AquaBounty to start US production at former Bell Fish site

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/Onewiss
© iStock/Onewiss

Related tags Salmon

AquaBounty Technologies buys aquaculture facility in Indiana to start land-based production of engineered AquAdvantage salmon.

AquaBounty entered into a $14m agreement to buy some assets from the Bell Fish Company, which included the farming facility in Indiana. The biotechnology company is a majority-owned subsidiary of Intrexon Corporation.

The company closed on the deal at the end of June, said Dave Conley, director of communications with AquaBounty.

The goal is to commence production in the second quarter of 2018.

The location offers, “close proximity to major markets, reduced transportation costs and associated carbon footprint, fresher salmon in the marketplace for consumers,”​ Conley told FeedNavigator.

The site also offers a land-based, contained aquaculture system, the company said. If production goes according to schedule, an initial harvest could be completed by the third quarter of 2019.

AquaBounty produces AquAdvantage Salmon (AAS), which past research with the fish demonstrated that they need about 20-25% less feed than conventional salmon, the company reported.

Production planning

The company is currently conducting a review of the location and identifying any needed upgrades before starting fish production, said Conley.

“We install additional containment features in any facility we utilize,” ​he said. “Our facilities must be inspected and accepted by FDA prior to use.”

However, the salmon produced there do not require unique equipment, he said. “The water circulation and management equipment are exactly the same and there are no special requirements for growing AAS,”​ he added.

When the facility is operating at full capacity, it could generate about 1,200 metric tons of fish or about $10m in potential sales, the company said.

“This acquisition marks an important milestone and provides the company with its first commercial-scale facility in the US for growing eco-friendly AquAdvantage Salmon,”​ said Ronald Stotish, chief executive officer of AquaBounty, in a release. “This site will enable production of healthy Atlantic salmon, which will not require vaccines or antibiotics, in a sustainable and responsible manner close to domestic consumers.”

Salmon produced at the location would spend the majority of their production cycle at the facility, said Conley.

“Fertilized eggs will be shipped to the Albany facility from our hatchery in Prince Edward Island, Canada,”​ he said. “The eggs will be hatched and grown out to market size in the facility and harvested.”

Despite being engineered to grow more quickly, the AAS still eat a standard Atlantic salmon feed, he said. “We buy our feeds from one of the major aquafeed manufacturers,” ​he added.

Once grown, the fish raised at the new facility would be available to local and regional distributors, he said.

“We have been approached by a number of companies who are interested in selling our fish,”​ said Conley.

The US currently imports over 92% of the farmed Atlantic salmon it consumes.  

Fish development and approvals

The genetically engineered salmon has been approved for sale in Canada​ by Health Canada while the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA​)​ approved the consumption, sale and production of the genetically enhanced fish in 2015.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA​)​ also announced that products derived from the salmon may be used as feed ingredients.

“The CFIA has determined that feed ingredients derived from this animal with a novel trait does not present livestock feed safety or nutrition concerns when compared to feeds derived from salmon currently permitted to be used as livestock feed in Canada,”​ the agency said.

The AquAdvantage salmon have enhanced growth during early development stages when compared to conventional salmon, said CFIA. The fish was developed by AquaBounty Technologies using recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid technology, which introduces a growth hormone gene found in Chinook salmon into Atlantic salmon.  

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