Nova Scotia

Digby fish plant owner to make good on childhood dream of the perfect fish plant

Alain d'Entremont has been working in fish plants in southwest Nova Scotia since he was 11 years old and has always had an idea of what the ideal plant would look like. He's now turning that vision into a reality with plans for a state-of-the-art facility in Digby.

'I've been fortunate enough to travel around the world and see plants here, there and everywhere'

The timing of the new Scotia Harvest Inc. fish plant is partly based on the booming population of redfish in the Gulf of St Lawrence. (Submitted by Marine Institute)

Alain d'Entremont has been working in fish plants in southwest Nova Scotia since he was 11 years old and has always had an idea of what the ideal plant would look like.

The president of Scotia Harvest Inc. now has the chance to make it a reality as the shellfish and groundfish harvester and processor begins construction of a $14 million, 43,590 square-foot groundfish production plant in Digby, N.S.

"You always have something in the back of your head saying, 'They can do this better or how would I do this if it was me?'" d'Entremont told CBC News Tuesday after the project was announced.

"I've been fortunate enough to travel around the world and see plants here, there and everywhere. What are things that we should be doing at our place? What is the technology that we need and then [when we're] travelling and meeting customers and they're telling us what they'd like to see."

Construction of the new plant in the Digby Industrial Park is set to begin in the spring.

Opening in 2021

When it opens in 2021, it will be able to process around 27,000 kilograms of fresh fish per shift.

d'Entremont said the new plant will allow the company to better track, control and measure the flow of fish in and out of the production line. It will also be capable of handling frozen fish brought to Digby.

Haddock and redfish will be the primary species the plant works with.

Provincial taxpayer money will reimburse Scotia Harvest for up to $1.8 million of the cost of new equipment under the province's innovation rebate program.

"We've always said that we wanted to do more fish and be able to access certain markets and in order to do that we need a state-of-the-art facility or at least a facility that can meet all the food safety standards and ... the volume that we'd like to do," d'Entremont said.

He declined to discuss annual production targets.

From ship to plant

Catches will no longer be stuck on board fishing boats waiting to unload because the plant will have more refrigeration.

d'Entremont said Scotia Harvest wants to expand sales in Europe and the faster and more efficient production process will help deliver the quality and standards the European consumer is looking for.

The market has opened up with a new free trade agreement between Canada and members of the European Union.

Booming redfish population

The expansion is also timed with the booming redfish population in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The stock — now estimated at three million tonnes — will soon reach harvestable size.

"It certainly played a role. We've been working to manage that stock sustainably in Atlantic Canada and and hope that if the stock, if the growth and everything continues on the trajectory it's going, there will be a good bit of redfish to process and that's certainly something that we had in there in our model," d'Entremont said.

Scotia Harvest bought Digby's iconic O'Neil Fisheries in 2012 and will move from its current location on the Digby waterfront, a location that d'Entremont calls a "plant on stilts." He said records show the site has been in operation since 1937.

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