Cracked, floating tank not all it was cracked up to be

March 28, 2012

Cracked, floating tank not all it was cracked up to be
 Canada: AgriMarine admits to premature harvest of Chinook salmon from floating demonstration tank damaged in bad weather
 Opinion, Fishfarming Xpert, Odd Grydeland, March 28, 2012

When the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans wants a scientific opinion about a certain matter, it often relies on the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) which coordinates the peer review of scientific issues for the Department. CSAS also coordinates the communication of the results of the scientific review and advisory processes. Four years ago, CSAS undertook an in-depth review of various forms of “closed containment” technologies that could potentially be used in the salmon aquaculture industry. Its 2008 report; “Feasibility Study of Closed-Containment Options for the British Columbia Aquaculture Industry” found- among else- that “A review of over 40 closed-containment systems from around the world found that none was producing exclusively adult Atlantic salmon and that many previous attempts to do so had failed. Reasons for failure were numerous and were often interrelated. These reasons included but were not limited to mechanical breakdown, poor fish performance, management failure, declines in market price and inadequate financing”.

With respect to the technology that AgriMarine has been promoting as environmentally superior to conventional, floating net pens was found to require almost five times the capital investment, and the CSAS report stated that; “The engineering challenges associated with various designs of floating closed-containment systems were modeled. Those constructed of rigid material and anchored to the bottom represent a particular challenge in terms of the tidal currents and wave heights that are typical of exposed areas, which may mean that site selection for those types of structures may be limited by these two oceanographic factors”. DFO conducted a preliminary financial assessment of all technology types identified by CSAS, resulting in the findings that only conventional net pen and Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) were likely to provide a return on investment, although the latter just barely.

As previously reported by FishfarmingXpert, a couple of weeks ago AgriMarine reported that its floating, 3,000m³ tank had suffered some damage, and today it confirms that most of the Chinook salmon grown in the tank have been sent to a processing plant at about half of the projected harvest size- approximately four pounds (~1.8 Kg) dressed weight. The company plans to repair the tank and continue with the deployment of additional, re-designed tanks.

As expected, AgriMarine is trying to put a positive spin on this catastrophic event, but some of its statements warrant some scrutiny;

AgriMarine is pleased to report the first commercial harvest at its Canadian demonstration site at Middle Bay in Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Comment: How can a company be pleased by having to harvest its crop at half the planned size due to the failure of its technology- advertised as superior to net pens?

Management feels that harvest results prove the commercial value of AgriMarine’s unique technology for sustainable aquaculture
Comment: How can AgriMarine suggest that this event proves anything regarding commercial validity without providing any cost figures?

The fish reached a harvestable size in 13 months, thus demonstrating excellent growth rates achievable in the AgriMarine System
Comment: How do these growth rates compare with Chinook salmon grown in traditional net pens?

It appears that there was no loss of inventory, and although final harvest numbers are not complete, we have so far harvested and sold over 95% of the original stocking numbers
Comment: This is obviously a premature statement. And this is also a surprising statement in as much as the inventory of the tank on September 15, 2011 was stated as 52,954. With some AgriMarine reports suggesting that the tank was originally stocked with some 56,000 fish, this would mean that less than 95% of the fish stocked had survived up to a time over six months ago

Only 3 sea lice were found in the entire crop of salmon, proving that the AgriMarine System effectively controls sea lice infestations
Comment: Sea lice is also typically at very low numbers on Chinook salmon produced in conventional net pens, making producers of these fish exempt from most of the routine monitoring that Atlantic salmon farmers must go through

The processing yield was 91%
Comment: This is surprising, as the gills of Chinook salmon are routinely removed during processing due to their rapid deterioration. The gills represent about 3% of the round weight of the fish, while blood and viscera usually add up to over 10%

“We have taken the lessons learned into our new tank deliveries and continuing farm research at the site” said Richard Buchanan, President and CEO.


News Release: AgriMarine Announces First Salmon Harvest from Canadian Demonstration Site
March 27, 2012
AgriMarine Holdings Inc. (the “Company” or “AgriMarine”), the leader in floating closed containment technology and production for sustainable aquaculture, is pleased to report the first commercial harvest at its Canadian demonstration site at Middle Bay in Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

The Company previously announced damage to its floating, solid-wall containment tank incurred during a hurricane-grade windstorm that hit Vancouver Island earlier this month. After an initial assessment of the damage, the Company harvested its first crop of Chinook salmon and has begun the process of raising the tank for insurance evaluation and repair. The Company is proceeding with the demonstration project, which is partly funded by Sustainable Development Technology Canada (“SDTC”). Subsequent tanks which are currently being manufactured have been redesigned and will be installed on schedule, including the upgraded pilot tank.

Management feels that harvest results prove the commercial value of AgriMarine’s unique technology for sustainable aquaculture. The Company has made the following early findings:

• The fish reached a harvestable size in 13 months, thus demonstrating excellent growth rates achievable in the AgriMarine System

• It appears that there was no loss of inventory, although final harvest numbers are not complete

• The harvested salmon were delivered under contract to our US customer

• Only 3 sea lice were found in the entire crop of salmon, proving that the AgriMarine System effectively controls sea lice infestations

• No antibiotics or chemicals were used and overall fish health was excellent

• The processing yield was 91%

• The mooring system functioned as designed to help stabilize the floating tank in an extremely high energy situation

“We are extremely proud of our team and how they managed the facilities and harvest procedures during the windstorm”, said Richard Buchanan, President and CEO. “Although final harvest numbers are not complete, we have so far harvested and sold over 95% of the original stocking numbers”. Mr. Buchanan added, “We have taken the lessons learned into our new tank deliveries and continuing farm research at the site.”