Lerøy carries out a number of major and minor R&D projects on an ongoing basis, focusing on improved operating procedures, improved fish health, and improved survival rates and production optimisation. These are important projects that have a direct impact on daily production, and rapidly generate results and improvements. Developments in technology and methods based on interaction between technology and biology are key factors behind optimal operations.
THE GROUP’S RD&I EFFORTS IN 2018 HAVE FOCUSED ON SIX MAIN SUBJECTS:
1. Salmon lice
2. Feed/Feed utilisation/Feed strategies
3. Fish health
6. Human health
Lerøy also plays an active part in a number of external and internal R&D programmes and projects. We would like to mention some of them here:
SALMON LICE: SFI CtrlAQUA, focusing on production in closed-containment systems – either RAS systems on shore or closed-containment/semi-closed-containment floating systems at sea. Thanks to the focus on and efforts to develop this type of system in recent years, a major need for knowledge relating to fish biology and welfare has been uncovered to ensure optimal sustainability and rational production. CtrlAQUA has a timeline of 5 + 3 years and a total budget of NOK 160 million. The Research Council of Norway contributes 50% of this sum, while the remaining financing is provided by the fish-farming industry. Lerøy makes use of the knowledge gained from CtrlAQUA in both the production of juvenile fish on shore in RAS plants and for the development of closed-containment floating facilities at sea.
SEA LICE RESEARCH CENTRE: Lerøy participates in the Sea Lice Research Centre, a research programme focusing on salmon lice. The centre has contributed a large amount of fundamental knowledge on the biology of the salmon lice, knowledge now being used in the development of vaccines and functional feed, and in the work on salmon breeding.
The major focus of the current salmon lice strategy is on treating the fish once it is infested. There is now an increasing trend towards preventing the lice from attaching to the salmon. Fundamental biological knowledge is required to achieve this aim. In addition to this major salmon lice project, Lerøy plays an active role in several smaller projects, all aiming to devise new methods for the prevention and non-medicinal treatment of salmon lice.
THE PRODUCTS - R&D The use of cleaner fish is one of our most important tools for ensuring low levels of salmon lice at our plants. Cleaner fish are Mother Nature's own way of removing salmon lice on fish. Lerøy has therefore decided to build up substantial capacity for own production of cleaner fish and has made major investments in recent years to achieve self-sufficient supply. To date, production has mainly involved lumpfish. The total number of lumpfish released by Lerøy in 2018 was approximately 10 million. The Group also makes use of vast numbers of wrasse caught in the wild and purchased from local fishermen.
In 2013, the Group decided to become a significant producer of cleaner fish. Throughout 2016, Lerøy Seafood Group took a leading role in investments in cleaner fish for fish farming. The acquisition of 100% of the shares in Senja Akvakultursenter AS and 51% of the shares in Norsk Oppdrettsservice AS, in addition to the start-up of lumpfish production in a number of facilities, will – according to plans – give the Group a self-sufficient supply of cleaner fish in 2016. Over time, the Group has invested in capacity to deliver quality smolt throughout the year, made adaptations to production at sea, and also taken measures to satisfy the market demand for a year-round supply of salmon and trout. One central element in this process is the Group’s investments in smolt facilities that make use of recycling technology.
In 2016, Lerøy Sjøtroll opened a new part of Bjørsvik smolt plant built with RAS technology. Lerøy Aurora also opened a new smolt plant in Finnmark, representing a further boost to the Group’s smolt capacity. Having documented positive results with the use of lumpfish as a lice eater, Lerøy Seafood Group has decided to invest heavily in producing its own lumpfish. The production and utilisation of lumpfish as cleaner fish in our facilities makes us less reliant on cleaner fish caught in the wild. At the same time, we will be able to achieve optimal density and release times for cleaner fish in our cages, depending on problems with lice in individual locations.
In 2014, Lerøy Seafood Group acquired 34% of the shares in lumpfish producer Norsk Oppdrettsservice AS, with facilities in Flekkefjord and Molde. This provided us with satisfactory ownership rights in production facilities for lumpfish in North Norway. As a result, we can also achieve a self-sufficient supply of lumpfish for our localities in North Norway if necessary. To date, salmon lice have not been problematic at our facilities in this region.
The use of wrasse is an important element in Lerøy Seafood Group’s strategy to fight salmon lice. To date, we have purchased wild wrasse from professional fishermen, but Lerøy Seafood Group has also taken part in two different projects involving the farming of wrasse. These projects have now allowed us to establish our own farming of wrasse. Experience indicates that wild wrasse are very vulnerable in terms of handling and injury. A programme of close follow-up has therefore been established to prevent local overfishing and to ensure the gentlest possible handling of the fish.
