Closed-containment farm fails?

We have been hearing some interesting rumors going through the salmon farming grapevine the last few days. Apparently, the Agrimarine ‘closed containment’ farm near Campbell River suffered some serious damage during intense storms last week.

How serious? Apparently the circular tank is flopping open and closed like a broken hula hoop and Agrimarine has had to put in a net to keep the fish from escaping. With that kind of damage it seems very likely fish escaped through the broken tank wall.

As well, we hear that most of the farm’s 50,000 or so fish have had to be harvested because the tank is too badly damaged to hold them. Judging by when the fish were first entered with much fanfare they would only be at about half their target weight.

That’s unfortunate but technology pilots are prone to failure and this shouldn’t be too surprising.

Except from day one this project has been pitched as the savior of the aquaculture industry, and has been sold as so much better than conventional net pens.

Richard Buchanan, Agrimarine’s president and CEO said as much in an interview when he said:

People have a preconceived idea of farmed fish, and farmed salmon has a negative perception in Western Canada. We are educating the market about sustainability in the industry and have the first mover advantage of leading the industry into positive change. We have strong
environmental support and large North American and European retailers are making commitments towards seafood sustainability. We are well positioned in this regard as the only company that offers solid‐wall closed containment for salmon that can meet stakeholders’
demands for sustainable supplies.

He also said this:

As a former net cage salmon farm operator, we have a deep understanding of fish culture and the issues related to escapes, algae blooms and pollution to the surrounding eco‐systems related to fish farming. Our goal is to prove that salmon farming can be done in a sustainable and cost effective manner.

And this:

AgriMarine has a ‘disruptive’ technology that is poised to become the industry standard.

Perhaps not.

Was DFO notified? Does AgriMarine have to follow the same procedures and meet the same standards as conventional farms? If not, why not?

We wonder what shareholders think? Have they even been notified about the severe damage and escapes? We suspect not, since Agrimarine’s board is trying to extend the expiry date of some of its share warrants by another year. The fact that this was announced on a Saturday seems a bit odd, especially after the rumors we have been hearing.

Is the board trying to lock in its private investors for another year, before they realize the project has failed and their investment is worthless?

Guess we’ll find out after the weekend.

Meanwhile, it’s been interesting to watch this demonstration project. As far as we are concerned, considering none of the conventional salmon farms in BC suffered damage or escapes during the storms, it demonstrates that current net pen technology is the most efficient and sustainable way to grow enough salmon to supply the marketplace.

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14 thoughts on “Closed-containment farm fails?”

  1. Has Agrimarine experienced any escapes with the tanks they are operating in China? My understanding is they have reported successful harvests in China. If so, does that suggest the tanks might have some merit?

  2. Hey there Dev…personally I am not trying to gloat over this incident. I wasn’t wishing for this to happen. I have nothing against innovation; however, it is clear to me that objectivity about closed containment has been lost. Not too many people know the pro and cons of closed containment better than fish farmers themselves. If it was such a great idea on a larger scale they would all be doing it. The ENGOs that truly love this need to own their words of support and be objective about this instead of just bashing net pens for their track record.

  3. Hey Annie, I saw your comment (I think it was yours) on Morton’s blog today. Good on you for putting some good questions to her. If Morton and her supporters are going to be big supporters of closed containment then they should be prepared to own their words of support and at least try to be objective about this. The silence from opponents is actually deafening.

    It is obvious that there is a clear double standard in the media because you know damn well that if this incident happened to a net pen there would have been a great deal of mainstream media coverage with Morton front and center, face plastered on the television screen, quoting her erroneous “report” from the commision, pointing fingers at the BC fish farm industry.

    1. hello Steve, Yes it’s my comment. I expect you also notice she posted my comment but hasn’t responded to it. I guess she needs time perhaps to formulate some what no doubt she will consider clever response !! I cannot imagine how you would respond considering the amount of PR went into praising an unproven system. Key word was “demonstration ” tank. It has apparently demonstrated it doesn’t work too well.

  4. Do you not think its a bit unfair. People seem to be almost gloating over this failure. I don’t know the company involved and obviously if they don’t have to undergo the same procedures of a conventional farm than it is unfair.
    But at the end of the day, they were trying something new and innovative. If closed containment works we might see an end to lice treatments altogether since we will be able to control what gets into the tanks.
    I know the anti salmon farm crowd have adopted this thing as a mascot almost but it shouldn’t taint our perception of it.
    All this incident shows is that the technology just isn’t there yet to make moving to closed containment a viable option for anyone. Maybe if fish prices increase well beyond what they are now, here’s hoping 🙂

    1. The reason we are gloating is BECAUSE we know the company. The owner, Buchanan pulled a similar scam in the 90’s near Cedar Nanaimo with a concrete tank farm. After soaking investors, First Nations and the province of BC for a cool million or so. We saw this scam in progress as Bucahan tried to shame the province into investing. Once bitten, twice shy, the Province stepped aside. I am amazed, but congrats to them. Idiots at DFO went all in and blew a few hundred thousand of our money on this white elephant. The ENGO’s tried and tried to avoid sinking money into this thing, but after the govt was slow they finally agreed.

