100 million for a more climate-friendly aquaculture industry

A UiS-led investment in sustainable aquaculture receives almost NOK 100 million from the government's Green Platform Initiative. The investment will improve fish welfare and reduce the environmental and climate footprint of aquaculture - and is based on expertise from the oil industry.

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Part of an installation for the aquaculture industry, which will become a fish cage. Located in Vågen in Stavanger before being towed to sea. Photo: UiS / Silje Marnburg Ellefsen

The University of Stavanger is leading a green offshore project that includes a number of aquaculture companies, supplier companies and research institutions, with the goal of working to make sustainable offshore aquaculture a new Norwegian industrial adventure.

Earlier this year, the offshore project received support from the government's Green Platform Initiative. Today it was further strengthened by the Norwegian state when Minister of Trade and Industry Iselin Nybø announced that the project “Low-emission value chains for offshore aquaculture” will receive almost NOK 96 million from the Green Platform Initiative to develop low-emission value chains for offshore aquaculture.

This significant investment will reduce the environmental and climate footprint and improve fish welfare through innovations in offshore and closed technology, biology, fish feed, electrification, digitization, and logistics.

It is a project that will ensure that fish farming is sustainable when it is moved offshore.

Minister of Trade and Industry Iselin Nybø and Ragnar Tveterås from UiS are both working to ensure that fish farming becomes sustainable when it is moved offshore. Photo: Kirsti Sømme / Blue Planet AS

“The successful development of offshore aquaculture will have enormous potential for subcontractors, such as Skretting. If we are to continue to live off the sea, we must do so in a climate-friendly way. I look forward to following this exciting project,” Iselin Nybø (Venstre - the Liberal Party) told Aftenbladet/E24 when she was at the fish feed producer Skretting to announce the award.

The man who will lead and coordinate the wide-ranging project is Professor Ragnar Tveterås at the University of Stavanger Business School.

“Aquaculture can play a crucial role in securing food for a global population that will exceed nine billion by 2050. New technology is needed to increase global food production while preserving the marine environment and safeguarding the world's resources,” says Tveterås.

Ragnar Tveterås, professor ved Handelshøgskolen ved Universitetet i Stavanger

Offshore aquaculture not only has the potential to be a solution for more sustainable global food production, but also to create billions in value for Norway.

Ragnar Tveterås

Muk Chen Ong, Marte Cecilie Wilhelmsen Solheim and Ruth Pincinato from UiS are also taking part in the project.

The project has a number of partner companies from all stages of the value chain in addition to R&D institutions and subcontractors: Grieg Seafood ASA, Skretting, SalMar Ocean AS, Moreld Aqua AS, FishGLOBE AS, Hauge Aqua AS and Blue Planet AS were behind the application together with the R&D suppliers NORCE, the Veterinary Institute, the Institute of Marine Research, NMBU, NTNU, UiB, UiS, the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Simula, the University of Melbourne and the University of Florida. The project also involves Norway Royal Salmon, ABB and other subcontractors.

The project originated from Stiim Aqua Cluster, which is led by Blue Planet AS.

Billions in value ​​to Norway

“Offshore aquaculture not only has the potential to be a solution for more sustainable global food production, but also to create billions in value for Norway.” However, there are many challenges to address before we get there. Together with a number of partners in industry and research, we are now launching the largest ever investment in technological solutions to enable the aquaculture industry to grow in a sustainable way,” says Tveterås.

The professor points out that the goal of the project is to deliver new knowledge and technology so that offshore aquaculture can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, achieve a lower environmental footprint and good fish welfare.

“Offshore aquaculture will be competitive in the market and can provide value creation of up to one hundred billion Kroner,” Tveterås explains.

Transition from oil to aquaculture

Rune Dahl Fitjar, Pro-Rector for Innovation and Public Relations at UiS, points out that the Green Platform is the most important national initiative for the green transition in Norway.

“It is highly appropriate and important that UiS and the region are heavily involved in this investment in sustainable aquaculture. This will help us to use our oil expertise to further develop the growing aquaculture industry. People who currently work with oil can turn to aquaculture,” explains Fitjar, who sees UiS' investment in the green transition being strengthened with the project.

Tveterås is also confident that the project will be important for the green transition we are facing.

“With this large-scale investment in developing the aquaculture industry, we are doing what must be done on the road to 2030 and 2050 to reduce climate pressure and build new industry that will take over from oil,” Tveterås explains.

“There are people from the oil business involved in this project who will contribute to setting a new and sustainable standard for the offshore aquaculture industry. The goal is to create knowledge and innovation that reduces energy consumption and the climate footprint, and gives the fish good living conditions,” says Tveterås.

Renewing solutions for feeding, remote control and vessels

New technology makes it possible to move salmon farming either into closed facilities or offshore. This will help to significantly reduce the environmental footprint, but offshore aquaculture presents new challenges for the aquaculture industry given the extreme wave and wind conditions at sea. In addition, new solutions will be required to manage long distances and conditions for the farmed fish that have not as yet been well documented.

One of the challenges to be solved with new technology is feeding. Today, feed is released into the water and sinks down to the fish. If the weather is harsh, the feed is washed away before the fish can eat it. The solution may be underwater feeding at sea, where the feed is pumped up from under the cages, so that the fish get hold of the feed before it reaches the harsh conditions on the surface.

Another goal of the project is to remotely control the fish farm. This can, for example, improve fish welfare and increase the survival rate of the fish. As few people as possible will need to go out to the offshore installations, both for the sake of human safety and fish welfare. Remote control makes it possible to perform operations even when the weather is bad.

Another task for the project is to electrify the entire value chain for salmon farming. For example, a new generation of vessels will be hybrid-powered.

The project will also help to find a good framework for the new, growing industry. New regulations will ensure Norway's international competitiveness, but at the same time contribute to the industry achieving good fish welfare, a low impact on wild salmonids and an acceptable environmental footprint.

Text: Karen Anne Okstad
Photo: UiS / Silje Marnburg Ellefsen