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Norway collaborates with the US to identify sustainable aquaculture opportunities

September 14, 2020
By The Explorer

Hofseth Aqua

Innovation Norway and the US Embassy/Commercial Service are organizing a series of webinars to showcase aquaculture market opportunities for innovative firms expanding internationally.

Farmed fish could be crucial to achieving a world without hunger. Although aquaculture can have a large environmental footprint, Norwegian technology makes it possible to produce fish sustainably and with less environmental impact.

The global population is growing rapidly. Today there are over 7 billion people on earth, and the UN forecasts that the population can reach up to 10 billion as early as 2050. Sustainable, large-scale production of nutritious food will be required to make sure that everyone is adequately fed.

Fish and other seafood are some of the most important sources of animal protein, fats, and Omega-3 fatty acids – all of which are vital nutrients. Moreover, aquaculture also has a significantly smaller carbon footprint than many types of meat production.

There are, however, a number of problems associated with intensive, large-scale production of fish. Feces and spilled feed, which may contain nitrogen and phosphorus, can pollute the water column and local environment. Moreover, controlling sea lice without damaging fish or the surrounding ecosystem has been a longstanding challenge.

Meanwhile, as the industry has grown, procuring enough nutritious fish feed has become an issue. Production of essential marine ingredients such as fishmeal and fish oil has decreased by half during the past decade.

Emerging technology is helping to solve these problems, and Norway is leading the way. With its extended, biologically diverse coastline and centuries-long fishing traditions, Norway has tremendous expertise in aquaculture and fisheries which the country is applying in technology development.

Glitne has developed sustainable, land-based fish farms for halibut.

Aquaculture challenges and opportunities

The aquaculture industry has been one of Norway’s most vibrant and profitable industries for the past decade. Norway is a world leader throughout the aquaculture value chain, thanks to a strong collaboration between business, government and research-based knowledge production and innovation, among other things.

The United States is home to leading knowledge environments and technology environments that can be valuable partners in the future. For instance, developments in land-based fish farming in the United States are very interesting from an international perspective.

The aquaculture industry is facing a number of challenges. These can, however, be viewed as market opportunities for companies to develop and deliver technology to solve them.

One main challenge is the worry about decreasing availability of marine ingredients for fish feed. High-quality feed that meets the nutritional demands of fish, particularly in the larval stage, is essential for healthful, tasty fish. Rotifera, or wheel animals, and Artemia nauplii, or brine shrimp, are the most common live feed organisms used in aquaculture in Europe today.

Meanwhile, soy is the most widely used substitute for fish oil and fishmeal in dry fish feed. Soy, however, may be cultivated at the expense of local ecosystems. The aquaculture industry has to find methods of maintaining nutritional quality while sparing the environment.

Sea lice are one of the most pressing challenges facing marine aquaculture. Drugs and chemicals have been the predominant method of controlling these parasites. But now sea lice have begun to acquire resistance to delousing agents, so new solutions must be found.

Another main challenge for marine aquaculture is that most fish farms are located in fjords or along the coastline. Waste feed, feces, fish escapes and high concentrations of parasites have negative impacts on both the local environment and wild fish stocks.

One way of solving this is by moving facilities to the open ocean, which offers more space for production fish, deeper and naturally well-aerated water, and stronger currents. Ocean currents are particularly effective for reducing the concentration of parasites and pollution that builds up in calmer coastal waters. Greater distance to the shore also minimizes interactions with wild fish and problems such as interbreeding.

Another way of solving the environmental challenges associated with coastal aquaculture is to enclose the fish farms. Closed facilities prevent fish escapes, eliminating risks to wild fish stocks, and allow waste to be collected instead of being released. They also significantly reduce the risk of sea lice outbreaks. Land-based fish farms are yet another option.

SalMar’s Ocean Farm 1 is the world’s largest offshore fish farm.

Norway and the US: tremendous potential for aquaculture collaboration

“Among food-producing industries, aquaculture is the fastest growing industry in the world. Increased demand for healthy food and focus on increased food security are important drivers for increased seafood production globally. What characterizes the Norwegian aquaculture industry is the willingness to apply new knowledge, innovate and invest in new, sustainable aquaculture solutions. This makes the Norwegian aquaculture industry a global hub for the development of aquaculture. The United States is an exciting market and partner for the development of new aquaculture solutions for a diverse global market. Both countries have their strongholds, knowledge and experience that together will be able to bring aquaculture to a new level.”

Sigridur Thormodsdottir, Head of Biobased Industries, Innovation Norway

“If the Norwegian aquaculture industry is to continue to be a leader in an international market, it is important that we are at the forefront of the development of new technology and new solutions both at sea and on land. We encourage international players to look to Norway to test new innovative solutions and methods together with a world-leading Norwegian aquaculture industry and we aim to help Norwegian high-tech solutions enter exciting markets like the US.”

Kristian Henriksen, Cluster Manager, NCE Aquatech Cluster

“Farmed seafood production has been steadily increasing in the United States, but there is opportunity for more domestic seafood production through increasing efficiencies and resiliency in nearshore aquaculture while also producing more opportunities nationally for research and commercial offshore production.”

Kevin Madley, Regional Aquaculture Coordinator in the Greater Atlantic Region, NOAA Fisheries Service

“The rapidly evolving ‘blue economy’ represents opportunities to advance bilateral collaboration, trade and investment, including for seafood and aquaculture. Norway and the United States host ocean clusters and complete value chains representing world-leading technologies. We have already seen Norwegian investors actively engaged and positioned to help boost US seafood and aquaculture production, and we expect these opportunities to grow. The US Administration’s new initiatives to revitalize the US seafood industry are expected to have further benefits for this relationship.”

Vidar Keyn, Head of Section, Commercial Section at the US Embassy

US-Norway aquaculture webinar series

To learn more, sign up here for the webinars on September 22 and September 24!

FishGLOBE is a closed, mobile fish farming tank.