Norwegian aquaculture company plans to invest up to $500M in Belfast

Nordic Aquafarms, headquartered in Norway and one of the largest international developers of land-based aquaculture, announced today it plans to build one of the world’s largest land-based salmon farms in Belfast, with its total capital investment expected to be between $450 million and $500 million.

The Norway-based company announced its plans today at a news conference in Belfast attended by Gov. Paul LePage and other state and local officials.

In a news release, the company stated it has signed agreements to purchase 40 acres on the outskirts of Belfast to construct in several phases a land-based salmon operation with annual salmon production capacity of 33,000 tons, or 66 million pounds.

In the project’s first phase over the next two years, Nordic Aquafarms will invest $150 million and hire 60 people. When fully built out, the facility will represent a total capital investment of between $450 million to $500 million and will be an end-to-end operation, including hatcheries and fish processing.

Nordic Aquafarms CEO Erik Heim announced today that the Norway-based company plans to build one of the world’s largest land-based salmon farms in Belfast, with its total capital investment expected to be between $450 million and $500 million. (COURTESY / SALMONBUSINESS)

“We see this an attractive opportunity to bring our know-how, solutions and capital strength to the United States,” Nordic Aquafarms CEO Erik Heim said in a prepared statement. “We are committed to producing super fresh, high-quality seafood with a low environmental footprint for U.S. consumers. That requires local production, and we believe that we have found an ideal site here in Maine. We look forward to becoming a responsible and contributing member of the Maine seafood industry.”

Belfast was selected after the company assessed international markets and conducted comprehensive site searches throughout New England,

Here’s what’s planned

The land that Nordic Aquafarms has agreements to acquire includes approximately 26 acres on Northport Avenue (Route 1) that now belong to the Belfast Water District, which will relocate its office and garages to a new site. It also plans to acquire another 14 acres of abutting land from a private landowner.

According to the terms of agreements with the water district, Nordic Aquafarms also will purchase a volume of water from the district, giving the Belfast Water District new annual revenue and ensuring that the sale will not have any adverse impacts on rates for water district customers.

Heim said the proposed site has suitable qualities for a land-based seafood farming based on initial due diligence, but Nordic Aquafarms will now proceed with final due diligence, planning and permitting.

Construction is expected to start in 2019, with operations commencing in 2020.

Phase 1, with a capacity of some 13,000 tons of salmon, will be the largest land-based facility project ever built in one construction phase, according to Nordic’s news release, which noted that the facility would house the largest aquaculture tanks in the world, currently being designed in Norway.

In addition to the 60 new high-skill jobs created in the first stage of the project, many new commercial relationships between the Norwegian and Maine business communities are expected. Heim said he expects to see positive economic development effects both in Maine and in Norway, where Nordic Aquafarms has its international development hub.

The planned annual capacity of the facility when fully built out equals approximately 8% of U.S. consumption of salmon.

The U.S. has a significant trade deficit on seafood and salmon, the company noted in its news release, adding that its Belfast facility will help to close that gap.

In prepared remarks, LePage said Nordic Aquafarms decision to locate in Belfast is the result of his administration’s efforts to expand Maine’s economic ties with northern European nations.

“We are delighted to see that investment pay off,” LePage said. “Nordic Aquafarms is a good fit for our state and the Midcoast region.”

Heim said that Maine was chosen after an extensive search based on its pristine environment, cold-water conditions, long history as a leader in the seafood industry and proximity to major consumer markets in the Northeast United States.

He added that Nordic Aquafarms will be developing production with a low impact discharge of water that is free of any chemicals or medications, that all waste will be recycled and the facility will feature renewable energy solutions.

Maine & Co. played a role

For the past six months, Nordic Aquafarms has been working closely behind the scenes with Maine & Co., the private, nonprofit corporation that assists companies looking to locate or expand Maine. It also worked with Ransom Consulting Inc.’s consulting engineers and scientists, the City of Belfast and the Belfast Water District.

“From our very first meeting we recognized that Nordic Aquafarms is exactly the kind of successful, innovative company we need in Maine to help grow our economy and create the jobs of the future,” said Peter DelGreco, Maine & Company CEO. “Nordic Aquafarms has demonstrated a commitment and passion for producing high quality seafood in accordance with the highest sustainable and environmental standards. We are excited to follow them as they become an important and responsible member of Maine’s business and sustainable food community.”

City officials to host informational meetings

¬†State and local officials and reporters attend today’s announcement in Belfast that Nordic Aquafarms plans a $450-million-to-$500-million capital investment to make the one of the world’s largest land-based salmon farms.

Belfast Economic Development Director Thomas Kittredge said the city, which will be assisting the water district with its relocation and taking ownership of recreational trails on the site, sees the project as a great addition to the local economy and a solid win for the city.

He said that the city council, the city staff, and the water district all have worked closely Nordic Aquafarms, Maine & Company and Ransom Consulting to bring the project to fruition.

“Everyone stepped up when this opportunity presented itself and we all worked hard to get an agreement completed on a rather accelerated timetable,” Kittredge said. “Nordic Aquafarms will be a welcome addition to the Belfast economy and will augment the great food production sector that we already have here.”

Nordic Aquafarms, the City of Belfast and the Belfast Water District are planning to hold several informational meetings in the coming weeks to give local residents an opportunity to learn more about the project and share any questions or concerns they have.

The first meeting is expected to take place in February at a time and place to be announced shortly.