Aquaculture Magazine talks with Sylvia Wulf, AquaBounty CEO, about the consolidation of the production and commercialization of GMO salmon

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Aquabounty, the world leader in innovative land-based farms and genetic engineering, is taking on the challenge of growing salmon using genetic biotechnology, but also with a recirculating system for indoor aquaculture. They are building a new facility to achieve tons of sustainable production to meet the rapidly growing global demand for high-quality seafood.

Currently, AquaBounty operates two facilities, a small 250-ton farm in Canada and a 1,200 ton farm in Indiana. Plans are underway to build a 10,000 ton farm in Ohio. The company’s experience in farming mature salmon in Canada over the past 25 years provides it with data for planning the 10,000 ton farm.

The two smaller farms are an important opportunity to identify the right operating components and help shape the Ohio project. “With the smaller-scale farm, it is possible to see the points to optimize in the design of the larger farm and identify what is working and what could be better in Indiana. The operating experience of the two farms has given us the preparation needed to design the right RAS system in Ohio and provides insight into standard operating procedures, work instructions, and training”, said Sylvia Wulf, CEO of AquaBounty, in an exclusive interview with Aquaculture Magazine.

AquaBounty is working closely with the US-based team at Innova sea, the company that will supply the recirculating aquaculture system technology (RAS) for its new 10,000 ton on-land farm.

“Other technical experts are helping to design the process control, feeding system, fish management, and transfer, and finding collaborative partners at each step to help design and successfully operate the Ohio farm.”

The goal is to launch Ohio in the summer of 2023. Eggs are expected to be fed into the system by the fourth quarter of 2023. Harvesting is expected to begin in 2025, with full capacity reached in 2026. Once the design and strict site selection criteria are established, it is estimated that it will be possible to begin the construction of a new farm every 12 months.

So far, options such as Israel, Brazil, and China have been considered. Growing demand, coupled with

genetic engineering, is increasingly welcomed. With the climatic advantage on its side, the project offers a fish that grows faster and uses fewer resources, providing more food safely and sustainably.

In addition, the impact of COVID-19 has driven the use of biotechnology to rapidly develop vaccines, showing consumers a way to accelerate nature that, applied to aquaculture, delivers healthier and more nutritious proteins with less resource use.

Effectively communicating this message, combined with an affordable, great-tasting product, ensures good uptake in the marketplace.

With rapidly growing demand and limited supply, all the major competitors in the market must work to succeed. While the big players in the salmon industry have experience operating RAS with juvenile salmon until the smolts enter the net pens, they do not have experience raising mature salmon.

AquaBounty has 25 years of experience in this area, evaluating different operational challenges in conjunction with the University of Maryland Department of Marine Biotechnology and working with feed manufacturers such as Nutreco and Skretting.

They can monitor the impact of the feed in a RAS system and everything related to evaluating fish behavior and biofiltration to ensure the feed is working in the system and promoting salmon growth rates.

““In land-based aquaculture, climate and ocean conditions are no longer factors. In this context, designing a feed that behaves appropriately in the environment is something that the big players in animal feed see as an opportunity”, said Sylvia Wulf.”

AquaBounty focuses on two main areas: farming in a land-based aquaculture environment and biotechnology, which includes the ability to perform genetic engineering, gene editing, and selective breeding.

This is a core competency where other species that may or may not need genetic modification are studied by the AquaBounty team to understand the necessary breeding programs and how to operate these programs in a RAS system. Shrimp, for example, is the most widely consumed seafood in the world.

“The challenges it presents also represent an opportunity, leading the company to re-evaluate technologies for shrimp farm design and construction.”

A year ago, AquaBounty began establishing baseline data and calculating the carbon footprint of its current operations to measure its effectiveness in this area. The goal is to show consumers where it stands, what the target is, and when it can be achieved, based on data collection and analysis that enables informed decision-making.

Aquaculture Magazine talks with Sylvia Wulf, AquaBounty CEO, about the consolidation of the production and commercialization of GMO salmon