To date, the project has been successful, and Lerøy Seafood Group aims to extend its use of this method. To ensure a regular and predictable supply and correct fishing of the natural stocks, Lerøy Seafood Group is taking part in the wrasse production project financed by the Norwegian Seafood Research Fund (with a total budget of NOK 33.1 million). This allows us to ensure that our R&D activities in this area target our industry, while acquiring new expertise as it emerges.
FISH HEALTH Lerøy Seafood Group maintains a constant focus on and controls fish health at its facilities. The fish-farming industry faces a number of health-related challenges – in particular viruses – which cannot currently be solved by vaccination or medication, as well as other less specific problems such as gill problems and ulceration during the winter. Together with the Department of Biology at the University of Bergen, Lerøy Seafood Group has established a position for a PhD student in nutrition to work systematically on problems with fish gills. We are also actively involved in working with vaccine suppliers to solve the problems relating to ulceration.
Fish health is a priority area for Lerøy Seafood Group.
TECHNOLOGY The current production practice, using open cages located in waters close to the coast, represents the greatest advantage for the Norwegian fish-farming industry, but the concept brings certain challenges, for example the risk of lice and accidental release. Lerøy Seafood Group is actively involved in several research projects challenging current technology in order to further develop the industry to become as environmentally and financially sustainable as possible.
Lerøy Seafood Group has enjoyed a collaboration with Preline AS since 2010, working towards the development of a closed-containment floating facility for post-smolt production. This collaboration has resulted in what is close to a full-scale pilot facility that was launched to sea in the winter of 2015 at Sagen in Samnanger municipality in Hordaland county. In a Preline facility, smolt will be produced in a closed-containment facility at sea. The smolt will remain in the facility until they weigh approximately 1 kg, when they will be transferred to open cages. This will reduce the amount of production time in open cages. The first fish were released to the facility in the spring of 2015, and production round no. 2 started in October of that year.
To date, we have recorded positive results in terms of growth and survival. There have been no salmon lice in the facility since start-up – an extremely encouraging sign but not surprising given that all the water in the facility is taken from sea depths far below the level where you normally find salmon lice larvae.
Lerøy Seafood Group currently owns more than 91% of the shares in Preline AS. Lerøy is also a partner in SFI CtrlAQUA, a centre for research-based innovation (2015-2022), which aims to develop and document a range of post-smolt concepts. Lerøy Seafood Group believes that the problems relating to lice and accidental release of salmon will be resolved. One major technological challenge is to identify and implement localities with the highest possible degree of biological sustainability. Such localities may place new requirements on equipment and operational formats which we currently do not face. At the same time, we rely on the goodwill of our local communities so that we can make use of such localities. Lerøy Seafood Group is involved in several projects targeting both offshore fish farming and use of closed-containment fish-farming technology for parts of the production phase.
The accidental release of farmed salmon is a challenge to the industry in terms of sustainability, economic loss and impairment to the industry’s reputation. Both in-house projects and active participation in R&D projects have allowed the Group to further optimise its production equipment and operating procedures. However, we are fully aware that none of our facilities (whether sea- or land-based, open or closed) are 100% safe from accidental release, as indicated by the Norwegian Board of Technology’s report “Salmon farming in the future”. Several closed-containment production concepts are currently being tested. Lerøy Seafood Group is confident that closed-containment floating concepts may provide a solution for particularly vulnerable locations, from smoltification until the fish weighs approximately 1 kg. We are participating in a number of R&D projects within this area, e.g. the OPP project (Optimal Post-Smolt Production).
Lerøy Seafood Group is also involved in a new full-scale project together with several other major fish-farming enterprises in Norway. The project involves tracing escaped fish back to its original locality. New technology has been developed to allow traceability of salmon back to its original locality by carrying out analyses of fish scales. The new technology can be used to trace a farmed fish back to its owner.
Lerøy Seafood Group played an active role in establishing the study “How can charting the salmon genome help solve the challenges of the Norwegian fish-farming industry?”, which is financed by the Norwegian Seafood Research Fund and led by the Department of Biology at the University of Bergen. There is no doubt that this project opens the door to a number of unknown methods now that the salmon genome has been mapped, and this will have a substantial impact on salmon welfare, combating disease and optimising operations. Lerøy Seafood Group, together with bodies such as the Norwegian Seafood Research Fund and the Research Council of Norway, is fronting an initiative to establish a common knowledge platform to gain a greater perspective on knowledge of genomics (system biology) and to make a ”salmon database” available to the industry.
