The company contracted to build a controversial aquaculture hatchery in Marystown says Newfoundland is the perfect place to bring its Norweigian technology — not only are weather conditions similar, but it's closer to American buyers. 

"I think Grieg [Seafarms] is looking at the horizon," said Yoav Dagan, vice president of Aqua Moaf Group. 

"It's going to extend their shelf life. They will not have to take the fish from Norway to Poland and then to go back to process. They're going to process it on site here in Canada and to track it right away to the U.S. market."

salmon -gfw

The provincial aquaculture association says it has 'full faith' in the DFO study confirming that escapee farmed salmon are breeding with their wild counterparts. Yoav Dagan says Grieg Seafarms has come up with a solution. (Mark Quinn/ CBC)

According to a news release issued Tuesday, construction on the hatchery and nursery facility will begin in 2017 and will use recirculating aquaculture system [RAS] technology. 

The company said it will use 11 sea cages to grow and harvest 33,000 annual tonnes of Atlantic salmon. According to Aqua Moaf, it will be the largest and most advanced salmon harvesting facility in the world. 

"It's everything that the client wants, it's antibiotic free and environmentally [friendly] so this is where we are going," Dagan told CBC Radio's The Broadcast

"If you come to our farms you will see that we are zero discharge, so basically we do not release anything into the environment. Everything is recycled. We treat the waste so basically the waste that is going out is coming out as a solid."

Why Newfoundland?

According to Dagan, operating out of Norway comes with its share of hurdles. "Norway's seas are full of farms. It's very, very limited."

He said limited space means limited ability to grow, and that makes North America an obvious choice.  

"It's the same temperature, same condition, good water and very close to the market — so it answers everything that [buyers] are looking for," Dagan said.

Aqualine Strength Counts from Aqualine on Vimeo.

Grieg's will be a land-based fish farm that uses Aqualine sea cages. While the patented cage design claims to be escape-proof, Dagan said Grieg has come up with a solution to appease those worried farmed salmon will escape and breed with their wild counterparts.

He said Grieg will use a sterile strain of female fish that "won't be able to develop organs that will reproduce."

Year-round production

According to Dagan, land-based production is not limited to just one season.

"We can produce year-round fish, we can take out [caged fish] anytime that we like. Basically, we utilize the potential growth of the fish by giving them the optimal temperature, optimal conditions in oxygen and the rest of the chemical factors."

Aqua-Maof-2 hatchery

An advanced indoor aquaculture facility built by Aqua Moaf, similar to the one it's building for Grieg in Marystown. The land-based portion of harvesting can happen year-round. (Aqua Maof Group/Submitted)

While it's possible to shorten the time fish spend in the cages, Dagan said technology doesn't yet allow for the project to be completely land-based. 

"I don't see in the next 20 years a full replacement of the cages with a RAS ... it will not happen, unfortunately, in the next 20 years or more."

Creating local jobs

Gary Myers, a technology consultant with Aqua Moaf, said various jobs will be created as a result of the Marystown hatchery, only a small number of which will be on the production line. 

"We have the land-based nursery hatchery production facilities, then there's processing and then there's the ocean cage operation … I don't know the exact number but it's between 20 and 30 positions in the hatchery nursery setup," said Myers.

He said that number will increase if Grieg expands its operation. 

But Dagan said, because the hatchery will be a "constant, 365 days a year" operation, there are already more jobs than meet the eye.

"It's a 24-hour job so if you take the 20 people and you multiply it by three [for] the three [daily] shifts, it's almost 60 jobs over there," said Dagan. 

"Other jobs will be created by processing, by tracking and many other things that could be developed."

The key, Dagan said, will be getting the local community and Grieg to work openly together. 

With files from Jane Adey