Kuterra Limited Partnership

In by Brian Svanvik

KUTERRA LP grows Land Raised™ Atlantic salmon. We are among the world leaders in next-generation, land-based fish farming: the first in North America and second in the world to sell land-grown Atlantic salmon food fish. KUTERRA is 100-percent owned by the ‘Namgis First Nation. KUTERRA was created for environmental reasons – to show industry and governments that there’s less trouble and more benefit in farming salmon on land than in the ocean. The ultimate goal is to help shift fish farming out of open net-pens.

Company Website: www.kuterra.com

Our Goals

KUTERRA LP is using recirculating aquaculture technology (RAS) to achieve three overall goals:

1. Bust myths about land-based salmon farming

Critics of land-based salmon farming say it can’t be done because RAS uses too much water, power and land. KUTERRA has found the opposite. It is sharing this information with governments and investors:

Low water use: Water is recirculated and cleaned. System capacity, 3 million litres, recirculated every 30-60 minutes. About 99% of water is reused on each cycle. Volume varies slightly according to the amount of feed consumed.

Low energy use: Dramatically reduced by energy-saving measures such as geothermal heat exchange. Not even a top-three cost. Designated a BC Hydro Power Smart facility.

Low land use: Module footprint 0.29 ha (0.7 acres). With this model, all of BC’s net-pen salmon production could be moved to a land area one-fifth the size of Stanley Park.

2. Make a good profit

For KUTERRA to achieve all its goals, it has to be a successful business. It has to make a good profit to attract investment and help shift Atlantic salmon aquaculture to land, and also to make money for the ‘Namgis First Nation and create jobs for ‘Namgis members. The goal of making a good profit has three parts. The business has to show that it’s technologically feasible, biologically feasible and economically feasible to raise Atlantic salmon in a recirculating aquaculture system.

3. Model sustainable growth

KUTERRA wants to show that it’s possible to create good-paying long-term jobs and community benefits that are consistent with ‘Namgis values that protect land and water.

No damage to the environment: Solid wastes are collected, composted and sold as fertilizer instead of being released into the ocean. Discharged water has been cleaned by filters and treated. The water is released into massive gravel beds, which ensure no pathogens, parasites or contaminants make it into the ocean. No diseases or parasites are released into the environment. All this has been confirmed by an independent environmental monitor contracted by the Pacific Salmon Foundation.

No harm to wildlife: There is no interaction between the farm and wild fish, birds or mammals. There is no risk of farmed fish escaping.

Healthy fish: Fish are grown with no antibiotics, pesticides or hormones. They are grown at high densities, but salmon are schooling fish and even when they have lots of space available, they swim close together.

Sustainable feed: Contains only 8 percent purpose-caught wild fish. Each kilo of wild fish in feed produces 1.5 to 2.0 kilos of KUTERRA salmon.

Top sustainability ranking: A first for Atlantic salmon. Green Best Choice rankings from leading independent assessment programs: Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program, SeaChoice program and Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program.

Jobs and training: KUTERRA’s employees need to know about water quality and systems as well as fish. To help ‘Namgis members develop that knowledge and skills to operate the facility, KUTERRA will develop training programs when it has reached profitability. Over time, we want to see ‘Namgis members get the qualifications to take over operations entirely. The RAS technology used at KUTERRA is spreading and the skills and experience will become a valuable asset in many other places also. During construction, 6 ‘Namgis members helped build the facility.

Community benefits: More than $6 million of construction good and services were sourced on Vancouver Island, of a total $9 million of construction costs, and $1.9 million annual operations benefit BC companies, of which $1 million is spent locally.

Why ‘Namgis are in this business

‘Namgis members and the nation have been concerned about the effects of open net-pen fish farms for a very long time. Protests and legal action have failed to stop the open net-pens or to improve their operations enough to remove concerns. The strongest option for controlling or even ending open net-pen salmon farming is to make a business case for a better alternative, which is land-based farming. To do this we have to grow Atlantic salmon. Coho or chinook farming have not had much market impact. It’s Atlantic salmon that’s the species in demand around the globe, and so it’s the species most farmed around the globe. If we want to change the existing industry, we have to grow the same species, Atlantic salmon.

Structure

KUTERRA LP is 100% owned and controlled by ‘Namgis. Its operations are overseen by a 6-person board made up of experts in the different fields from across North America, including 2’Namgis members. It has four operational staff and it regularly employs casual workers, who are usually ‘Namgis members. Administrative tasks such as accounting are contracted from ‘Namgis First Nation and others.

Many partnerships have helped get KUTERRA off the ground:

Founding partners: ‘Namgis First Nation, Save Our Salmon Marine Conservation Foundation

Key advisors: Tides Canada, The Conservation Fund

Key funders: Sustainable Development Technology Canada, Tides Canada, ‘Namgis First Nation

Other funders: DFO’s Aquaculture Innovation and Market Access Program, Aboriginal Affairs Canada, Coast Sustainability Trust, Ritchie Brothers Foundation (donation of large on-site generator), BC Hydro Power Smart Program, Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC.

Processing-distribution-marketing partner: Albion Fisheries Ltd.

History

‘Namgis members and the nation have been concerned about the effects of open net-pen fish farms for a very long time. We were among the first voices raised against the farms. ‘Namgis tried to challenge the ocean-based farms in court. When that did not succeed,’Namgis approved the decision to challenge farms commercially, to prove that there’s a more sustainable way to farm Atlantic salmon, and that is by farming them on land using recirculating aquaculture technology (RAS). At that time the technology had been around for about fifty years, but it has always used for small-scale high-value species and life stages, but it had become very efficient, and many experts said it was ready to apply to large-scale high-volume operations. It just needed someone to try it and show it could be done. ‘Namgis decided to take it on.

2010

  • DFO report says closed containment farms could work but might not be profitable
  • Andrew Wright report says closed containment farms could work and should be profitable. Dr. Wright is a member of KUTERRA’s advisory team.
  • ‘Namgis and SOS sign a MOU to work together to start pilot closed containment salmon farm. Funds found for financial and design feasibility study.

2011

  • Decision is made to seek funding to build a closed containment facility.
  • K’udas Limited Partnership is officially created.

2012

  • Module one construction starts.

2013

  • March 18, first smolts arrive.
  • Module one construction completed.
  • Name changed from K’udas to KUTERRA for marketing reasons.

2014

  • April 22 –  First KUTERRA sales begin in BC and Alberta with first harvest of fish.
  • KUTERRA Land Raised™ Atlantic salmon receives Green Best Choice rankings from Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise and SeaChoice.

2015

  • U.S. sales start.