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Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) are a new industry which still struggles with profitability. However, Luke’s RAS expert believes that a method that uses water and nutrients effectively has its place in the future of aquaculture.

”Aquaculture systems based on closed loop water circulation are about to break through,” believes Principal Scientist Jouni Vielma from Luke.

In recirculating aquaculture systems, the fish are grown in inland pools which water is cleaned and used over and over again.

Compared to traditional fish farming, RAS needs much less water and releases only a little nutrient pollution to the environment. Phosphorus and sediment can be sequestrated almost entirely. Nitrogen is more challenging, but new methods to collect it are being developed all the time.

In recirculating aquaculture systems, the conditions are stable and, by adjusting the water temperature, optimal for the species. In Finnish RAS facilities typical species are sturgeon, arctic char, European whitefish, pike-perch, and, more recently, rainbow trout.

Recirculation aquaculture systems use water sparingly, clean it after use and return it to the environment.

Global growth

During the past decade, recirculating systems have become increasingly popular globally. Atlantic Sapphire, a Florida-based company, for example, plans to increase its annual salmon production in RAS facilities to 90 million kilos. In Finland, Finnforel aims at annual production of one million kilos of rainbow trout, making it one of the biggest recirculating aquaculture systems in the country.

RAS technology is new and requires big investments. The systems use a lot of energy which makes maintenance expensive. Thus, production risks are relatively high. In Finland, already two RAS farmers have closed their operation due to lack of profitability.

Vielma believes the reason for problems is that the industry is young and still learning best practices.

”Synergies between other industries, infrastructure that is already in place and needed services would reduce costs.”

Compared to the competition, Finland has a number of advantages: clean, fresh water, locations, and a well-functioning logistics system. And – according to Vielma – entrepreneurs whose expertise is second to none.

”For example Finnforel has one of the best experts of the industry. If they are not successful, then who will?”

Text: Maria Latokartano

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