The pipefarm development project builds upon the Preline pilot facility, a semi-closed-containment fish farm for production of post-smolt at sea. Development permits have been applied for based on this concept. Pipefarm as a project has major innovation height and will require significant competencies and capital to reach completion. Lerøy is confident that this concept will be of major importance for the future development of the Norwegian fish-farming industry.
Lerøy has invested heavily in the production of juvenile fish in our three farming regions. In 2013, we opened the Belsvik juvenile fish plant in Central Norway, which remains one of the world’s largest and most modern facilities for juvenile fish, with a capacity of approximately 14 million smolt. In 2016, we opened the “new” Laksefjord facility in the north of Norway with an RAS department for both fresh water and sea water production. This represented an increase in production capacity from 7 to 11 million smolt per year. The initial construction phase of the new juvenile fish facility at Bjørsvik in the south of Norway was also completed in 2016 and the second construction phase begun. This facility is Lerøy's main facility for production of trout. The facilities in both the Laksefjord and Bjørsvik are based on modern RAS technology that provides impressive savings in the consumption of energy and water.
In cooperation with Multiconsult, the Norut research centre and Akva AS, Lerøy has developed a system for improved prevention of accidental release, improved predictability and safe operations at sea. Via the advanced use of data from measuring stations in the facility combined with weather data from satellite stations, we can now take the step from experience-based to fact-based operational management using real-time data.
Sustainable fish farming is a high priority for Lerøy Seafood Group. New, enterprising projects and innovation play a decisive role in identifying good sources of marine raw materials for a growing fish-farming industry and in being able to feed a growing population in the years ahead. In 2013, Lerøy cooperated with Bellona, an environmental organisation, to launch an ambitious project principally targeting exploitation of those products we have in excess to produce those products we are lacking.
The company’s vision is: The sea – the major future source of new production of food, feed ingredients and energy/biomass, through the capture of CO2. Lerøy Seafood Group and Bellona, together with national and international R&D groups, aim to research how the organic interaction between different species can help solve the environmental problems created by fish farming, while at the same time attempting to achieve significant value generation by taking a leading role in developing new sources of biomass for human consumption, fish feed and bioenergy.
The cultivation of kelp, shellfish and invertebrates alongside fish is a new concept in the history of Norwegian fish farming. Waste produced by one species becomes a resource for another species, forming an interacting ecosystem of value-generating species in harmony with their environment. Mussels, kelp and other invertebrates filter large organic particles from fish feed or carried by water currents from fish-farming plants, e.g. small lice larvae. At the same time, these organisms absorb excess nutrient salts along with vast volumes of CO2. By increasing production of these new species, we can enhance value generation while also producing high-quality raw materials that can be utilised to produce fish feed, for consumption or for energy production.
Ever-greater emphasis is given to increased innovation as a fundamental element in securing Norway’s future. Lerøy Seafood Group is recognised for its innovative efforts over the past century. We aim to continue in the same way, and our ambition is to be at the very forefront of innovation within every part of our value chain.
The FINS programme is a comprehensive study of how eating fish affects human health. A number of studies have been conducted of new-born babies (mother/baby), kindergarten children, lower-secondary school pupils and persons who are overweight. The study has focused on the effect of eating oily fish such as salmon, mackerel or herring, and the results have been in part remarkable. In particular, a significant increase has been identified in the concentration and learning skills of young children when they eat fish three to four times a week. FINS is partly financed by the Norwegian Seafood Research Fund (FHF), with the National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research (NIFES) as project lead.
Lerøy Seafood is also playing an active role in a project focusing on nutritional quality and the endproduct’s importance for the physical and mental health of the consumer.
THE PRODUCTS – R&D
Ensilage of residual raw materials from fishing of white fish
• As a shareholder in Austevoll Seafood, Lerøy Seafood Group has opportunities to exploit raw materials that were previously dumped at sea by the deep-sea fishing fleet. In recent years, Hordafôr, another company within the AUSS Group, has worked actively to utilise raw materials otherwise regarded as waste. This includes not only fish guts and heads, but also by-catches etc. Hordafôr is currently working on a major project in cooperation with the white fish industry and fleet in North Norway, supported by the Norwegian Seafood Research Fund.
In 2011, the Norwegian and foreign deep-sea fishing fleet delivered around 580,000 tons of white fish (round weight) to Norwegian harbours (statistics provided by the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries). Assuming that approximately 30% of this round weight can be utilised as ensilage, there is a total potential of 175,000 tons of raw materials available from the deep-sea fishing fleet for white fish which can be utilised, for example for fish feed.