There’s something unusual about the Atlantic salmon farm planned by Whole Oceans – in a good way.
Founder and CEO of Whole Oceans, Rob Piasio, is a Maine native with a background in investment banking. After the economic recession, he decided to pursue his passion in aquaculture, a field which he had learned about while working on a deal. In an interview with SeafoodSource, Piasio said after years of research into species, economics, and regulations, it was easy to select Maine as the location for his Atlantic salmon farm. Maine is known for its aquaculture-friendly policies, supporting aquatic farming of numerous species. And Piasio wants to help grow a thriving industry in his home state.
The land-based Whole Oceans salmon farm will operate using RAS (recirculating aquaculture system) technology. Piasio said this was also an easy decision, as the cost of RAS continues to drop while limited permits remain a barrier for open ocean salmon farming in the U.S. In addition, RAS is an environmentally sustainable aquaculture technology, requiring very little inputs and creating little output as water is constantly recirculated and filtered within.
The next step was identifying a location for the land-based farm, which Piasio announced at the end of February. Beginning in August 2018, a former paper mill site on the Penobscot River in Bucksport, ME will be transformed into Whole Oceans’ Atlantic salmon aquaculture facilities.
Piasio said he was pleased with the positive response received at their town meeting, March 20, and looks forward to being part of the community. Maine senator Angus King said, “Whole Oceans is bringing a new opportunity and economic diversification to a former industrial site, creating renewed economic vitality and jobs. The innovative Whole Oceans aquaculture facility will reflect our ocean heritage in a new, environmentally sustainable manner.”
While Whole Oceans intends to break ground on the site this summer, it will likely be a year before fish are introduced and another year before they are harvestable. The long-term plan is to eventually produce 50,000 metric tons annually, or 10 percent of the U.S. Atlantic salmon market.
Sustainable, traceable, and domestically grown salmon brings huge appeal to the U.S. market. Whole Oceans is an example of the food security and industry progress that aquaculture can bring to the country when given the chance.