This Is Ocean Farm 1, the Giant 360-Foot Wide Cage That Can Farm 1.6 Million Salmon

  • The Norwegian company SalMar, one of the world’s largest producers of farmed salmon, says Ocean Farm 1 can grow millions of salmon per year.

  • Building Ocean Farm 1 cost SalMar about $92 million.

Ocean Farm 1
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Our society has a problem: We have to continue to feed the planet but also emit less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It’s one of the challenges that ‘Agenda 2030,’ a United Nations action plan for people, the planet, and prosperity, aims to tackle by, logically, 2030. The food production industry is one of many business sectors, ranging from energy to the environment, trying to do its part to reduce emissions, and projects like Ocean Farm 1, an offshore fish farm focused on raising salmon for human consumption, could be one of their best attempts yet.

A mega factory for farming salmon. SalMar, a Norwegian company that is one of the world’s largest producers of farmed salmon, was the driving force behind the colossal $92 million Ocean Farm 1 project, although other European companies also participated. Designed in Norway but built in China, the food production company positioned it off the coast of Froya, Norway in 2017 after a six-week long sea voyage. Ocean Farm 1 initially operated as a pilot project, with SalMar’s aiming to use the facility to accelerate and improve production.

The cage measures 360 feet (110 meters) wide and approximately 226 feet (69 meters) tall, which is enough to anchor it to the seabed. The structure holds roughly 8,828 million cubic feet (250 million liters) of water, and after a tune-up last year, the farm is back in its final location for salmon production.

A giant salmon farming cage with 20,000 sensors. In its first two production runs, Ocean Farm 1 delivered 10,000 tons of salmon. Once it’s at full capacity, SalMar’s goal is to produce more than 6,000 tons per year. The cage can hold 1.6 million salmon, which take about 14 months to mature. According to SalMar managers, conditions are optimal because of the Gulf Stream, which provides a constant flow of quality water at the required temperature. The company points out that there is no need to add fresh water.

To maintain these conditions, the facility has 20,000 sensors that monitor the status of the nets, the four compartments, and the fish and their feeding. Sensors track growth and also ensure the fish are free of parasites. Olav-Andreas Ervin, CEO of SalMar, told Fish Farm magazine that members of his team “have seen strong biological results with healthy fish growth, low mortality, minor sea lice, cheaper production costs, and improved facilities in coastal locations.”

However, besides all the sensors, the structure has indicators that allow to detect the sea level.

Ocean Farm 1 A second generation of the cage, even larger and with better automatisms, is already in progress.

The great salmon escapes. Although project managers are pleased with the performance of Ocean Farm 1, there have been some setbacks, including two significant escapes in recent years. In 2018, about 16,000 salmon swam out quietly because Ocean Farm 1 tilted after water entered through a hatch, which the company accidentally left open. About 7 inches (18 centimeters) of the cage remained underwater, allowing the fish to escape their fate.

The other great escape occurred in 2022 due to a net tear. A maintenance process halted production while operators prepared a new net design.

150 tons of salmon per year by 2030: Despite its large production, Ocean Farm 1 is a pilot project that is allowing SalMar to gain experience and collect data for new installations. R&D activities, for example, are helping gather information such as biological conditions and fish welfare to transfer insights to similar farms.

SalMar aims to produce 150,000 tons of salmon yearly by 2030 from two similar farms. The new model, Ocean Farm 2, is already underway. It will have a more complex system of sensors and automation, and a larger size to produce 22.7 tons of fish per year. The project was in limbo until the company received government permits in last September.

Images | SalMar

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