Land-based production of Atlantic salmon uses recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) technology to grow fish in a self-contained environment. RAS technology offers the ability to effectively capture wastes and recycle water thus reducing environmental impact, enhance biosecurity to prevent fish escapes, minimize pathogen entry or spread into the environment, and highly control the tank environment for increased fish performance and health. RAS requires specialized equipment and technologies designed to provide the fish with optimal water quality and control. A diagram and simple breakdown of these components can be explored by visiting the Recirculating Aquaculture Salmon-Network (RAS-N) website.
Most of the Atlantic salmon consumed by Americans is imported. RAS technology allows Atlantic salmon to be raised on land, including the middle of the country, where fresh fish is less accessible. This also means fish can be raised in closer proximity to major markets and population centers, effectively reducing food miles observed with imports. The expense of RAS is substantial, however, and requires intensive business planning and marketing strategies to produce at a scale necessary to be economically viable. Still, there are at least a dozen commercial ventures around the world producing market-size salmon in land-based RAS. Many more are investing in this emerging industry, including production in the United States. In Maryland, Caroline County is a proposed site for land-based Atlantic production.
Dr. Catherine Frederick works with a national network of specialists in land-based RAS to help foster the growth of domestic Atlantic salmon production called the Recirculating Aquaculture Salmon Network (RAS-N) and you can learn more by visiting their site. Her role in this organization has been to assess industry needs and priorities but will expand her work to the public in a new project titled Sustainable Aquaculture Systems Supporting Atlantic Salmon(SAS2). SAS2 is a multi-regional and international effort to tackle industry bottlenecks (research), support workforce development (education), and connect with the public and communities where production is taking place or proposed (extension). Dr. Frederick’s role is to assess community needs and concerns regarding the commercial development of land-based Atlantic salmon RAS, as well as connecting end-users with ongoing research and industry status updates. More on this project can be found in an article on the UMBC news page.