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Raising salmon on land makes business and environmental sense
New data from B.C. points to big opportunities in sustainable seafood
A healthier and more sustainable way to produce salmon is not only possible, but it’s becoming a business reality at an innovative facility in British Columbia.
The Kuterra project raises Atlantic salmon on land near Port McNeill, B.C. It’s the first facility in North America — and only the second in the world — to do so.
Kuterra is an example of business, social and environmental interests going hand-in-hand. The ‘Namgis First Nation, which owns the project, had been looking for a way to protect and conserve the wild salmon that are fundamental to their way of life. Having seen the problems with conventional fish farms, they decided to invest in a land-based approach that protects the ocean and doesn’t impact wild salmon.
The ‘Namgis built Kuterra with the support of Tides Canada’s Salmon Aquaculture Innovation Fund, which advances innovations that protect wild salmon and the marine environment. Kuterra’s salmon is already attracting loyal customers — it’s served at the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver, for example — in a marketplace that increasingly cares about the quality and environmental footprint of seafood.
Kuterra is also attracting attention from the aquaculture industry. The funding from Tides Canada required the ‘Namgis to share lessons every step of the way, from the project design through to the harvest and sale of fish. The final reports* on the facility’s technical and financial performance were released today, and they’re informing similar innovations elsewhere.
The current Kuterra facility is relatively small, since it was designed as a commercial pilot. Despite this, and being an early-stage operation, the facility expects to be breaking even financially by March of this year. It’s also paving the way for a full-scale commercial facility — one with five times as much production — that will operate with significant economies of scale.
As demand for seafood continues to grow, so will the market for sustainable solutions like Kuterra’s. The results to date present a clear opportunity for investors and for governments who want to support innovation in Canada and a more sustainable aquaculture industry.
*Final reports: ‘Namgis First Nation’s Land Based Atlantic Salmon Recirculating Aquaculture System Project – Final Performance Metrics Report, ‘Namgis First Nation’s Land Based Atlantic Salmon Recirculating Aquaculture System Project – Cohort #4 Addendum.
- Demand for Kuterra’s salmon has exceeded supply, and it sells at a premium. It was one of the first three Atlantic salmon producers worldwide to receive a “best choice” ranking from Seafood Watch.
- Kuterra raises salmon without the use of antibiotics, which are common in many other aquaculture operations.
- Energy use accounts for less than 10 per cent of the facility’s costs, debunking one of the main concerns previously voiced about land-based salmon farming.
- Land use is also remarkably low. If all of B.C.’s open net-pen salmon production switched to Kuterra’s model, it would fit in an area one-fifth the size of Vancouver’s Stanley Park.
- Kuterra’s system cleans and recirculates water constantly, and more than 99 per cent of water is reused in each cycle.
“For the ‘Namgis, wild salmon are at the heart of our way of life. Our survival depends on their survival. We believe that net-based salmon farming, and the waste it produces, does not belong in wild salmon habitat. That’s why we started to grow Atlantic salmon on land: we’re demonstrating that there’s a way to farm salmon that all British Columbians can support.”
–Debra Hanuse, Chief, ‘Namgis First Nation
“In less than three years, Kuterra has shown that it’s possible to grow healthy, top-quality Atlantic salmon on land — and we’re on the verge of showing that it makes good business sense too. Tides Canada was our incubator, and helped us grow to the point that we’re drawing industry and investor interest.”
–Garry Ullstrom, Chef Executive Officer, Kuterra
“Kuterra provides an invaluable benchmark for business plan development and execution. We now have actual metrics on capital and operating costs, along with detailed data, all of which is paramount for investment decisions. A significant network has grown around the project that provides additional input and support for new investment.”
—Mike Cunning, President, Miracle Springs Inc.
“Kuterra is providing vital information to the salmon farming industry, investors, government officials and conservation advocates. The project extends and ultimately validates research that we have conducted at the Conservation Fund’s Freshwater Institute on land-based salmon farming. We can both farm salmon sustainably and protect our sensitive resources.”
—Dr. Steven Summerfelt, Director of Aquaculture Research, The Conservation Fund Freshwater Institute
The latest technical and financial performance reports for Kuterra are available on the Tides Canada website.
Communications and Marketing
‘Namgis First Nation/Kuterra LP Communications
About Tides Canada
Tides Canada is a national charity dedicated to a healthy environment, social equity and economic prosperity for all Canadians. It collaborates with both donors and social change leaders, offering a platform for on-the-ground efforts to create uncommon solutions for the common good. Since 2000, Tides Canada has built bridges between and among sectors, steering more philanthropy into innovative efforts to address tough environmental and social challenges.