Aquaculture North America

OAA 2024: Sapphire Springs VP shares update on Manitoba RAS project

March 21, 2024
By Jean Ko Din

Sapphire Springs is looking to finish shell construction by end of 2024. (Photo: Sapphire Springs)

The first of Sapphire Springs‘ Artic char ova will be received into the facility next month, according to Chief Operating Officer Doug Hotson. These genetics will be raised for the operation’s future broodstock. The first batch of commercial stock will be added by April of next year and is expected to be harvested in October 2026.

Hotson shared the company update at the Ontario Aquaculture Association conference in Orillia, Ont., Canada. This conference acts as an annual meeting for Ontario’s freshwater fish farmers. More than 150 attendees were hosted at the Fern Resort on March 19-21.

Sapphire Springs is looking to raise 5,000 metric tons, head-on-gutted Arctic char annually in a C$150 million (US$110.8 million) project located just outside of Winnipeg, Man. Hotson said the company is currently at 30 per cent of its shell construction and is looking to raise additional construction capital.

“What we love about it is when we go into distribution and talk to chefs and or distributors, the consistent message we’ve been getting in Arctic Char is, ‘We really love to fish, but we can’t get it. It’s just not reliably available.’ And so we decided that that would be our mission as a company is to fill that gap,” said Hotson in his presentation.

The facility will be designed to be an “egg-to-plate” operation and will be 99 per cent recirculating aquaculture system. The water will be sourced from a freshwater aquifer that runs under the 625,000 sq. ft. facility. The target harvest size for the fish will be 1.7 kg, but Hotson said the company is confident that they could be up to 2 kg.

“We’re on an old DFO (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) facility that actually did Arctic char research north of Winnipeg. And so there’s an aquifer that runs from the Northwest Territories around the Great Bear Lake, and it runs down and underneath northern Manitoba, loops around and comes all the way back through the Minneapolis down in Minnesota,” explained Hotson.

An audience member asked Hotson about the company’s plans to mitigate off-flavour in the facility and he replied that the program is designed to account for a 14-day purging process.

“So our our purge or off-flavoring process, whatever your whatever we want to call that… when when we do the math and the calculation that says that it’s gonna be six days, I don’t ever believe the math. Don’t trust the math. It’s never right,” said Hotson.

“And so we have got 14 days in our program. To do that naturally, we have consumption of 10,000 litres a minute of water. In our system, we have a water license for 20,000 litres a minute. So I can turn up the volume to help that process, because volume is one of solutions to that. And we’ve built in the allocation for using other products and other and other additives if we have to.”

Hotson said the team is confident that the Artic char can become a premium fish and that the facility is strategically placed to ship products across the continent within 12-36 hours.

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