After months of engineering and assessments involving a large team of professionals in Maine, as well as our own international group of specialized engineers, Nordic Aquafarms is now proceeding with final permit application submissions for our project in Belfast.

Permitting in Maine sets strict requirements for companies. Applications require a high level of detail and alternative assessments. While we have adopted considerable local input in preparing our applications, the upcoming process will involve additional opportunities for public participation.

We are taking a responsible approach to developing the Belfast project, as we have done elsewhere. Our facility will be a phased development over many years. Both the first phase, and the fully built-out facility, will discharge a much smaller quantity of nutrients in Penobscot Bay than other issued permits currently allow.

Our company has made significant investments in tried and proven technologies to set a new standard in removal of nutrients from discharge water. Still, we support monitoring programs to ensure that both Nordic Aquafarms and the citizens of Midcoast Maine can be confident that the environment is protected.

Belfast will become the home of one of the most experienced land-based companies in the world. Our expertise and experience go far beyond the many start-up companies rapidly emerging in this industry. Our internal engineering staff has designed and delivered land-based projects for 20 years. Our senior production staff has long careers behind them in both land-based and traditional net-pen salmon production.

In Denmark, we have produced fish in a land-based facility for three years and have never had any incidents. Our upgraded facility in Norway will deliver its first harvest-size fish at the end of this year. Our Belfast facility, although larger in total size, will simply be a more advanced version of the Norwegian facility, replicated three times per module in order to be sized appropriately for the American market.

As the applications now go through the required process, Nordic Aquafarms will continue to be in dialogue with the community. So far, we have conducted many meetings with local residents, visited people's homes, conducted many voluntary public information meetings, spoken at community events and released monthly newsletters to keep people up-to-date on the status of our project.

We also have an open-door policy at our Belfast office, and we continue to encourage people to stop by anytime to talk to us. We have also pursued opportunities to preserve natural assets such as the Little River upper reservoir lands. We would like to thank everyone who has been working with us along the way.

While we respect that there are opposing views regarding our project, we have noted that most opponents have shown no interest in having any dialogue with us. There has been no interest in the fact that reputable environmental organizations have reviewed our application and written letters of support. Expert inputs from UMaine and UNE professors don´t seem to matter. There has been no concern that other discharge permits have been issued with higher nutrient discharges into Penobscot Bay.

Instead, we have seen a steady flow of poorly substantiated claims, misrepresentations and attempts to attack procedural concerns from persons who have explicitly claimed they would do anything to stop the project, often using xenophobic undertones in their rhetoric.

In our experience, professional environmental organizations have a strong scientific foundation and also work with businesses to ensure good environmental practices. We will continue to work with reputable environmental organizations, as we also care about the environment.

There is a strong need to address innovation in food systems for the future in the U.S. As far as seafood is concerned, there is a strong need to supplement the wild catch supply with sustainable farming. Demand is outgrowing supply in the U.S., and over 90 percent of seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported.

Small-scale farming efforts will not be able to close this demand gap, nor do they have the resources to drive innovation. Nordic Aquafarms, in partnership with the community of Belfast, will be an important part of the solution. Land-based farming and high-quality seafood have a bright future in Maine.

We already have eight employees in Maine, and we are just getting started.

Marianne Naess is commercial director for Nordic Aquafarms.

filed under: