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Billund sees growing demand for RAS in Norway

Billund Aquaculture had a slow start to its efforts in the home of the world's largest farmed salmon production, but things have ramped up for the company.

Aquaculture technology supplier Billund Aquaculture Norway is looking to grow its employee base as more companies in the country demand recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) for intensive fish production.

"We look forward to the future, and will build an independent company that will be able to offer complete solutions for our customers," Sondre Hoidalen, the CEO for the company, told IntraFish. "During the year, the goal is to grow from six to 12 employees."

IntraFish recently met with Hoidalen and Marius Hægh, the company's sales director, at the company's offices in Asker, south of Oslo.

Both are part owners of the Norwegian company (owning a total of 25 percent), and both previously worked for competitor Kruger Kaldnes.

Billund Aquaculture Norway was established in August 2017 after investment company Broodstock Capital entered as the majority owner with a 51 percent share in Danish parent company Billund Aquaculture Group.

The company said it started on a few medium-sized RAS projects in 2018, with more on the way.

"Today we are at six employees, but three are coming in during the summer. The ambition is to be 12 by the end of the year," said Hoidalen.

In 2018, a year the company refers to as "a start-up year," sales peaked at around NOK 10 million (€1 million/$1.2 million), and the company had a negative operating result.

This year, the company is hoping to be in the black.

It started with eel

Billund Aquaculture Group is a sizeable company -- it posted revenues of almost NOK 1.5 billion last year (€155 million/$175 million), and increased turnover by approximately NOK 150 million (€15.5 million/$17.5 million) over the past three years. The number of employees has also increased sharply, and is now around 250 people.

Brothers Oluf and Christian Sorensen founded the group as an an eel-farming operation. The two saw opportunities to deliver technology to the fish farming sector, and started with a RAS operation in 1986. Christian is still active in the company as a working chairman, and together with his family owns 49 percent of the group, said Hoidalen.

Growth in recent years has been driven particularly by large-scale, land-based salmon projects.

Billund Aquaculture is the main supplier to Atlantic Sapphire, which has operations in Denmark and Miami. Both land-based production sites are designed to raise and harvest salmon to the weight of around 4.5 kilos.

Atlantic Sapphire transfers first fingerlings to feeding tanks in another milestone

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In total, the group has contracts or has designed land-based salmon farms with a total capacity of 40,000 metric tons. The group says no to many requests, both due to capacity and because of individuals backing the project may not be ready to take the project over the finish line, executives said.

"It is important to work with the customers where the plans are most likely to be realized and that they have the competence to operate well after we have delivered the plant," Hoidalen said.

Salmon dominates in RAS projects

The company estimates almost 90 percent of the group's turnover today is related to salmon, mainly hatchery operations.

Since its inception, Billund has set up over 500 RAS departments in 135 projects in 27 countries. The group has subsidiaries in Chile, the US and Australia, as well as in Norway. The group built its first RAS farm for salmon in Chile in 2000.

First Norwegian plant in 2011

Although Billund Aquaculture Norway is relatively new, the group has been active in Norway since 2011 through its Danish parent company.

In Norway, the first plant was delivered to Namdal Settefisk in 2011.

The company has also built fish farms for Leroy Belsvik, Leroy Laksefjord, Salmar Senja and the Atlantic Lumpus lumpfish plant in Nordland.

In addition to the aforementioned Atlantic Sapphire, the company has also built fish farms for salmon both in China and for Jurassic Salmon in Poland.

The Norwegian company, among other things, is building for Russian Aquaculture, and now has a pilot project with an unnamed customer in Troms for a hatchery plant. They also have projects with Rensefisk Holding.

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OUT NOW! Industry Report: The land-based salmon farming revolution

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