Operational focus areas
Less time at sea (post-smolt)
During the first stages of their life, salmon are raised in onshore freshwater hatcheries. In traditional salmon farming, fish are transferred to the sea when they have undergone the smoltification process, making them physiologically ready for life in saltwater. With our post-smolt strategy, we keep the fish longer on land or in closed facilities in the sea, shortening the time that they spend growing in open sea-pens by several months. Less time at sea will improve biological control, fish welfare, survival and quality because each salmon is less exposed to biological risks like sea lice, seaborne diseases or other unfavorable ocean conditions such as harmful algae or sub-optimal oxygen levels. Less exposure to these risks will also allow us to better utilize preventative methods and avoid expensive treatments. This will reduce our environmental impact as well as our production cost. Post-smolt also increases flexibility with regard to the transfer of smolt, allowing us to fallow sites for longer periods if necessary. The fish will be larger and more robust when entering the sea-growing phase, which we believe will increase health and welfare in and of itself.
Post-smolt transfer also allows for a more efficient production cycle. It takes less time to reach harvestable size in the sea, which frees up capacity at farms to grow more salmon within existing licenses. The result is a lower environmental footprint per fish, better fish health and welfare, lower costs, and increased annual harvests. Altogether, we expect post-smolt transfer to reduce operational expenditure in the sea-growing phase, improve profitability and competitiveness, and provide opportunities for sustainable production growth. It strengthens our ocean-based salmon farming operations.
Grieg Seafood is piloting our post-smolt strategy in Rogaland. We have also invested in post-smolt capacity in Finnmark, British Columbia and Newfoundland. As it takes two to three years to farm one salmon, it will take time before we have harvested enough generations of fish with a substantially shorter time at sea to draw final conclusions. We also need to learn how we can optimize welfare and fish farming with this new type of production cycle, and adjust accordingly. However, our experience so far indicates that results are meeting expectations.
Achievements in 2021
- In Rogaland, where post-smolt is piloted on a regional level:
- While our average smolt transferred to the sea in 2015 weighed 120 grams, the average smolt transferred to the sea in 2021 was 460 grams.
- More than 50% of fish harvested were from post-smolt (fish weighing more than 200 grams when transferred to sea).
- Reduction in sea lice treatments and reduced risk of PD for post-smolt fish that spend less than 12 months at sea.
- Post-smolt with an average weight of approx 900 gr when transferred to the sea at the end of March had an average weight of 4.8 kg when harvested at the end of November.
- By putting a second FishGlobe into operation, we increased our post-smolt capacity by 450 tonnes.
- In Rogaland:
- We have executed our post-smolt strategy gradually to utilize increased production capacity, and have tested batches of post-smolt together with batches of traditional smolt on farms. In 2021, we transferred post-smolt to one entire farm, which will be harvested at the beginning of 2022. Here, the seawater production time will be reduced by 100-150 days.
- The expansion of Tytlandsvik Aqua, which will be completed in 2022, will add an additional capacity of 750 tonnes of post-smolt. Going forward, additional initiatives will be pursued, including Årdal Aqua, which is expected to provide at least 3 000 tonnes of post-smolt.
- Grieg Seafood Rogaland aims to increase the average smolt transfer weight to approximately 800 grams in 2025.
- In Finnmark, we target an increase of 4 000 tonnes of post-smolt by 2025 through various initiatives.
- In BC, we will increase our smolt capacity from 500 tonnes to 900 tonnes in 2022 through our Gold River smolt facility.
- Our RAS facility in Newfoundland includes a smolt module with a capacity of 1 500 tonnes.
Preventative practices and fish welfare
We pursue a systematic, long-term approach to fish health and welfare. The key is investment and further development of preventive measures against seaborne hazards, such as sea lice, harmful plankton, jellyfish, low oxygen levels, infectious diseases and low seawater temperatures.
Prevention will reduce handling and stress for the fish. It will also reduce our environmental footprint by, for instance, reducing the number of treatments needed. Moreover, prevention instead of handling reduces production costs. The result is stronger growth, high harvesting quality, increased survival rates and lower costs.
Achievements in 2021
- In BC, we are fine-tuning our algae detection and mitigation system, which is becoming more effective every year as we learn how to use it. The system comprises long tarps around the pens and aeration/oxygen generation systems to keep harmful algae outside and push clean and oxygenated water up to the fish during periods of harmful algae blooms or sub-optimal oxygen levels. The effect is increased survival and continued feeding and on-growth during challenging conditions, as well as better sea lice control.
