By Ashley Thompson, TC MEDIA
CENTRE BURLINGTON - A fish farm here is recovering from what CEO Kirk Havercroft describes as a “perfect storm.”
About 12,000 salmon died after an electrical system failure at Sustainable Fish Farming Canada Ltd., in Centre Burlington, on the weekend.
Havercroft, the head of Sustainable Fish Farming Canada Ltd., in Centre Burlington, is referring to the unforeseen events that led to the loss of 12,000 salmon expected to be market ready between the end of April and end of May.
The salmon were being raised in a temperature-controlled tank that suddenly lost power around 2 a.m. March 15.
The company recently put in a new power supply to support buildings added on site during a planned expansion to their Red Bank Road facility.
“What appears to have happened over the weekend is, I think, a result of upgrading our power systems and installing the new power supply,” said Havercroft in a phone interview.
Havercroft says every backup system in place was comprised, meaning emergency alarms failed to alert employees of the power loss.
“Really what happened is we just had the perfect storm of events that were totally unforeseen,” he said.
The end result was a multiple component failure that proved devastating.
“The pumped stopped and the oxygen supply to the fish stopped,” said Havercroft.
Havercroft says management at the small-scale fish farm felt it would be wise to wait until Sustainable Blue was a larger commercial enterprise before taking out insurance to cover loss of stock.
“We had certainly felt that we had put enough insurance in place through our mechanical backups and electrical backups.”
He admits the team at Sustainable Blue, a company with six full-time employees, is quite disappointed by the “great setback.”
“Everybody has invested their hearts and souls into this project.”
The salmon, raised in the tanks of Sustainable Blue since June 2013, were part of a project the company was conducting to demonstrate that salmon can be grown on land.
“We are going to move on from this. We have managed to convince ourselves that without any shadow of a doubt that this technology gives us the opportunity to grow salmon on land and do that viably.”
The salmon in the Sustainable Blue’s hatchery were unaffected by the power shortage.
Havercroft estimates Sustainable Blue still has about 10,000 juvenile salmon and 20,000 salmon eggs.
He says data will be collected from the dead salmon during the extensive cleanup process, and that information will prove valuable as the company moves forward.
“There is a commercially viable industry here. We’ve seen that in the growth rates we’ve achieved and the data we’ve collected to date,” he said.
“We take great encouragement from that and our attitude will be this project has to continue, so that’s what we’ll be focused on.”
Sustainable Fish Farming Canada Ltd. started building its land-based fish farm in West Hants in 2007. The company started growing fish commercially in 2009, beginning with European sea bass and bream and switching to Atlantic salmon production in 2013.