Ace Aquatec now has sales teams around the world, with new offices established last year in Chile, Norway and Australia, on top of a growing presence in the UK and European markets.The company also has a newly appointed representative in Canada, Sam Bowman, who will report on developments in North America in the next newsletter. Here, five of Ace Aquatec’s regional managers highlight their plans for the first part of this year.Chile
Based in Puerto Montt, Ace Aquatec’s Chilean regional manager, José Luis Charpentier, has an extensive aquaculture background, in marine biology, farming and commercial management.
Since setting up the new office he has continued the company’s long-standing partnership with leading Chilean processor Abick. Abick, which processes fish from several local producers, has harvested trout with Ace Aquatec’s electric in-water stunner, almost doubling productivity since acquiring the technology more than three years ago.
Now Abick has taken delivery of a new stunner for Atlantic salmon and was due to launch a trial in March that it hopes will replicate the success of the trout operation.
Charpentier said other potential clients in the region will be able to observe the salmon stunner - which can be used on fish from one to ten kilos without any calibration - once the trial at Abick is up and running.
‘We have excellent well-established local contractors to support with installations, and we expect to benefit from their industry expertise as we grow our own internal team,’ said Charpentier.
He is also conducting trials with Ace Aquatec’s acoustic deterrent devices, which are currently deployed at three different salmon farms, and will cover two further farms in the next few months.
‘The most important thing is to demonstrate that our ADDs do the job and after that we will discuss legislative requirements,’ said Charpentier, who has already been in talks with the fisheries and aquaculture authorities about licensing criteria.
Ace Aquatec was taking part in a virtual edition of Aqua Sur between March 24-26, ahead of preparations for the next exhibition in March 2022.
Preben Imset Matre, who joined the Ace Aquatec sales team last August from Aquabyte, is developing the Norwegian market from his base in Bergen. He reports interest from the salmon sector in the company’s electric stunning technology and hopes to be able to announce a new customer soon.
In the meantime, he will host Ace Aquatec’s virtual booth at the HavExpo show in late March and, along with CEO Nathan Pyne-Carter, will deliver a digital presentation focusing on the in-water stunner.
Matre has also launched a project with market analysts PwC to better understand the needs of Norwegian fish farmers. Researchers interviewed 20 companies, large and small, including 10 farmers and 10 harvesting sites, drawn from across Norway. Their report, due in March, will then help inform the local sales and marketing strategy, as well as help bring a greater understanding around Norway customer needs.
Through February and March, Matre has been in dialogue with the national organisation NCE Seafood Innovation Cluster, around ways to create meeting places for discussing quality and fish welfare in the slaughter process.
“There is a big focus on fish welfare, and under the pandemic I think the industry has done a great job in creating digital meeting places to learn and discuss topics around fish health, but we see it’s often focused on the sea production phase."
'We hope to engage with other players in the Norwegian space to also discuss fish welfare and quality in the harvest and slaughter process,’ he said.
Matre is building contacts and driving awareness for Ace Aquatec’s products through direct customer conversations, as well as in the media, and has found farmers willing to connect online. But he is looking forward to a return to normal and is hoping AquaNor will go ahead, face to face, this August.
‘We’ve been pleasantly surprised throughout the pandemic by how quickly the industry has changed to adapt to tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, and how willing the different players are to meet online.
‘That being said, it’s hard to replace the relationships you can build by meeting face to face, so I think we’re all hoping, maybe against the odds, that we can have a ‘normal’ Aqua Nor later this year.’
Andrew Thomson-Chittenden, based in St Andrews, is responsible for Ace Aquatec’s UK business which, for the past few months, has been focused on regulations around ADDs.
Ace Aquatec’s deterrents operate at lower frequencies and lower average volumes and already comply with America’s MMPA (Marine Mammals Protection Act) legislation. And in light of new Marine Scotland European Protected Species (EPS) licensing, fish farmers in Scotland have said they will no longer use old-style deterrents, which worked at loud average volumes and higher repetitive frequencies.