      The shareholders are also losers as they are seeing their stock price plummet. This thing was marketed as closed containment, its not. Its 99.9% flow-through, and now they get to learn the truth as they lose their money (FSH trades near its all-time low as I type).

      So don’t feel bad for them. The employees were warned. You can believe Buchanan and a few of the execs have paid themselves with our money VERY well. Our tax dollars, along with the ones from the Cedar debacle, no doubt are sitting in his account right now, unlike the fish in the tank, safe and sound.

      Maybe I’m being premature in giving this project its last rights, but I have a habit of having my predictions come true in this area. So I’m predicting: it will get one more round of suckers, then after another failure- either disaster on the sea or just bled dry financially-it will go to pseudo closed containment heaven with its predecessors within 2 years from now. Growing salmon in floating flow-thru buckets in the ocean or on land is a stupid idea doomed to continue to fail.

    2. Apparently you haven’t read the comments pertaining to net farming on Agri-Marine’s web-site. They made and are still making some extremely grandiose comments about how great their system is, incapable of fish escapes, far superior to net pens etc. Basically slagged net farming to the hilt. Now their unsubstantiated claims have come back to haunt them and I for one think it looks good on them. They claimed they were leading edge. What is leading edge about falling apart in the first major wind storm to hit while net farmers sustained no damage or fish loss. Comments on Agri-Marine’s web-site since the storm are it appears geared toward playing down how much fish was lost without giving any actual numbers and claiming a successful first harvest on fish that was a year away from harvest in actual fact. The millions invested in this flop are astounding and the claims that have been made since it’s set up extremely premature . Agri-Marine is claiming they cannot comment due to investor agreements. Sorry doesn’t wash. Net pen farmers have to follow extensive government regulations for incidents like this. Why is Agri-Marine seemingly exempt from reporting the truth about a failed system ? Surely they are expected to adhere to the same regulations regarding fish escapes etc. ? If they are in the water then they darned well better be. If this is an example of what closed containment supporters think is “better” then they are sadly misdirected.

      1. Yeah I read those comments. But it just seems like marketing blurb. Every company tries to make their fish sound better/more sustainable/tastier etc etc so I can’t hold that against them.
        What is pissing me off is how they are not being treated the same as every other company using normal cages and none of the activists are talking about it despite going on and on about how amazing it is.
        Like I said, I think its a good idea it might work in the future, someone has to give it a go and screw up, fix it, screw up, fix it. For it to work, but it should be the established companies paying for it and not the Canadian tax payers.
        I’m not from Canada so I never realised that bit until farmsalmon4ever mentioned it.
        I wonder if Morton et al would have endorsed it so much if it was Marine Harvests idea?
        Probably not.

        As for Land based tanks, they work for other species, and if it failed they probably just don’t know what they are doing or else Salmon aren’t suited to it at all and if you cant raise them in a recirculating system on land, you definitely cant raise them in a giant floating tank.

  5. Agri Marine claims on their website they’ve had their first successful harvest. What they don’t tell the public is that the fish was harvested due to tank failure and isn’t the speedy grow out to harvest they claim. I wonder if Safeway was happy with what they received under their contract with Agri-Marine and if it bore even a minute resemblance to what they were promised. Should Safeway be buying fish from a failed system like Agri-Marine’s in the first place ? Why isn’t Agri-marine required to respond to damage the same way net pen farmers are ? What loophole are they diving through or are they just making one huge cover up ? I recall their initial failure in Cedar years ago. They were just setting up when we moved there. Looks like failure # 2 and counting. Anyone foolish enough to pour more money into this fiasco is foolish indeed.

  6. I predicted this on several forums over the past 3 years. I suppose I will l have to dig up my posts to prove this…

    The idea was a bad one with higher risk of escape built in from the get go. Rigid tank floating in fluid? How could that be an improvement over nets?

    Agrimarine has a history of failing in BC. Thye did market the idea well and got the dupes they needed to finance it and no doubt Richard Buchanan made alot of money. As he did off the failure of the land based tanks in Cedar near Nanaimo. That time however the Province flushed away $400K or so to keep him afloat- of course it didnt.

    But Im proud to say that the Province of BC did not fall for it again and put no dough into the flow-thru-closed-containment-tanks. Happily some ENGO’s wasted a bunch of donor dollars. Sadly DFO was duped, so my joy is short lived as there is only one taxpayer.

    Here are some more predictions : They lost alot of fish, the remainder will be harvested at a huge financial loss and the present tanks will be in the landfill by Xmas. New ones will be on the books for as long as it takes Richard to find some more dumb money (only ENGO’s and governments would be stupid enough to invest,because it aint their money). If he is successful, again, then new tanks wil be installed with new fish and the cycle will repeat.

    Meanwhile it will take a couple more years for the closed containbment tank farm near Port Mcneil to fail. This will be less exciting as it will just die slowly from loss of cash flow. Any idiot can grow salmon in a high tech aquarium- they should manage to keep their fish alive til the money runs out, I’d guess by 2014.

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