22 October 2018 – Norway produced about 1.1 million tons of salmon in 2017, or about half of the world salmon production. And, according to the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC), Norway is expected to export NOK 100 billion (approximately EUR 10.5 billion) worth of seafood products in 2018 – in what will be a record year. This would represent a volume increase of 174,000 tons or 8%, and an increase in export value of NOK 2.3 billion, or 3% compared with 2017.

Such a rise in exports can be attributed to strong prices for cod, but also a large increase in volume for salmon. At the same time, currency effects have generally been in Norway’s favor overall throughout 2018.

Growth was mainly recorded in Asia and Eastern Europe, as well as in Russia and China, the latter providing free access to some Norwegian seafood exporters. And since China eased market access a year, Norwegian salmon exports to China have dramatically increased. During the first six months of 2018, the export volume reached 366 million yuan (approximately EUR 46 million), up a staggering 544% year-on-year.

Feedinfo News Service spoke to Ms. Merete Kristiansen, who is Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) and part of the leader group at Nordlaks Produkter AS – largest family-owned salmon producer in Norway and the 11th largest producer in the world, as per estimations by Kontali Analyse.

Nordlaks has been benefitting from the rising demand for Norwegian salmon since the company was founded in 1989. Today, Nordlaks is a fully integrated company producing, processing and selling high quality Atlantic salmon and Rainbow trout worldwide. Headquartered in Stokmarknes in Northern Norway, the company employs approximately 420 staff and operates its facilities both at sea and on shore.

Merete Kristiansen
Chief Commercial Officer (CCO)
Nordlaks Produkter AS

“Nordlaks produced 41,000 tons of salmon and trout in 2017. Although Kontali Analyse ranks Nordlaks as the 11th largest producer of salmon in the world, those figures are not important to us”, stated Ms. Kristiansen. “Right now, Nordlaks is putting large efforts into several aspects of our value chain: growing salmon production capacity in Stokmarknes, the production of smolt, the design and building of two Havfarms (an investment estimated at EUR 210 million), a new wellboat and a renewed processing plant”.

She added: “We aim to constantly improve our performance, and think we have to be ambitious and daring to foresee and act upon future changes and challenges in the aquaculture industry. The three basic building blocks of future success is social, environmental and not least economic sustainability”.

And moving forward, Ms. Kristiansen believes Nordlaks will continue developing and challenging status quo, primarily within the production of salmon and trout. The multiple big investment projects she outlined will be the company’s main focus for the next few years.

As an integrated company, Nordlaks has smolt operations, fish farms, fish slaughtering and processing activities. And given that feed constitutes a big part (40-50% maybe) of the total input costs to raise salmon, it is quite natural that optimization of feeding systems and nutritional concepts are top priorities for the company.

At the moment, acquiring/building its own in-house feed production plant is not part of the company’s strategy, Nordlaks is monitoring all the challenges faced by its aqua feed suppliers.

“The three main concerns are the availability and sustainability of marine fatty acids for aquaculture feed, the social and sustainability concerns regarding plant based feed ingredients and lastly the concerns regarding additives and foreign matters in feed”, Ms. Kristiansen explained.

“One could say the whole society is heading in a direction of bioeconomy and resource efficiency. This is also our strategy”, she added. We trust that the feed industry is on top of the mentioned concerns, as for example Pro Terra certified soy. Still, we as producers want to push in the direction of developing new viable alternatives such as algae, bacteria, seaweeds, insects and so forth. This is also why Nordlaks recently received its first shipment of feed with ingredients from insects, which has only started being produced at Skretting factory in Averøy, Norway”.

According to Ms. Kristiansen, more effort needs to be put into the aspect of resource efficiency as today, many good feed resources are not efficiently utilized, both within in the aquaculture industry but also in wild fisheries.

Nordlaks is particularly excited about the prospects offered by the offshore fish farms – the Havfarms – it has ordered and which will be on their way soon to Norwegian waters. Nordlaks is also expected to receive 21 development licenses, enabling their construction.

Nordlaks’ first Havfarm will be located in a sea area south-west of Hadseløya in Nordland. The company’s aim is to be ready for the first stocking of salmon during spring 2020.

“The amount of salmon we are able to produce from these licenses will become clear over time, but combined with the general system for growth in the production of salmon and trout in Norway, together with other measures for increased efficiency, we are aiming at doubling our production of salmon and trout over the coming 5-7 years”, Ms. Kristiansen commented.

Though the Havfarms may not involve many changes to feed or salmon feeding practices, all eyes will be on fish development and resilience, as the offshore platforms will help offset the huge salmon lice problem, which is of concern to all Norwegian salmon producers.

“Not by itself, but the Havfarms will enable a more holistic approach focusing on preventive measures instead of acting on hindsight. Sea lice is a challenge concerning all aspects of our production chain, not just the last grow-out phase from 1 to 5 kg”, Ms. Kristiansen said. “Thus, our new production strategy, which we call the ‘Nordlaks model’, is aiming for producing salmon without the need for de-lousing. In a way, we are imitating the wild salmons’ journey from the rivers, through the fjords and into the ocean. Starting with a larger molt, bringing it into traditional farms for a short period of time and then moving them further away from other aquaculture farms, to the Havfarm, we believe we can succeed”.

“More frequent fallowing, in combination with distance and preventive measures such as anti-lice skirts, are the tools we need to combine and make better use of. The Havfarms will be the missing tool to enable this approach”, Nordlaks’ Chief Commercial Officer added.

Nordlaks has invested heavily in monitoring fish behavior in the pens in the fjords, and does so remotely from a central control room in Stokmarknes. Asked how difficult it may be to extend similar monitoring of fish feeding and behavior in the Havfarms, Ms. Kristiansen acknowledged that these larger production systems will increase the difficulty of carrying out such tasks effectively, but remains confident as Nordlaks over the years has brought on highly-qualified staff in this field. The level of success will also depend on the various cooperations Nordlaks has with its suppliers to deliver suitable technical solutions such as camera systems and sensor technology.

Ms Kristiansen went on to say: “Nordlaks aims to produce salmon without the need for traditional delousing. In order to succeed we must be better at preventing sea lice becoming an issue in the first place. Adopting this mindset is perhaps the most important part, but also building capacity to be able to balance use of an area, with stock rotation and fallowing. Havfarm is how we give ourselves the necessary room and area to effectively deploy more effective fallowing regimes and other measures to prevent sea lice. Utilizing new areas for aquaculture seems to be one of the keys”.

And moving forward, Nordlaks hopes to continue replicating its success in export markets, with a focus to understand what is happening in China.

The good news about China is that its decision to lift a ban on some Norwegian salmon imports will triple the volume of the trade in H2 2018 (from 7,000 to 21,000 tons in H2) and drive up prices, according to the Norwegian Seafood Council – making China a very interesting market to Nordlaks. But on the other hand, because of unknown circumstances, Nordlaks and two other processing plants are still excluded from the Chinese market.

“We have just recently received a follow-up after the Chinese authorities visited our plant back in March this year. We are glad to see progress, because we are ready to start business with China as soon as we are allowed”, Ms. Kristiansen commented.