A Nova Scotia company that's spent eight years developing a system to farm fish in large tanks on land says it's finally ready to bring its locally-raised Atlantic salmon to market.
The company, Sustainable Fish Farming, has a farm close to the Bay of Fundy in Centre Burlington. The facility works on a closed-containment system that recycles all saltwater in the salmon tanks, while waste is drawn out and used as fertilizer.
The salmon are fed organic fish food, and since the farm carefully controls any contaminants that enter the tanks, it is not necessary to give the fish antibiotics.
The salmon are marketed under the brand name Sustainable Blue, and the fish and their waste do not have any contact with the ocean.
"Next week we begin to sell our first Atlantic salmon to the market, and that really marks the start of continuous production," said Kirk Havercroft, CEO of Sustainable Fish Farming.
Havercroft said salmon will be sold to restaurants and fish brokers in Nova Scotia, and to a small broker in Toronto that specializes in sustainable products.
Some of the places that will carry Sustainable Blue salmon include Le Caveau Restaurant in Wolfville, Pete's Frootique in Bedford and Halifax, and Evan's Fresh Seafoods at Alderney Landing in Dartmouth.
Sustainable Fish Farming has been developing the closed-containment technology since 2007.
"It feels like finally, all of that effort is being rewarded," Havercroft said.
In March 2014, Sustainable Blue suffered a serious setback. Due to an electrical power failure in the night, the entire crop of nearly mature salmon died.
At the time the farm was preparing to send fish to market. The company tried to figure out what happened and called in RCMP to investigate the possibility of sabotage.
The company and police never found an adequate reason for the power failure, but Sustainable Blue decided to re-stock with another batch of fish.
"We were determined to get there. So this is a really exciting time," Havercroft says. "It feels extremely rewarding now to see our product finally go to market."
'It went over very well'
The first place to serve up the salmon was Chives Restaurant in Halifax, which contacted Sustainable Blue earlier this summer. Chives prizes local and sustainable ingredients, and placed an order for four fish to test.
"It went over very well," says Craig Flinn, the head chef and owner of Chives. "One thing I like about it, is the fish at the size they currently are, they're leaner and the flesh is quite firm and has a good colour."
"In my opinion, it's a fish that has a lot of the qualities of a wild salmon — smaller fillets, leaner fish, but still has that sustainable stamp on it which makes it very appealing to our market."
Flinn estimates the cost per pound was roughly 10 to 15 per cent higher than other salmon on the market, but said the fish are still good value. He says he'll continue to serve the salmon as it enters the market.
"There's a little bit more cost associated with it, but the quality is very high and it's very enjoyable," he said.
The Sustainable Blue site is currently capable of producing 100 tonnes of salmon per year. There are already additions underway to allow the site to produce 165 tonnes per year.
Havercroft says next year the company plans to build another 500-tonne production unit on land it owns beside the existing facility. Sustainable Fish Farming intends to license the new unit to another farm. It will use the same technology developed by Havercroft's company.