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, seaborn 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 during 2020
- In Rogaland, where post-smolt is piloted on a regional level:
- While an average smolt transferred to the sea in 2014 weighed 90 grams, the average smolt transferred in Rogaland weighed 280 grams in 2019 and 400 grams in 2020.
- Production and growth of fish based on a post-smolt cycle is working well. Batches of post-smolt with a variety of average transfer weights have been tested, including a batch with an average weight of 1.1 kg.
- Pancras Disease (PD) has been one of the main biological challenges in Rogaland in recent years, often occurring at the end of the time in sea in a traditional production cycle. In 2020, we had only one outbreak at one site, indicating that post-smolt and shorter time in sea helps avoid this disease. More generations with post-smolt will give us a better foundation on which to conclude.
- Batches of post-smolt fish spending less than 12 months at sea reduced the number of sea lice treatments by 50%.
- Overall, our confidence in our post-smolt program is strengthened.
- In Rogaland:
- We have executed our post-smolt strategy gradually to utilize increased production capacity, and have so far tested batches of post-smolt together with batches of traditional smolts on farms. In 2021, we will transfer post-smolt to entire farms. The average time our salmon spend at sea is expected to be further reduced.
- We will trial harvesting an entire farm after only ten months at sea, reducing seawater production by 100-150 days.
- The expansion of Tytlandsvik Aqua is expected to be completed during 2021, adding an additional capacity of 750 tonnes of post-smolt. Going forward, additional initiatives are pursued, including Årdal Aqua, which will provide at least 3 000 tonnes of post-smolt.
- Grieg Seafood Rogaland targets an average smolt transfer weight of at approximately 600 grams in 2022, and approximately 750 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 by 2022 through our Gold River smolt facility.
- The RAS facility currently under construction in Newfoundland includes a smolt module with a capacity of 1 500 tonnes.
Pancras Disease (PD) has been one of the main biological challenges in Rogaland in recent years, often occurring at the end of the time in sea in a traditional production cycle. In 2020, we had only one outbreak at one site, indicating that post-smolt and shorter time in sea helps avoid this disease.
Prevention 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.
Achieved during 2020
- In BC, we are developing an algae detection and mitigation system, which is becoming more effective every year as we learn how to fine-tune and use it. The system comprises long tarps around the pens and aeration/oxygen generation systems to keep harmful algae out 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. We have trialled this system with success in one of our most challenging areas, with results exceeding all previous generations in growth and survival.
- In Rogaland, we have had success with using cleaner fish as a preventive method to control sea lice. As a result, we did not use any sea lice treatments from July to November 2020.
- Key capabilities to improve fish health, welfare and survival are added on a Group level. A Group fish health and welfare manager will ensure more systematic improvement efforts in this area. A specialist on RAS technology is also employed, to help optimize fish health and welfare in the fresh water and post-smolt phase.
- We have many ongoing initiatives to improve fish health and welfare throughout the production cycle, including selection of roe with specific qualities related to sea lice and diseases, feed customized for the various stages of the salmon´s life cycle, orvaccination targeted to combat specific diseases. Some examples are:
- 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 fatand a stronger vitamin mix.
- Initiatives to optimize health, welfare and robustness of post-smolt. Post-smolt is a new type of production, and we must learn and adapt accordingly. For example, we are looking into how the vaccine program should be structured optimally for post-smolt, and what temperature profiles during the land-based phase is optimal for post-smolt production cycles.
- Initiatives to mitigate ISA and winter ulcers in Finnmark. We are testing an ISA vaccine, making changes to our smolt transfer strategy and are working with the Norwegian Veterinary Institute to increasing knowledge about the virus origin.
- Efforts to mitigate the negative impact mechanical sea lice treatments may have on fish health and welfare. Mortality caused by such treatments have been reduced, and we work to reduce it further.
- Further improvements to our algae mitigation system in BC is under implementation.
- We are developing additional fish welfare indicators for the Group, to be able to more systematically assess and improve fish welfare throughout our operations. The indicators are based partly on the Fishwell project. They will first be rolled out in the seawater phase and subsequently in the freshwater phase.
"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. Digital tools and dashboards, providing real-time data on various farming parameters to operational centres as well as to farmers, aims to improve tactical and operational decisions. They also allow us to benchmark on new parameters and better learn 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 during 2020
- We have built up internal expertise in our analysis HUB for the entire Group. During the year, we have conducted several data and regression analyses, to provide strategic and tactical decision-making support, aimed at mitigating biological challenges:
- Analyses of outbreaks of ISA and winter ulcers in Finnmark have caused changes in production planning to reduce risk.
- Data analyses support shorter time at sea (post-smolt) as an important tool to reduce risk of biological challenges like ISA and winter ulcers.
- Analyses of smolt yield have provided new insights into how we can optimize production of post-smolt during the land-based phase, to ensure robustness, strong health and growth in the sea phase.
- Our full-scale integrated operational center in Rogaland was completed at year end. All biological production is now monitored and controlled by the center.
- BC significantly improved survival rates, due to the use of sensors and ongoing mitigation improvements to reduce impact of harmful algae. Mortality related to algae blooms was reduced from 3.4% in 2019 down to 0.9% in 2020.
- New data analyses are in progress, to gain new strategic insights into various production areas, aimed at improving biological control. For example, one project will analyze aspects of how on-growth is impacted by different feed types and feeding regimes.
- All Precision Farming initiatives in Rogaland will be connected to the operational center. Examples are dashboards on feed, production, fish health and welfare to better benchmark between farms and increase learning from each production cycle.
- Evaluation of sea lice treatments, to gain insights into the effectiveness of various treatments under various conditions.
- Improved capabilities in our tool to predict exposure to harmful algae blooms and low oxygen levels in BC.
- Initiative to utilize video analytics with machine learning algorithms to automize biomass control and sea lice counts is ongoing, and will be expanded to new areas such as behavioural based fish welfare monitoring.