World Aquaculture - June 2023

60 JUNE 2023 • WORLD AQUACULTURE • WWW.WAS.ORG aquaculture highlights the need for sustainable and responsible aquaculture practices and the importance of ongoing efforts to mitigate the risks associated with open-water fish farming. There are also possibilities for offshore salmon farming in the USA. Offshore farming involves farming salmon in floating cages located offshore. This method has the potential to reduce the environmental impact of salmon farming by minimizing the risk of pollution and the escape of farmed fish into the wild. Land-based RAS Atlantic Salmon Production Is a Promising Technology Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) is a sustainable and land-based technology used for farming fish by reusing water in the production process. RAS are closed-loop systems that allow for the production of fish in a controlled environment. RAS works by circulating water through a filtration system that removes waste and harmful substances, such as ammonia and nitrite. The filtered water is then returned to the fish tanks. This process helps maintain a healthy environment for fish, which promotes faster growth and reduces disease risk. The technology enables farms to be located closer to consumers, reducing transportation costs and carbon footprint. Unlike open-water fish farming, RAS technology greatly reduces the risk of fish escapes and disease transmission to wild fish populations, making it a more sustainable and responsible option for aquaculture. RAS systems can be used to farm fish in urban areas where space is limited. Additionally, RAS systems can be used to farm fish in regions where water quality is poor or where the climate is not suitable for traditional aquaculture. Both the private and public sectors have invested over $2 billion into land-based salmon aquaculture, with RAS being a popular technology for such projects. The RAS farms offer major advantages over traditional aquaculture systems and are expected to play an increasingly important role in meeting the growing demand for sustainable and high-quality seafood. The prospects for salmon RAS aquaculture in the United States are promising, with several advantages over traditional salmon farming. One of the primary benefits of RAS technology is its ability to produce high-quality, locally sourced salmon yearround, regardless of season or location. This provides an important advantage for domestic producers, who can offer a reliable and consistent supply of fresh salmon to the market. Another advantage of salmon RAS aquaculture is its reduced environmental impact. Traditional salmon farming often involves large-scale ocean pens that can lead to water pollution and the spread of diseases to wild fish populations. RAS technology provides a closed-loop system that recirculates and treats water, minimizing the environmental impact of salmon farming. Additionally, RAS technology allows for the production of salmon in landbased facilities, reducing the need for large-scale ocean pens and the associated environmental risks. Salmon RAS aquaculture also provides a significant economic opportunity for domestic producers. Currently, the United States imports the majority of the salmon consumed, resulting in a significant trade deficit. Domestic production of salmon using RAS technology could reduce this trade deficit, increase employment opportunities and stimulate local economies. The economics of establishing a RAS farm can be quite challenging related to the high upfront capital investment required to build and equip the facility. An estimated initial investment of US$60-120 million may be required to produce 2500-5000 t of salmon or trout using RAS farming technology. The costs can include land acquisition, construction of the building and water treatment system, purchase and installation of specialized equipment and hiring of qualified personnel to manage and operate the farm. However, when operational, the RAS farm can provide several economic benefits, including reduced operating costs due to efficient water and energy use, higher production yields related to better control over water quality and temperature and reduced risk of disease outbreaks and fish escapes. The RAS farm can have an average EBITDA margin of up to 55 percent, with a payback period of 6-7 years. Land-based farms can potentially command a premium price for their products due to their sustainable and high-quality production methods, which may provide a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Overall, while the initial investment may be significant, the long-term economic benefits of RAS farming can make it a viable and profitable business venture. The permitting process can be a significant challenge for RAS companies. In the United States, RAS facilities must comply with a range of federal, state, and local regulations related to environmental, health, and safety concerns. Here are some of the key permit challenges that RAS companies may face: Environmental permits. RAS companies must obtain environmental permits from federal and state agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Natural Resources, to ensure that their facilities do not have significant negative impacts on the environment. These permits typically FIGURE 4. Import prices (CIF basis) for Atlantic salmon entering the US market (Source: FAO FishStatJ).