The floating islands of Øymerd should be tough enough to tackle the roughest seas. This is the latest in a growing series of futuristic offshore salmon projects that look more like space stations than fish farms.
After a long standoff with the authorities, Astafjord Ocean Salmon AS has secured four development permits allowing it to continue its much-heralded concept “Øymerd” – a concrete fish farm designed to cope with rough seas and winter ice.
Astafjord Ocean Salmon is owned by two family-owned salmon companies, Kleiva Fiskefarm and Gratanglaks, who are willing to spend the sizable sum of NOK 700million (£ 60million) to achieve their ambition.
But their struggle with the bureaucracy is still not over. Astafjord only got half the number of permits requested and decided to appeal, arguing it needs a lot more capacity to properly test the plant.
The four permits are for a total of 3,120 tonnes, but the company says it will require at least double that figure.
Astafjord’s license application was initially rejected by the Fisheries Directorate for the somewhat odd reason that it did not meet the “significant innovation” requirement.
The company lodged an appeal which was subsequently rejected by the management, but this decision was overturned by the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Fisheries Minister Odd Emil Ingebrigsten welcomed the change and said he was eager to see the project come to fruition.
The dispute over the number of permits persists and that could mean further delay unless the issue is resolved quickly. The accelerated pace of coastal fish farming in Norway means its fjords are becoming congested, so companies are looking for innovative solutions. Some believe that projects like Øymerd are the future of marine fish farming.
Øymerd is basically a small floating island, built mostly of concrete, which is around 10 meters high. The plan is that it will be stationed off the northern coast of Norway, near Harstad. Three-quarters of the platform (7.5 meters) will be underwater and is designed to withstand some of the roughest seas that the coastal region of Troms can throw up. The precise location remains to be determined.
The platform has three specially designed large mesh bags, radiating ray-like to contain the fish. Operations are controlled by a three-story tower-shaped building in the center of the platform, with storage space below deck to contain technical equipment and feed silos. Øymerd will be equipped with an energy system preventing the formation of ice on the deck and along the freeboard. There is also a helipad.
Tore Lundbergs, CEO of Gratanglaks, said: “We are convinced that there is the greatest growth potential for the aquaculture industry from Troms and north. But if we go to exposed places, we must also take into account the problems of ice, in the first place the formation of ice by the spray.
“Øymerd can also become a solution for a more extreme climate, such as areas at risk of ice floes. Since the concrete structure is deep in the water, Øymerd will not move significantly on the waves.
Marius Arvesen, Managing Director of Astafjord Ocean Salmon and family member behind Kleiva Fiskefarm, says: “Our aquatic technicians can work in safe and stable conditions while being sheltered from waves and surface currents…. it also prevents infestation of lice.
He says Kleiva employees have always placed an emphasis on the environment and sustainability, with the company constantly working on new development opportunities.
Normally there will be four employees on duty at all times, but Øymerd is able to accommodate nine people.
Arvesen says he has great confidence in the project, but points out that although the concept represents a new method of farming salmon, the technology is not so unusual as some of it is already being used by the offshore energy industry. .
Everyone seems proud that Øymerd is a completely Norwegian project – for example, the concrete pontoons are built by Kvaerner Concrete Solutions AS, based in Lysaker, near Oslo. The two investment companies believe it will provide plenty of construction, procurement and engineering jobs, while helping tackle a number of challenges such as sea lice.
Arvesen added: “We see no reason to build it outside of Norway. This way we are sure to get a quality product.
Astafjord Ocean Salmon has worked closely with suppliers Bemlotek and Kvaerner over the past two years. Kvaerner will build the structure at a suitable location in Norway before it is towed north to Harstad for equipment testing and ashore.
Much of the design work over the past two years has been done by Concrete Structures.
“In this construction we use robust Norwegian concrete technology which has already been used in the North Sea and in several international projects,” explains project manager Kåre Hæreid.
“The concrete used here will be a solution specially adapted to arctic conditions,” adds co-founder Rolf Valum.
Tore Lundberg summed it up by saying: “This project is the best of both worlds. We have benefited greatly from the working methods of the petroleum industry, in addition to the deep expertise in concrete and floating platforms for rough seas. At the same time, our long experience in fishing and aquaculture was probably very important for the final solution. “