As a result of these recent changes, Ace Aquatec has seen increasing interest in its ADDs, said Thomson-Chittenden, who has been overseeing trials with several salmon producers, from the west coast to Orkney and Shetland.
"We developed our deterrents years ago to avoid habituation and permanent threshold shifts that are caused with the older style deterrents. When you plug our device numbers into the MMPA calculator online it tells you immediately that it is certifiable for the US legislation. We’re hoping Marine Scotland will create a similar system here."
In other developments, Ace Aquatec conducted successful trials of its smolt stunner in conjunction with New Zealand King Salmon and Hendrix Genetics, and is now looking at rolling out a portable smolt stunner, through New Zealand King Salmon, for the UK market.
The past few weeks have also seen renewed engagement with salmon farmers wanting to upgrade their harvesting processes, including high level conversations with one of the biggest producers.
‘And we’ve contacted the majority of the trout farmers throughout the UK because we have a very effective trout stunning system,’ said Thomson-Chittenden.
Beyond the aquaculture sector, Ace Aquatec has just confirmed a big deployment of acoustic deterrents for an offshore wind farm being built in Saint-Brieuc, France, with Van Oord.
In the Antipodes, Ace Aquatec’s electric stunner is attracting much interest among barramundi farmers, with one of the biggest producers in Australia due to start a trial by July.
Duncan Fell, Ace Aquatec’s APAC (Asia Pacific) manager, based in Cairns, is a former barramundi farmer himself and has more than 20 years’ experience in aquaculture, mainly on salmon farms in Canada and Tasmania. He said the Australian Barramundi Farmers Association (ABFA) would be part funding the trial, which is the first in electrical stunning of barramundi and replaces ice slurry stunning.
As part of the pilot, Ace Aquatec is undertaking tank tests in Alberta, Canada, to establish the species specific voltage settings, and these parameters will be built into the system in the UK before it is shipped to Australia.
In other developments, yellowtail kingfish farmer Clean Seas of Port Lincoln, South Australia, is installing an electric stunner aboard its harvesting vessel Ulysses, a project expected to be completed by July.
Fell said: ‘As well as the benefits in flesh quality, Clean Seas saw in videos of the system in action that the fish were stunned within one second of entering the tube.’
Ace Aquatec’s stunning technology is also in demand among Antipodean salmon companies, with one of the big Tasmanian producers in discussions over a smolt stunner, and Sanford of New Zealand looking to upgrade its existing humane stunner with a new 500 volt model.
There is also a potential market for Ace Aquatec’s ADDs, said Fell, particularly in the heavily predated waters of Tasmania. One leading company is awaiting a decision from the government’s Animal Ethics Committee for an experimental permit and, if it gets the green light, hopes to launch a trial in two to three months.
Rest of the world
John Stark covers all territories, out with the company’s core markets, with a recent focus on the emerging RAS (recirculating aquaculture systems) farms in North America.
‘The RAS farms are huge investments and consequently the volumes they expect to process are in the tens of thousands of tonnes, so the efficacy and efficiency of our humane stunning process, combined with the water jet bleeder (currently in development), would fit well with that,’ said Stark.
In March, he was involved in organising Ace Aquatec’s participation in the online edition of Seafood Expo North America (SENA), where CEO Nathan Pyne-Carter delivered a presentation on advancements in humane slaughter.
Stark has also been pursuing leads on the Continent, with German and Swiss clients, again with the focus on the in-water electric stunner.
‘The German customer is driven by welfare standards and seeking a grant from the government,’ said Stark.
‘In Switzerland, too, they are driven by public demand for humane farming practices, particularly in relation to slaughter, so they have very tight legislation and producers have to conform. This is driving them towards our type of stunning technology and offers good opportunities for us.’
His next step is to look specifically at German trout farms and at a land-based salmon farming operation in Switzerland.