Fifax’s production facility in Eckerö is one of the largest land based fish farming production facilities in the Northern Europe, measured by production capacity.
Fifax’s vision is to be a forerunner in large-scale sustainable fish farming with a minimal impact on the environment, so that locally and sustainably produced fish can be enjoyed by its customers all year round.
Established in 2012, Fifax utilizes ultra-intensive Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) technology based on the principle of an almost completely closed water circulation within the facility, where the fish live indoors in large onshore pools. Indoor pools provide more safeguards against external factors compared to traditional fish farming in water bodies,
The production method utilized by Fifax uses filtered water pumped from the Baltic Sea, which is continuously purified and recycled utilizing the RAS method. This method aims to reduce the environmental impact that can cause challenges in the use of more traditional fish farming methods. In this way, Fifax is able to ensure a controlled growth environment for fish in clean water all year round. As a result, Fifax is able to offer its customers a high-quality end product. Fifax’s use of antibiotics in its production is limited to exceptional circumstances.
The end product (adult slaughtered fish), is transported with the help of logistics partners to fish processors and wholesalers in Åland, mainland Finland and Sweden. Customers further process the fish into products suitable for their own customers or sell the fish whole, as fillets, as processed products and ready-made portions for sale to consumers in whole or fillets.
Fifax’s operations cover the full production chain for farmed rainbow trout. Fish are hatched, cultivated, purged and slaughtered under one under one roof at Eckerö production facility. The end product is fish ready for customer deliveries. The full production chain is achieved in an almost closed-loop plant, with limited effect from external factors such as the weather, climate, environmental factors and water disturbances.
Land-based RAS farming of the kind conducted by Fifax has certain production efficiency related advantages. As a land-based facility offers more possibilities to optimize the growth environment of the fish through a fine-tuned, largely automated system-operated process, Fifax has the ability to manage the consistent high quality of its product. In addition, the fish grow in a relatively steady and stable manner, and year-round production is more predictable compared to more traditional fish farming methods.
The rainbow trout produced by Fifax is well-suited for land-based farming, and has certain key advantages compared to salmon. Rainbow trout is somewhat less sensitive to changing temperatures and other external conditions, which contributes to a lower mortality rate. Rainbow trout also grows to harvest size at a faster rate, and is likely to have a somewhat better feed conversion ratio. In other words, rainbow trout more efficiently converts feed into the final output of fish meat and at a faster rate, which in turn enables a more efficient production process. In addition, the somewhat higher flexibility with respect to harvest size offers commercial benefits as Fifax is able to utilize market gaps for smaller fish by slaughtering fish in different growth phases in accordance with the wishes and needs of customers. This enables adjusting production to correspond with prevailing demand, to some extent. Besides benefits attributable to the production process, the final product generally has some less fat and more protein than salmon, which is however essentially dependent on the feed provided.
The growth in sustainable fish production is supported by strong food megatrends. Key drivers shaping the overall food market include:
Fifax continuously applies water treatment procedures to the water in the grow-out tanks in order to maintain the health of the fish. RAS production allows the fish to grow in optimized conditions with total control of the water coming in and going out of the system, while recirculating nearly all of the water used. Parameters for temperatures and oxygen levels can be adjusted at all times to improve the growth and well-being of the fish. The grow-out tanks are constantly monitored for algae and other similar impurities. Any solid matter in the tanks is regularly collected and removed during the process. Land-based fish farming also prevents adverse effects to the wild fish population, which in traditional farming methods can occur.
The RAS method aims to maintain the growth environment of the fish clean and minimize the environmental impact of production. Throughout the entire process, factors affecting the quality of the water in the fish tanks, such as temperature, oxygen and pH values, are continuously monitored and measured. The large masses of water in the grow-out tanks are constantly circulated and purified in the water treatment units, where carbon dioxide and solids such as feces are filtered out of the water, and ammonium converted to nitrate in biofilters. A small part of this flow is released into the sea after it has been treated, and a similar amount of new clean water is pumped from the sea to the facility. Fifax only releases water back into the sea after it has been treated and purified. In addition, in land-based fish farming any waste or by-products from the fish is collected and treated and utilized for example as fertilizer. As a result there are no sludge outlet from the land-based farm, which reduces the burden on the surrounding waters and the climate. All electricity needed for Fifax’s operations is renewable, including wind energy.
The location of Fifax’s production facility in the Åland Islands provides close proximity to its current key target markets in Finland and Sweden. Additionally, the short transportation routes result in relatively low transportation emissions. The location contributes to Fifax’s ability to conduct its activities in a sustainable and reliable manner. Fifax also has access to reliable supplies of water and energy.
Fish is one of the most sustainable sources of animal-based protein compared to other traditional animal-based sources. However, conventional farming causes sludge emissions, which, under the anaerobic conditions that quickly can arise in connection to conventional fish farms, lead to significant greenhouse gas emissions. There are no such sludge emissions from Fifax land-based farm at all. Fifax’s management believes there will be increasing pressure to increase the use of more responsible protein sources.
In addition to the waste and emissions, other negative impacts on the environment related to the conventional fish farming may arise from, for example, the use of chemicals, the fish farming’s impact on wild salmon species as well as diseases for example caused by the increased amount of sea lice.
According to the view of Fifax’s management, the Company’s operations also enable supporting several of the UN’s sustainable development goals by promoting healthy living and well-being as part of a healthy diet. Fifax’s focus on sustainable production methods also addresses the need to reduce the carbon footprint and climate impact of animal protein production, and promotes conservation of the seas and the sustainable use of marine resources.
Sustainability is central to the company’s strategy. Fifax’s vision is to be a forerunner in large-scale sustainable fish farming with a minimal impact on the environment. Consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of food production, which results in higher demand for sustainably produced sources of protein. This is particularly emphasized in Fifax’s key markets, which are situated around the Baltic Sea.
The company is now facing a restart of the aquaculture operations and in connection with this, the company is also making further investments in the plant’s biosecurity, production efficiency and energy efficiency. The improvements include strengthening processes and routines, technical upgrades and a compartmentalisation of the facility into further hygiene compartments with separated water flows than previously. Together the actions improve fish growth, water quality and biosecurity, and also reduces the environmental impact of the operations.
We also aim to maximize the value of the side streams generated in its operations. The nutrient-rich by-products resulting from production, which mainly consist of sludge fish discards and fish that died before slaughter, are currently used in feed and fertiliser.
In connection to the restart, the company aims to increase the value of its products by further processing the fish into consumer products and making investments in sales and marketing. The aim is to establish the company’s own brand to increase awareness of the company and its products among its customers and consumers.
Land-based aquaculture based on RAS technology is growing globally with significant investments in production capacity in different parts of the world. Fifax is one of the pioneers in the sector and has built up valuable specialist know-how in the establishment, operation and maintenance of RAS plants. Therefore, Fifax has an attractive opportunity to productize the accumulated process know-how and leverage the industry forerunner position in a growing market, by establishing an advisory and licensing business.
As the current production plant reaches full capacity, the company plans to expand operations by investing in additional capacity on multiple sites. Additional production capacity also offers some operational economies of scale and diversifies operational risks. In the expansion, Fifax estimates to achieve moderate cost benefits through replication of construction and technology, as well as time savings in the ramp-up.
In order to accelerate the execution of elements in this strategy, the company is also exploring M&A opportunities.