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Norwegian company to build one of world's largest salmon farms in Belfast

Groundbreaking on 40-acre facility expected in 2019
By Ethan Andrews | Jan 30, 2018
Photo by: Ethan Andrews Nordic Aquafarms CEO Erik Heim speaks at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center Jan. 30. The Norwegian company plans to build a $150 million land-based salmon farm in Belfast that will be among the largest of its kind in the world.

Belfast — Nordic Aquafarms Inc., a Norwegian aquaculture company, today announced plans to build a $150 million salmon farm in Belfast. The facility, according to the company, would be one of the largest land-based salmon farms in the world.

The 9:30 a.m. announcement at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center was attended by more than 100 people, including Gov. Paul LePage, state legislators from Waldo County, county commissioners and city officials.

At the unveiling, Nordic Aquafarms CEO Erik Heim said his company chose Belfast after a six-month search that started overseas in Japan and China, then took stock of Ireland and Spain before settling on the U.S., New England, Maine, and finally Belfast.

Heim credited Maine with a "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," which today are largely dependent upon imported products.

The new facility would be built on 40 acres abutting Little River. Nordic Aquafarms has signed purchase and sale agreements for a 26-acre parcel currently occupied by the Belfast Water District, which would relocate to accommodate the sale, along with 14 acres from an abutting private landowner.

Nordic Aquafarms is currently building the largest salmon farm in Europe. However, Heim said that facility would be dwarfed by the one planned for Belfast, which would be roughly five times the size.

"We're building the pilot in Norway, then we're taking it big in Maine," he said.

The farm would raise Atlantic salmon and produce 33,000 tons of seafood per year after several phases of construction.

In the land-based system, fish would be isolated from local fauna, which Heim said would remove the possibility of spreading diseases. The closed system would also reduce or eliminate the use of chemicals that might otherwise be needed to treat the fish for sea lice.

Construction is expected to start in 2019. The initial phase will involve a $150 million investment. When the facility is completed in the next two years, it will employ 60 people at high-skill jobs. Operations would begin in 2020.

Later phases would result in a full end-to-end operation — from hatcheries to fish processing — and will bring the total investment to between $450 million and $500 million with a total of 120 to 140 jobs that would be filled through a combination of national and international searches and local openings.

Heim did not offer an estimate of the size of the facility itself, other than to say it would be five times larger than one currently under construction in Norway, and would not fill the entire 40 acres.

The salmon would be distributed by truck and sold principally in the U.S., Heim said. He added that his company, in the spirit of environmental sustainability, is looking into buying a fleet of Tesla electric trucks.

Gov. LePage lauded the investment as a "big deal," noting that it dovetails with his administration's interest in expanding economic ties with Northern Europe.

City Manager Joe Slocum offered a preemptive response to those who have asked in the past about Belfast's success in attracting businesses.

"It's not that much of a secret," he said. "Belfast continues to grow because it decided a long time ago that it wanted to."

Nordic Aquafarms CEO Erik Heim, left, speaks at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center Jan. 30. The Norwegian company plans to build a $150 million land-based salmon farm in Belfast that will be among the largest of its kind in the world. At right are Belfast Mayor Samantha Paradis and City Councilor Eric Sanders. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Gov. Paul LePage, speaking at University of Maine Hutchinson Center Jan. 30, applauds the announcement by Nordic Aquafarms, a Norwegian aquaculture company, of its plans to build a $150 million land-based salmon farm in Belfast. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
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Comments (6)
Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Feb 02, 2018 18:28

One side note.....I firmly believe Mayor Paradis will balance the need for development by protecting Her city in the "eco" it "eco"nomic development or "eco"-friendly development!


Let us move, and grow forward in a responsible manor.  Remember even MBNA can bring sudden growth and then "merge" to extract profits.

Once again history is teaching us.

Posted by: Kenneth W Hall | Feb 02, 2018 18:21

Sometimes history repeats its self when history is not taught.  Anyone living in Belfast back in the late 70's early 80's can remember the chicken feathers along Main St.  That is our history, and the chicken factory discharge made seeing seals impossible.  Now seeing a seal is common place in the waterfront


It will be so wonderful that land farming the salmon can honestly produce organic salmon, vs some companies that sell fish today claiming it is organic.  How do they know???  Were there Go-Pro's mounted on the fish's head to monitor what they ate to be able to claim the seafood is organic??

Posted by: Carrie Bacon | Feb 01, 2018 18:48

Good questions about the waste - I hadn't even thought of it.  I wonder if Mayor Paradis and our City Councilors addressed it and received an answer?  It's an important environmental and quality of life issue for Belfast, one I believe needs to be discussed at length and the sooner the better.  After all, didn't Belfast have issues when chicken farming was at it's height?

Posted by: Neal Harkness | Jan 31, 2018 15:04

Nordic definitely sees the manure and other organic waste as a valuable commodity that they will be marketing as fertilizer.

Posted by: Mary Bigelow | Jan 31, 2018 09:20

Good question.  It would overwhelm sewer plant.  Lets hope for fertilizer plant, especially considering fish guts

Posted by: Ronald Huber | Jan 30, 2018 21:12

Curious about the daily tons of salmon manure - where's it to go? Belfast sewage treatment plant? Saved and sold as fertilizer?

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