Offshore farming’s promising potential

Offshore farming’s promising potential InnovaSea Systems’ Senior VP Langley Gace chaired this year's High Energy Mariculture Conference in Corfu. Photo: InnovaSea Systems

Full of enthusiasm for aquaculture's shift offshore, Langley Gace, Senior Vice President of InnovaSea Systems and chairman of this year's High Energy Mariculture Conference in Corfu, shared his thoughts on the potential of the open ocean.

Talking to World Fishing & Aquaculture on the final day of the conference, he reaffirmed the importance of offshore aquaculture in securing food availability to meet the increasing demand for food and protein. During the conference, he stated that the success of offshore aquaculture depends on capital, high quality feed and technology, such as submersible cages.

Langley Gace mentioned these cages again, adding that it was heartening to see commercially viable vendors and equipment providers selling them to industrial players. He explained that submersible cages are key because they have been specifically designed to withstand and retain their shapes and sizes in challenging conditions such as strong currents, high wind speeds and heavy seas. Although there are some challenges, such as feeding, he said, hopes are high that they can become more widespread.

"They are the way to go and they are the way of the future, but the key is to get people to overcome a prejudice or accept a paradigm shift of not being able to see your fish first hand and rely on cameras," he said.

"Products like submersible cages didn't really exist before and we, along with some of our competitors, have been working to fill that gap. It is a big leap from a risk assessment point of view because there is always the chance of storms or disease, but sometimes you need to take a giant leap forward to achieve success. We are currently designing larger sea stations, and I'm in favour of these as long as we manage risk and don't hurt the industry."

He has no doubt that offshore aquaculture will be a big part of future developments in Greece. He emphasised once again the terms 'offshore' and 'open ocean,' saying that although 'offshore,' is commonly used, it is also important to think about the conditions surrounding high energy aquaculture and consider the term 'open ocean.'

"I would like the industry to know that there is offshore and open ocean," he said.

"We have clients, in Panama for example, who are truly open ocean, 12km offshore. Every day, apart from two to three months of the year, they have 1.5 to 2m waves. Along the east coast of South America there are similar wave environments. Those are examples of open ocean. Offshore has a prejudice that it can be about distance."

Looking back at the conference, Langley Gace described it as "a very positive and productive few days," with a number of fish farms and equipment providers and a good variety of topics such as insurance and the tight-knit chain of sea bass within Europe.

These sparked conversation and open, robust discussion in an intimate setting, he said, while the technical visit was "fantastic" on a well-run, family-operated fish farm. He called for greater dialogue between the insurance industry and offshore aquaculture, and challenged technology providers and farm operators to work together to address particular issues and mitigate risk. He also mentioned his excitement at how Greece's aquaculture will evolve. With a great market (Italy), right next door, he described the country as a very good place to grow fish, and with few nearshore sites available, moving further out to sea may become even more of a necessity.

"We have working farms around the world, in Israel, Panama, South East Asia, the Caribbean...these are all high energy, open ocean farms," he said.

"We have open ocean farms that are on-going and working. We are doing it. We think we have a really good place in the future, because the future of aquaculture will be in the open ocean."

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