Salmon farm thrives on Banks Peninsula

Salmon farm thrives on Banks Peninsula
Akaroa Salmon farms a production area of just over 4.5 hectares in the south-western side of Akaroa Harbour.

Pink, creamy, supremely delicious and packed full of Omega 3 health benefits – whether adorning the brunch table, gently cooked on the BBQ or the favoured ingredient on a dinner party plate, New Zealand King Salmon is always a hero.
Akaroa Salmon Ltd has been growing great salmon for 35 year – early adopters in the industry following Duncan and Tom Bates visit to Stewart Island in the 1980’s.
“Back in those days salmon farming was actually a new concept internationally – it was operating in Scotland and Norway and perhaps a little bit on the West Coast of America,” says Duncan, Akaroa Salmon’s managing director.
“New Zealand was pretty early into the game, so following the trip to Stewart Island where there was a farm, Dad and I returned home with the idea that it might be possible to develop a farm in Akaroa Harbour.”
Thirty-five years on, the business is now a vertically integrated operation employing 45 staff; an evolution that Duncan says has occurred over the years – essentially driven by survival.
“From the early days of salmon production we moved into processing and distribution and then invested in a hatchery along with four other producers so that we could control the introduction of replacement stock. We still produce our salmon in Akaroa Harbour, around 600 tonnes a year.”
Duncan suspects Akaroa Salmon might be the world’s smallest privately owned sea pen ocean producer – it is certainly the smallest in New Zealand.
There are a couple of freshwater producers down in the hydro canals in the McKenzie Country, one which produces less than Akaroa Salmon and the other produces 2000 tonne a year.
Then there is the Stewart Island operation, which produces about 4000 tonne a year, and a Marlborough operation producing 6000 tonne a year—both operations are listed companies.
Despite its small scale, from a production area of just over 4.5 hectares in the south-western side of Akaroa Harbour, Akaroa Salmon turns over $12 million a year.
Duncan says 75% of production is supplied domestically to New Zealand restaurants with the balance exported to the United States and some countries within Asia.
“The business has grown organically. There’s a massive demand for our product.
New Zealand’s the only country that is farming king salmon—internationally acknowledged as a superior species to the Atlantic salmon which makes up 95% of world production.
“Omega three is strong in both species. It’s the long chain omega three that gives the health benefit and that’s what King salmon has.”
Salmon farming and the business of Akaroa Salmon has been Duncan’s passion.
“As a primary production system it’s second to none in terms of its use of a natural resource and sustainability. We’re building a new processing plant in Wigram, which will be three times the size of our current plant. We’ve outgrown our current site and the new site will certainly increase capacity.”
Duncan explains that the plan is to continue growing production, subject to maintaining the benthic (seabed) management plan.
“If we’re putting more fish on top of the seabed and feeding them, there will be an impact on the benthic and the natural habitat and that needs to be managed from an environmental perspective.”
With a very positive outlook in New Zealand’s salmon industry, Duncan believes it is an industry that is much better suited to owner operators be-cause there is a different philosophy around the end product.
“The owner operator farmer is interested in their environment and all the things that are important in primary production. My motivation is to grow great fish that can be enjoyed on the dinner plate.”
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