- In Rogaland, we have had success with using cleaner fish as a preventive method to control sea lice. As a result, 40% of the pens of fish harvested did not receive any sea lice treatments in 2021.
- In Finnmark, we have implemented measures to mitigate ISA and winter ulcers. We have vaccinated our smolt with an ISA vaccine, made changes to our smolt transfer strategy and shared experience with the Norwegian Veterinary Institute to increase the knowledge about the virus’ outbreaks.
- Some of our numerous ongoing initiatives to improve fish health and welfare throughout the production cycle include selection of roe with specific qualities related to sea lice and diseases, feed customized for the various stages of the salmon’s life cycle, or vaccinations targeting specific diseases:
- Tests with improved feed formulas in Finnmark, utilizing best available science, to strengthen health, welfare, robustness and quality. Examples of changes are increased levels of essential marine fat and a stronger vitamin mix.
- Initiatives to optimize health, welfare and robustness of post-smolt. We are looking into how the vaccination program should be structured optimally for post-smolt, and what temperature profiles during the land-based phase is optimal for post-smolt production cycles.
- Efforts to mitigate the negative impact mechanical sea lice treatments may have on fish health and welfare. Mortality caused by such treatments has been reduced, and we are working to reduce it further.
- We have developed our own fish welfare indicators, based on the Fishwell research project, to be able to more systematically assess and improve fish welfare throughout our operations.
"Precision Farming" - data driven decision support
“Grieg Seafood Precision Farming” is our concept for digitalizing farming operations, with the aim of providing strategic, tactical and operational decision support into our production processes. Experience-based knowledge has always been the foundation of salmon farming. With advanced sensors, big data, artificial intelligence, and automation incorporated into our operations, the Precision Farming concept introduces data-driven decision support as an addition to existing knowledge and experience.
Big data analyses on previously unknown connections between the fish and the environment provide insights for strategic decision-making. The use of digital tools and dashboards, providing real-time data on various farming parameters to operational centers as well as to farmers, aims to improve tactical and operational decisions. They also allow us to benchmark on new parameters and learn better from best practice. We aim to be able to predict negative events early, enabling us to apply preventative measures and improve management decisions. The result is expected to be increased growth, reduced environmental impact, improved fish welfare, increased productivity and lower costs.
Achievements in 2021
- Our internal analysis team has conducted several new data and regression analyses to provide strategic and tactical decision-making support, aimed at mitigating biological challenges:
- Developed prediction models for the optimized time to transfer smolt to the sea, based on historical data from Rogaland and Finnmark, to mitigate biological risk and to optimize production cycles.
- Re-runs of the analysis of winter ulcers with new and updated data. Positive effects of the subsequent changes in the operational procedures have been identified.
- By analyzing the development and historical trends of feed utilization, we have gained new insight about different feed types, including identifying which feed types are giving the best production results. We are also working with different appetite models to obtain improved feeding.
- Lice treatment evaluation, by developing a tool for standard data acquisition and procedures for logging information when performing lice treatments. This will enable efficient data analysis and support the selection of the most efficient treatment method given current biological and environmental conditions.
- High-definition biomass camera with video algorithms for real-time biomass calculation of weight and weight distribution, automatic lice counting and fish-health monitoring, have been implemented in both Rogaland and BC.
- Further improvements and new capabilities have been introduced in a dashboard for environmental monitoring and prediction of exposure to negative impacts at the site level.
- The introduction of fully autonomous feeding by utilizing AI, supported by fish behavior monitoring, environmental sensors, pellet detection and real-time oxygen monitoring, has given improved biological performance in BC.
- Through data analysis, we aim to gain increased insight and knowledge of various challenges, such as Yellow mouth, one of the challenges we have in BC.
- We are setting up a project to explore how to utilize our data from cameras, environmental sensors and other data sources to gain increased insight within biomass development, fish health, feed and feeding profiles. This includes implementing predicative methods focusing on providing data-driven decision support to the operators.
- Increased focus on automatic and standardized data acquisition in the freshwater facilities will enable us to do performance analyses in our hatcheries as well as build early warning capabilities for potential negative trends on water quality parameters.
- We are setting up an integrated operation center in our Newfoundland region as we are starting up seawater production. The center will be built to the same design and with similar capabilities as we are running in Rogaland.