Swimming Upstream


June 4, 2018

I love fresh salmon which has been cooked on the grill wrapped in foil with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. The problem is that the salmon at the grocery store does not always appear particularly fresh, or, even worse, it is completely sold out.

Help may be at hand. A Norwegian owned company is building a salmon farm south of Miami. The project is enormous. The salmon farm will be by far the largest in the US, with the potential to reach an annual production level of 90,000 tons, about 20% of 2016 US consumption. Apparently Florida’s underground geology provides a water system perfectly suited to supplying the fresh and salt water needed to raise salmon. The plant will ultimately cost over $350 million, and will have a 400,000-square-foot roof, and water tanks connected by 67 miles of pipes. The water will gradually transition from freshwater to saltwater. This “Bluehouse” aquaculture technology will allow the farm to use a fraction of the water normally required by similar farms, and avoid the use of dye and medicines. The first phase of their plans will involve raising 10,000 metric tons of salmon starting in 2020, with plenty of room for expansion. The company is already raising salmon in Denmark that is sold in the US.

“Aquaculture”, the technical term for fish farming, can be controversial given its potential environmental impact. According to Marine Policy, a leading journal of ocean policy studies, there is a limit to how much human beings should intervene in nature, and there are major concerns about the health and safety of modern methods of food production. I must say those issues are probably more of a priority for those who are already well-fed. In any case, Atlantic Sapphire seem well aware of its environmental and conservation responsibilities, and has confidence that it can produce high quality fresh salmon in a way which is good for “the health of our planet”.

This project provides an excellent example of how technology can disrupt existing markets, even well-established food chains. Such disruptions have become more commonplace over recent decades. Innosight, a growth strategy consulting firm, recently published a paper that predicted half of the current S&P 500 companies will be replaced in the next ten years. The analysis was based on the fact that that the average tenure of companies on the S&P 500 had gone from 33 years in 1964 to 24 years by 2016. The average tenure continues to decline, and Innosight forecasts it will be as low as 12 years by 2027.

In order to survive companies will need to embrace the potential offered by new technologies, changing customer needs and expectations, and an increasing focus on environmental and social responsibility. The Miami salmon farm is just one example of how significant and unexpected the changes can be.

Lloyd Flood