SA’s West Coast Salmon sets plans for Africa’s first industrial scale RAS salmon farm

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Taking into account yield loss from processing the fish into a headed or gutted product, WCS believes the farm would still generate an estimated 4,200t of marketable Atlantic salmon -- equating to roughly 50% of the country's total salmon imports.

According to WCS, the entirely land-based complex will include processing, holding facilities, hatcheries and a smolt unit; as well as an outflow system, a reverse osmosis desalination plant and a wastewater treatment unit.

In total, the proposed fully-integrated project represents an estimated investment of ZAR 766 million ($53.5m). CEO Dennis Karangwa confirmed to Undercurrent News that costs could rise to $83m, but the project has already been "completely funded".

The Atlantis West Coast Salmon Farm will use RAS 2020 technology from Danish aquatech firm Kruger-Veolia. This means there will be four separate modules with a production capacity of 1,200t each arranged in a circuit, rather than one central tank.

According to the Kruger-Veolia website, the advantages of such a system include no underground piping, a more convenient central overview of production, and a uniform adjustable flow velocity throughout the entire water column.

"They are already using similar systems in Canada, and also Denmark, I believe," Karangwa told Undercurrent.

UK-registered Aquabanq plans to use RAS 2020 units for projects in Latvia and the US. Aquabanq boasts Bent Urup -- founder of AKVA Group in Denmark, as well as RAS-based companies Danish Salmon and Sashimi Royal -- as chief scientist and non-executive director.

WCS's proposed farm has been designed with the intent of "zero effluent discharge" firmly in mind, and will have its own oxygen, electricity generating and waste management plants on the side. Any excess electricity will be supplied to neighboring communities, according to the WCS website.

Due to the scale of the operation -- set to cover 5.5 hectares when complete -- as well as its close proximity to the Betty's Bay marine protected area, an environmental impact assessment (EIA) must be completed before the next stage in the farm's development can take place.

"We estimate that the EIA should be completed by March next year, so we hope to start construction sometime in Q2 or Q3 2019," said Karangwa.

If greenlit by the country's planning authorities, the new farm would become the first salmon facility in Africa to use a land-based recirculating aquaculture system (RAS), joining the growing adoption of the technology worldwide.

In November, private equity firm 8F Asset Management announced that it was set to begin construction of a 10,000t RAS salmon farm in Japan, with the company stating its intent to become a global leader in the industry, with even bigger farms believed to be in the pipeline.

 Similarly, investors from a group calling itself the Cape Nordic Corporation (CNC) have also made plans for a land-based 1,800t farm near Cape Town, albeit this time for producing sea trout.

WCS themselves currently only have a relatively small 170t tilapia farm in Uganda, so the new 4,000t RAS proposition will be a significant step up.

They chose to develop first in South Africa as the country is particularly in need of new local production, since it generally imports the majority of the salmon it needs to meet its growing demand, it said. 

Indeed, the country initiated "operation Phakisa" in 2014 in an attempt to address this imbalance, planning several major economic operations to make better use of its substantial marine resources.

Karangwa confirmed the Betty's Bay project is not the firm's only farm in the works; a similar-sized facility utilizing RAS 2020 technology is planned for Nigeria, as the company looks to expand into West Africa.

"Atlantis West Coast Salmon Farm is just a start," WCS says on its website. "We will replicate the business strategy at a scale and location that market forces dictate. This is Africa’s opportunity to be part of the global trend."

Contact the author This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.