Could Finland be the next aquaculture powerhouse?

Finland imports 85 percent of all the fish consumed in the country, but that may soon change, thanks to a rapidly-growing Finnish fish farming industry.

Recently, the National Resources Institute of Finland (Luke) opened a recirculating aquaculture (RAC) testing and learning environment at the Laukaa fish farm; it will help test technical solutions and examining biological limits in aquaculture.

“So far, the volume of fish produced has remained small, because the high costs of the recirculating aquaculture method have enabled us to use it only for farming more valuable species. However, now there is a trend towards larger units and the production of mass species, such as the rainbow trout,” explained Tapio Kiuru, senior aquaculture expert at Luke.

Finland has worked to overcome its aquaculture obstacles, the biggest being environmental permitting issues. Over the course of the past few years, the government has has granted new production permits for RAC systems due to the fact that the systems emit significantly nutrients than other fish farming methods.

RAC is not new, but Luke says “Finland has a number of concrete competitive advantages” for it.

“In terms of availability and price of necessary inputs, such as energy and liquid oxygen, our position is excellent compared to that of many of our competitors,” Kiuru said. “We have plenty of clean fresh water, suitable locations for farms and excellent logistics. We can draw on the Finnish expertise in biology and process industry.”

The new facility in Laukaa will help to modernize production methods, such as improving fish feed for RAC and utilizing water quality measuring equipment.

“It was the Finnish fish farms that first voiced their need for a testing and learning environment. The equipment has also attracted attention abroad,” Kiuru concluded. “The environment, which is also suitable for research purposes, helps in attracting the international funding, networks and knowledge required by the companies in the field.”