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Flanders will house EU’s largest onshore salmon farm

Norwegian start-up Columbi Salmon is channeling EUR 150 million into the construction of a land-based salmon farm in Flanders. At the Port of Ostend, the company will produce around 3 million salmon per year in tanks on land using a technique that’s unique in Europe. As such, by 2023, Columbi Salmon aims for an annual production capacity of 15,000 tons of Atlantic salmon, creating 80 to 100 new jobs in the process. Once completed and operational, the new site will be Europe’s largest onshore Atlantic salmon farm.

Flanders will house EU’s largest onshore salmon farm

Close to the market

Columbi Salmon was founded by two Norwegians who analyzed the salmon industry on behalf of Norwegian bank Nordea. The largest investor involved is Refsnes Laks, a Norwegian salmon producer. Ivar Refsnes, chairman of Refsnes Laks and operational director of Columbi Salmon, explains how the company seeks to set up production as close to the Benelux and French markets as possible, since these are considered to be the largest markets for Norwegian salmon in the world.

“Three things are crucial when you’re building a salmon farm: a large surface area, easily accessible energy sources and readily available water,” Refsnes comments in an interview with VRT News. “The Ostend site, which totals 13.5 hectares in size, effortlessly ticks all these boxes. In addition, we appreciate the business-friendly atmosphere and available services at the Port of Ostend.”

Popular port

After ECA Robotics, Renasci and West Recycle, Columbi Salmon is the fourth company to set up activities at the Port of Ostend in the past year and a half. “This proves that we are a unique business partner that actively facilitates companies with water-related activities and offers the right framework. In this case, there will also be a close cooperation with Ostend Science Park and Ghent University,” says Dirk Declerck, CEO of the Port of Ostend. “The proximity to the Ostend Science Park was indeed highly appreciated,” adds Port President Charlotte Verkeyn. “It ensures Columbi Salmon of a smooth connection to local academic expertise and guidance.”

Green efforts

Anders Hagen, CEO of Columbi Salmon, agrees: “We chose the Port of Ostend because they immediately understood our business needs. They anticipated quickly and proposed an adequate solution. This location is perfect for us. Investing here also enables us to reduce our firm’s ecological footprint. By producing closer to the market, our CO2 emissions drop dramatically.”

But Columbi Salmon’s green efforts don’t end there. Hagen: “By using our waste stream for the production of biogas in combination with solar energy, we can cover about 35% of the electricity we need to operate the water tanks.” In addition, the residual water – which contains fish excrement – is an effective fertilizer that will be used to grow lettuce and other vegetables at the site.

Sustainable on-land salmon production

Land-based salmon farms are becoming increasingly popular around the world, as their commercial viability has greatly improved over the past few years. Not only do they enable the production of salmon close to important consumer markets, they also make it possible to manage salmon production with more precision. As a result, fewer human-bred salmon escape into the wild, which helps protect biodiversity. “As a company, we want to be at the forefront of this new technique and play a leading role in sustainable on-land salmon production,” comments Refsnes.

With the new project in Ostend, Columbi Salmon launches itself into the growing local market of fish farming. In Flanders, indoor perch is already farmed in the provinces of East Flanders and Limburg. Meanwhile, entrepreneur Flor Joosen started a sturgeon farm in the city of Turnhout in 2002 to produce Belgian caviar.

What’s more, the Norwegian start-up is an interesting and sustainable addition to the local blue economy ecosystem in Ostend, which is mainly driven by the Blue Cluster, one of Flanders’ spearhead clusters.   

More info

Columbi Salmon investor Refsnes Laks
Reported by
VRT website, De Tijd website, Het Laatste Nieuws website
16 September 2020

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