Just as farmed salmon toppled markets for wild fish a few decades ago, land-based farming is set to change the game again over the next decade.
It will come in the form of recirculating aquaculture systems, or RAS, and it could cause even more disruption to world markets. The systems include recirculating tanks of constantly recycled water in closed facilities taken from deep wells, rivers or aquifers, along with pumps, oxygen control, filtering and feeding systems.
That is the conclusion of Rabobank, a Netherlands-based global leader in food and agriculture financing that is among the 30 largest groups in the world.
A report last week identified more than 50 RAS proposed projects around the world with an estimated output to equal 25 percent of total current salmon production by the year 2030.
That adds up to roughly 550 million pounds – in comparison, last year’s Alaska salmon catch produced just over 605 million pounds of salmon.
So far most of the land-based farms are planned in Norway, but total proposed production volumes are highest in the U.S. where six farms are in the works, followed by China. Some projects are at the financing stage, others are getting permits and some are already being built.
In the U.S. the state of Maine is taking the lead on RAS where, for example, a company called Whole Oceans has received two leases alongside and underneath the Penobscot River. It plans to break ground on a $180 million facility next year and soon begin output of 11 million pounds of Atlantic salmon per year.
The Rabobank report says RAS could disrupt traditional ocean-based fish farming over the next 10 years adding “it’s not a question of if, but of how much.”