Ace Aquatec has recently expanded its team in North America to tap into the fast growing and diverse markets in Atlantic Canada, British Columbia, and the US.
Regional manager Sam Bowman and product engineer and design consultant Adrian Hulme join scientific research director Dr Jenny Bouwsema to bring a unique combination of operational, technical and research expertise to customers in both aquaculture and fisheries. Bowman, who has previously worked for salmon giants Mowi and Cermaq, as well as feed company Skretting, said customers were looking for newer technologies to provide better operating results, whatever their means of production.
Ace Aquatec has already established itself in the Alaskan wild salmon sector, with its in-water electric stunner installed in 2018 at one of the large enhancement hatcheries to stun broodstock for egg-taking. The stunner has proved such a success at the Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association (SSRAA), with more than 95 per cent egg survival, that a second machine is being fitted at another SSRAA hatchery.
SSRAA production manager Bill Gass said: ‘Based on last year’s results, we can tell the rest of the industry that the Ace stunner is so fast and so efficient - it’s the best system.’
In the aquaculture industry, there are four multi-national net pen salmon producers in Canada - Mowi, Cermaq, Grieg and Cooke, farming in BC and on the east coast.
Bowman said that unlike in much of Europe, Canadian farmers dead haul their fish, with the stunning and bleeding process taking place at farm sites on customised well boats. But there is potential for Ace Aquatec to gain a foothold in the market.
Although percussive stunning is currently deployed by most of the Canadian producers, a new code of practice for farmed salmonids, initiated by the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance, is under development.
Due to be published this autumn, it will establish new standards for animal welfare and humane slaughter, said Bowman, who is in talks with all the big salmon farmers in Canada.
‘The Ace in-water electric stunner is a more humane system and it also provides the added benefits of better flesh quality and longer shelf life, all compelling arguments to look at an alternative system,’ he said. ‘We are a known technology to these companies and they are always on the lookout for better equipment that makes them more productive and efficient.
‘Also, because they are multi-national companies in Canada, we are taking a coordinated approach to introducing our products globally. Bowman thinks the market in Canada has more potential on the east coast, especially in Newfoundland where the government is very supportive of aquaculture and has been pushing hard to attract new companies to the province, on top of providing financial assistance to some of the existing players to help them expand. And there is another ‘very exciting opportunity’ in the new RAS land-based developments in North America, which have potential production of more than 500,000 tonnes – equal to the entire US consumption of Atlantic salmon
‘Land based technology is well established and the market is clearly there and the financial backing is there – it’s definitely happening, it’s just a question of how fast,’ he said. ‘It is great timing for Ace because most of these projects are still in the planning and design stage so we can work our technology for stunning and bleeding into their integrated production and processing facilities.’
There is further interest in the Ace electric stunner from the trout sector, which is concentrated in Idaho, North Carolina, Nova Scotia, and Ontario. Bowman is due to make a presentation to the Ontario Aquaculture Association on humane fish slaughter, part of a webinar organised by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for the Ontario trout farming industry.
He is also in discussion with a US steelhead trout farmer interested in an Ace smolt stunner, which takes fish culls that would otherwise be anesthetised with chemicals and then discarded, and stuns them so they can be used as a raw material for pet food. With Covid restrictions easing, Bowman is looking forward to visiting new customers in person, and catching up with his old contacts. The next few months are certainly going to be busy.