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Posted: Friday, January 26, 2018 12:00 am

Atlantic Sapphire brings salmon farming to the Redlands

   When we think of salmon, our minds take us to frozen areas like Alaska or the North Atlantic. Now let’s refocus that thought and picture raising salmon right here in South Florida…yes, in South Florida! That’s exactly what Atlantic Sapphire USA plans to do on 80 acres located at Southwest 217th Avenue and 272nd Street.

   The company was founded in Norway in 2010 and currently operates a land-raised salmon farm in Denmark, the leading facility of its kind in the world.

Atlantic Sapphire went public in July, 2017 on the stock exchange in Norway, led by Johan Andreassen, co-founder & CEO, as well as Jose Prado, CFO and head of the Miami operation.

   The company has hired a world-class team of Miami based architects, engineers, construction managers and subcontractors. Construction of this first US facility began last year on this once-upon-a-time tomato field, bringing in hundreds of truckloads of crushed rock to lay over miles of pipes. The plan is to build an approximate 380,000 square foot enclosed facility, on an initial 20 acres to house a fingerling facility and 36 monster saltwater grow-out tanks.

   But why sunny Florida when salmon are cold water fish? It is all about availability and quality of salt water and South Florida with its unique aquifer geology has plenty. Saltwater production and disposal wells, ranging in depth from 1300 to over 3000 feet deep are currently being constructed by Fort Myers based, Youngquist Brothers Inc. As for the water temperature for the salmon, a special cooling system will keep it at a constant 59 degrees inside the tanks.

   With a growing population leading to a greater appetite for healthy proteins such as salmon, existing Pacific salmon fisheries and conventional Atlantic Salmon net pen farms cannot meet demand. Atlantic Sapphire’s Bluehouse TM aquaculture technology and operation (like a greenhouse for aquaculture) was developed to address this. Under this system, salmon are raised from egg to approximately 10 pounds (commercial harvest weight), in under two years. By farming in the Bluehouse TM closed containment system, conditions may be controlled for disease prevention and economic efficiency, and large supply of salmon can be consistently harvested year-round.

   Today, 99 percent of the global supply of salmon is raised in ocean net pens off the coasts of Canada, Chile, Norway and the North Atlantic. These types of operations are usually in remote areas and require a lot of transportation logistics to get to the US market, a problem with a fresh product that has a three week shelf life. Net pen farms in the ocean also deal with parasites such as sea lice, environmental damage to their surroundings, and of course, nature’s predators are a constant threat.

   Before starting construction, the company spent five years studying, planning and preparing for the operation. The first eggs are schedule to go into the hatchery in October this year. By the second half of 2020, Atlantic Sapphire plans to harvest over two million pounds per month of delicious tasting, sustainably farmed, Fresh from Florida salmon.

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FACTS: Each of the 36 tanks hold 500,000 gallons of water with a recycled water change every 30 minutes. Water in the tanks will be chilled and maintained to 59 degrees with a total water replacement every 10 days. Each tank is able to grow-out 50,000 salmon to 10-11 pounds.

PROJECTIONS: Once in production this facility should produce 25-30 million pounds of gutted salmon per year . That is 1 ½ to 2% of U.S. consumption.

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   Atlantic Sapphire will spend over $120 million and expect to hire approximately 80 employees to put this first facility in operation in South Dade.

   Additionally, according to Dr. Tony Villamil, founder and principal of the Washington Economics Group, whose firm has conducted an independent assessment of the estimated economic impacts of Atlantic Sapphire on Miami-Dade County, the construction as well as annual recurring impact of this first phase facility in operation will exceed 2,700 jobs.

   It is evident that Atlantic Sapphire is highly committed to be a part of the positive development of the Homestead area and Miami-Dade county.

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