Stavanger, Norway-based FishGLOBE is seeking to add capacity to the salmon-farming sector while combating the scourge of sea lice with its FishGLOBE 3.5K unit, an experimental closed-containment system being trialed for the grow-out of post-smolt fish.

FishGLOBE’s sister company, RyFish, is currently carrying out a trial on the first of three FishGLOBE, which are made out of polyethylene (HDPE). The globes are each 3,500 cubic meters and have a capacity to grow 250,000 post-smolt salmon to a weight of one kilogram. Three batches have been completed so far, with 300,000 post-smolt grown to an average weight of 800 grams, according to the company. They are all delivered to Grieg Seafood Rogaland, and a fourth batch of post-smolt grow-out has begun, according to the company.

“This is a solution that is needed in the industry, and several different concepts are therefore being tested,” the company said. “The industry itself has expressed a need for closed solutions at about 20 percent of the production cycle in the sea. This is to reduce exposure to sea lice, and to have a more stable environment for the fish. With a growth in the industry of 4 percent per year, the production in Norway will increase to three million tons in 2030. If 20 percent of the production is in closed facilities in the year 2030, it means that about 600,000 tons should be in closed units. By comparison, total production in 2010 was one million tonnes. In other words, in 2030, there will be salmon in closed facilities according to half of the production in 2010. Based on this, we can see that the market for such solutions is huge.”

RyFish AS was granted a temporary, five-year research license by the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries in 2018, permitting it to grow up to 780 metric tons (MT) of salmon per growth cycle, or up to 1,500 MT a year in the three FishGLOBE 3.5K prototypes in Lysefjord, Norway. FishGLOBE and RyFish have been awarded two development licenses by the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries in 2020 for their FishGLOBE 30K. The 30K will be used for farming fish up to harvest size of up to five to six kilos. If the design proves successful, FishGLOBE and RyFish will be allowed to convert them to ordinary permits for NOK 10 million (USD 1.2 million, EUR 1.1 million) per permit.

Both companies were founded by Arne Berge, an aquaculture industry veteran with a degree in environmental engineering, who has worked in a variety of roles in the industry, including roles at Skretting and at several start-ups. Before founding FishGLOBE and RyFish, Berge spent more than eight years as a senior advisor for aquaculture development for the municipality of Rogaland, focusing on business development, a job that also entailed adopting a regional plan for sea-based aquaculture.

“Within fish farming, there has gradually been a greater need for closed units both for the actual production in the first phase at sea, but not least to be able to easily treat freshwater fish and to be able to treat the fish against amoebic gill disease and sea lice in a closed environment,” Berge said in a press release. “FishGLOBE has developed a system to do this in a simpler and better way.”

Making the FishGLOBE’s design unique is its construction material, polyethylene. The closed system does not allow for the introduction of sea lice from the natural environment, and it incorporates fully automated processes, with technical equipment and an integrated feeding unit housed in the upper section of the cage.

“If the cost is compared with other investment – such as a post-smolt facility onshore – the globe shows a significantly lower required investment cost,” the company said in an advertisement in Cold Harvester magazine, the official magazine of the Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association, a Canadian trade association.

Making the design possible is specialty piping provided by Uponor Infra, a Vantaa, Finland-based specialty firm, which provided its Wehopanels and Weholite polyethylene pipes to the project. Both Uponor Infra and FishGLOBE claim the 3.5K represents the world’s largest-ever polyethylene (HDPE) structure designed for marine conditions. Uponor Infra Export Manager Kari Karjalainen said it executed a custom solution for FishGLOBE “as no panels this strong and large had been produced before.”

“This project is the only one of its kind in the world. No HDPE structure of this size has ever before been designed and built for use in marine conditions,” Karjalainen said. “The design, manufacturing, and construction processes have all been extremely demanding. We got the opportunity to really make the most of our expertise and decades of experience in plastic construction.”

Uponor Infra now has a chance to beat its own record, as FishGLOBE is already in the midst of designing its 30K, which will have a volume of 31,000 square meters, with capacity for 2,300 MT of salmon – capable of holding two to three times the number of salmon found in a standard open net-pen sea cage. The company has said it plans to complete work on the project in Q3 2021.

“FishGLOBE will revolutionize not only marine fish farming, but also the future of other polyethylene structures designed for marine conditions,” Karjalainen said. “Success in the project opens the door to new opportunities to build a variety of large-scale plastic applications for marine conditions. Polyethylene has undeniable advantages – it’s a durable material with a lifespan of over a hundred years. Thanks to its flexibility, it doesn’t develop cracks that lead to breakage – and there is not at risk of corrosion, either.”

In its marketing materials, FishGLOBE touts its technology as a game-changer for the salmon-farming industry.

“[It] will allow salmon farmers to produce almost twice as much salmon for the same investment in net cages, and harvest fish twice within two years, compared with today once per two years,” Berge said. “The goal is to provide better fish health and better fish welfare and, at the same time, ensure less escapes and lower emissions of particulate waste and also lower production costs.”

Despite the comparisons to traditional salmon-farming processes, Berge said he doesn’t see the mainstream industry as competition.

“The FishGLOBE concept is not primarily a competitor to traditional farming in fish cages, but a solution to make this even better and more profitable,” he said. “the vision is to develop new cost-effective solutions that makes it possible for the aquaculture industry to expand.”

Photo courtesy of FishGLOBE

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