Economics of Salmon Farming in Recirculating Aquaculture Systems

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By Milthon Lujan

Compliance with ESG principles for RAS salmon farms. Source: Golfand (2023)
Compliance with ESG principles for RAS salmon farms. Source: Golfand (2023)

One of the most promising technologies for sustainable fish farming is recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS).

In this regard, a study conducted by Inna Golfand discusses the economic aspects of salmon farming in RAS and highlights the differences between RAS and traditional hatcheries.

According to Golfand, the higher growth rates achieved under ideal conditions make RAS projects highly profitable, with an internal rate of return of up to 30%.

Benefits of Salmon Farming in RAS

Golfand describes the following benefits:

  • Salmon is a high-value fish species in many markets, including Europe, North America, and Asia. This makes it a highly profitable species with high market demand and premium prices. RAS allows salmon aquaculture to be conducted close to major markets.
  • Salmon is a carnivorous fish, requiring diets with high protein content. In RAS, water is continuously recycled, reducing high levels of ammonia and nitrites, which can be toxic to fish.
  • Salmon has a relatively high growth rate, making it a highly productive fish. RAS enables maintaining a constant temperature for salmon to reach their full growth potential.

Investment Requirement for RAS

“According to major RAS equipment providers, the minimum viable aquaculture volume for economically feasible construction is around 2.5 thousand metric tons,” reports the researcher.

Furthermore, she highlights that the capital investment for constructing a RAS fish farm to produce 2.5 thousand tons of salmon is approximately $60 million, with approximately 45% allocated to technological equipment and the remainder for construction, design, land, and permits.

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Golfand adds that working capital for rearing the salmon for two years until the first sale must also be considered, which according to the model farm would be around $10 million.

Key Factors to Consider in Salmon Farming in RAS

The researcher emphasizes that there are key factors that need to be considered when analyzing the feasibility of a salmon farming project in recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS):

  • Growth rate, mortality, and feed conversion ratio.
  • Major components of operational costs.
  • Premium price for local production.

Common Design Mistakes in RAS Farms

Golfand reports the most common design mistakes in recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) fish farms. Here are some of them:

  • Insufficient biosecurity measures: RAS farms require strict biosecurity measures to prevent disease outbreaks, but some designs do not properly incorporate quarantine areas or waste treatment systems.
  • Poor planning and layout: Inadequate planning and poor layout can lead to inefficient use of space, inadequate water flow, and difficulties in system maintenance and monitoring.
  • Overcrowding: Overcrowding of fish tanks can cause stress and poor water quality, resulting in lower growth rates, higher mortality rates, and an increased risk of diseases.

RAS Farms Align with ESG

RAS fish farms are considered environmentally, socially, and governance-friendly due to their sustainable and responsible approach to fish farming.

According to the researcher, this is supported by:

  • RAS farms use recirculation systems that significantly reduce water consumption and waste discharge compared to traditional cage-based farms.
  • RAS fish farms prioritize fish welfare through the use of advanced technology to maintain water quality, temperature, and oxygen levels.
  • RAS systems are designed to minimize the use of chemicals and antibiotics, as well as the risk of disease outbreaks.
  • RAS farms also have a positive impact on local communities by creating employment opportunities and supporting economic development.
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According to Golfand, salmon farming in recirculating systems offers an attractive opportunity for sustainable aquaculture.

However, the study reports that several factors need to be considered when evaluating investment efficiency, including growth periods, mortality rates, feed conversion rates, and fish purging before harvest.

“While the technology is promising and can lead to sustainable fish farming practices, it is important to consider the risks and capital investments required for the implementation of each project,” she recommends.

Finally, Golfand concludes that with proper planning and execution, salmon RAS fish farm projects can provide significant returns on investment while contributing to local food security and sustainable development.

Inna Golfand
16824 SW 49th Ct
Miramar, FL 33027, USA
Tel 4435423138
Email: golfand@gmail.com

Reference (open access)
Golfand I. Economics of growing salmon in recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS). J Aquac Mar Biol. 2023;12(2):99-102. DOI: 10.15406/jamb.2023.12.00362

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