Belfast, Maine was chosen because of its marine tradition, proximity to the market, and access to clean fresh water and sea water.
No, it is not an experimental facility. Nordic Aquafarms currently operates three commercial facilities and Belfast will be the fourth. Recirculating aquaculture systems, also known as RAS, have been used for decades to farm a large variety of fish, shellfish, marine worms, and plants. Water treatment within the facility will implement the highest level of technology available to ensure optimal fish health as well as a clean water return to the bay. There are dozens of large land-based facilities currently operating internationally, with the highest concentrations in Norway. An increasing number of companies are taking fish to harvest size in these systems as an alternative to net pens, with rapidly developing technology.
Our senior staff has raised salmon for decades. Our designs are modular with independent tank systems. The Belfast facility will be developed in phases which allows for consistency in procedures repeated for each module. Among the companies announcing new land-based facilities, Nordic is one with a unique experience base and the benefit of over 50 employees. Our design team has designed facilities for Grieg Seafood, Marine Harvest, and other large seafood players over the past 20 years. We are fortunate to be a RAS company with this level of in-house experience.
The facility has been permitted to discharge a maximum of 7.7 million gallons per day. Most of the discharged water is water we have borrowed from the bay, and are returning to the bay with less particles than it had coming in. It is rigorously filtered to protect the health of our fish, re-circulated in the tank systems, and treated again before it is returned to the ocean.
A significant portion of this marine water is used for cooling. Passing cool ocean water through a heat exchanger requires less energy than other methods. Fresh water makes up only approx. 15% of this and is a small volume compared to the many other untreated sources of fresh water flowing into the bay today. Most nutrients are removed and recycled before the water is returned to the bay. We remove 99% of total solids, 99% of Phosphorus, 99% of biological oxygen demand (BOD), and 90% of all Nitrogen. These removal rates are the best in the industry.
Some of the most credible environmental institutions in Maine have all written letters of support that are available to the public, stating that they do not see any material impact on the bay from our residual discharge. These institutions include the Atlantic Salmon Federation, The Conservation Law Foundation, and the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. They did an independent peer review of our discharge application, drawing from strong scientific and ecological know-how.
It’s in our own best interest to monitor all discharge, in addition to any monitoring requirements put forth by the DEP. We want and need clean water and support overall protection efforts in the bay. Our brand is built on an environmental platform, and the health of this ecosystem is of great importance.
The discharge pipe will extend approximately 1 kilometer from shore. Environmental scientists worked to find an optimal placement based on extensive studies of the bay, currents, and modeling. The placement is based on optimal dispersion point at a preferable depth and the pipe will not be visible as it will be buried below the intertidal.
We are approved for permits that allow for long-term growth of this business in Belfast. The first phase of development will be less than 50% of the planned facility in terms of production capacity. The nutrient discharge in phase 1 will also be under 50% of the permit application level. We will share information on a dedicated web page for the community to follow our development over time. By securing permits that allow for long-term development, we are also securing the opportunity to add jobs and development in the community for many years to come.
While lights are used inside the facility at night to create a stable environment for our fish, the facility does not include windows or skylights that allow light to escape at night. Walking paths will be lit with downward facing lights for employee safety. Most entrances and walking paths are in between buildings.