for $1 in January 2017 and assumed responsibility for the lien. The paper mill has been closed since 2008.
The previous mill owners, GNP Holding II LLC and GNP West Inc. — two creations of former mill site owner Cate Street Capital LLC — failed to pay $1.4 million in taxes on the mill site, according to the IRS.
Our Katahdin President Sean DeWitt has called the lien “the most prominent barrier to rebuilding the site’s infrastructure and in moving forward with the vision of creating a multi-tenant industrial park.” In December, the lien kept a company that planned a 300,000-square-foot factory to produce cross-laminated timber at the mill site from setting up shop there.
In a news release, Aquabanq said its salmon will reach customers in major East Coast markets from Washington, D.C., to Montreal “within hours of harvest to ensure peak freshness.”
Documents on file with the Secretary of State’s Office in Wyoming show Aquabanq formed in January 2018 in Sheridan, Wyoming.
Aquabanq told Undercurrent News that it plans to have its Millinocket site produce more than 3,600 tons of fresh Atlantic salmon per year by 2022, its first year, with 10,000 tons coming by 2025.
It is the fifth company to have announced at least an intention to locate a land-based aquaculture operation in Maine. Four would produce Atlantic salmon while one would produce yellowtail. All would use the same technology to raise fish — a recirculating aquaculture system that flushes water through large fish tanks and back out.
In Bucksport, Whole Oceans recently closed on a deal to buy a slice of the former Verso Paper mill site along the Penobscot River. It plans to secure building permits and start construction of a $250 million facility by Jan. 1. Whole Oceans has said it plans to produce 5,000 metric tons, or 11 million pounds, of Atlantic salmon in its first phase, more than Aquabanq plans to produce early on.
Nordic Aquafarms has permit applications under review for a land-based salmon farm it’s proposing on Belfast’s coastline. Palom Aquaculture of Gouldsboro has permits but lacks funding and is searching for a buyer. A Dutch company, Kingfish Zeeland, said it has chosen the Maine coast for a land-based aquaculture facility, but will raise yellowtail, not salmon.