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Maine Company Seeks Majority Ownership of First Nation-Owned Kuterra to Grow Atlantic Salmon

Kuterra facility on Vancouver Island. (Photo by Kuterra)

The ‘Namgis First Nation founded North America’s first land-based salmon farm, located on Northern Vancouver Island, a kilometer from the Pacific Ocean, in 2012. Kutala means salmon in the language of the ‘Namgis people. Terra means land. Kuterra means salmon from the land. Kuttera demonstrated that Land Raised™ salmon is the future of sustainable salmon farming; the facility was the second in the world to prove the viability of raising salmon at commercial scale through aquaculture.

Now Maine-based Emergent Holdings seeks majority ownership of the salmon grower to gain access to Kuterra’s knowledge and experience using land-based recirculating water systems to grow salmon. Emergent intends to grow environmentally sound, safe and healthy “Atlantic salmon” in large tanks. 

The ‘Namgis First Nation’s vote in July will determine if they accept Emergent’s proposal. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

If the acquisition is approved, Emergent would work toward capturing at least 10 percent of North America’s Atlantic salmon market, Emergent officials told the Bangor Daily News.

“Given Kuterra’s successful proof of concept, we are excited to work with their experienced staff and gain valuable insights and synergies to advance our workforce training,” said Jason Mitchell, President of Whole Oceans, a subsidiary of Emergent. “We look forward to being part of a larger picture that will deliver fresh, premium salmon to both coasts of North America.”

The recirculating aquaculture systems, “RAS” for short, grow salmon from eggs (Kuterra touts an on-site hatchery) to market size, at least 8 pounds. That began with Kuterra, which received $9.5 million in seed funding from the Canadian government and private funders.

Kuterra has shown it is possible to produce a high-quality, sustainably farmed premium salmon using very little energy, water or land, without antibiotics or pesticides. After its first year of production, Kuterra achieved the top “Best Choice” sustainability ranking by Ocean Wise, SeaChoice and Seafood Watch — a first for farmed Atlantic salmon.

Developing land-based aquaponics farms is time consuming and capital intensive, and Kuterra has encountered challenges, even shutting down for several months in 2018. Maine leads the way in aquaculture, and now that more investment is entering the aquaponics seafood market, there’s more patience necessary for success, the Bangor Daily News reported. The fact that Emergent is looking to Kuterra LP, 100 percent owned by the ‘Namgis First Nation, to build its aquaponics system to grow Atlantic salmon is a testament to the company’s groundbreaking work.

The Kuterra board has recommended the Emergent offer to the ‘Namgis Council: “We’re delighted with the synergies between Emergent and Kuterra, which will accelerate our companies’ business growth and land-based industry growth, while advancing the mission of the ‘Namgis First Nation to develop next generation Atlantic salmon aquaculture on land,” said Kuterra Chair Eric Hobson. 

The ‘Namgis Council’s decision is expected in early July.

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