Offshore project seeks permit to ramp-up Hawaiian ops
May 17, 2016
By Erich Luening
Looking to boost their successful Velella project’s offshore fish pen production by six times over previous efforts, executives at Kampachi Farms and partners at the offshore aquaculture division of US defense giant Lockheed Martin have applied for a permit to expand the project in federal waters around the Hawaiian Islands.
Neil Sims, Kampachi Farms co-founder and chief executive officer, said he expects a decision on the permit application this spring and believes it’s time to scale-up the project and make it more economically efficient.
Under a permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) which is now up for public comment, Kampachi Farms would deploy a 40-foot-wide cylindrical pen stocked with 15,000 fish in federal waters 5.5 miles off Keauhou on the big island of Hawaii. The site hosted the company’s earlier experiments with smaller pens.
“Two thousand fish is a nice research project. Fifteen thousand fish is a more meaningful research project, but we want to be doing 150,000 fish per cage,” Sims told the local paper Hawaii Tribune and Herald.
The defense company Lockheed Martin partnered with Kampachi Farms to develop the technology used in a successful trial conducted two years ago. A division of Lockheed has since spun off into a venture called Forever Oceans, which Sims said will collaborate on the Vellela project.
The next-generation aquaculture technology of the Velella Mariculture Project was named to Time magazine’s “50 Best Inventions of 2012” list. Citing the growing global demand for Omega 3-rich marine fish and flat wild fish catches, Time noted the potential for an aquaculture method that has no discernible environmental impact.
NMFS officials say the Vellela Delta trial will be well-flushed by ocean currents in 6,000 feet of water, and should have minimal impact on water quality. A maximum of two cohorts of fish would be raised over two years, for a total of no more than 30,000 fish or about 120,000 pounds, according to a draft environmental assessment. Kampachi can be harvested every eight months.
Along with Lockheed, Sims partnered and got funding for the initial Valella trial from the Illinois Soybean Association, which researched and developed alternative feed supplements for the initiative.
— Erich Luening