Arid Land Fish Farming: From Beloved Salmon to Filefish

Japan Racing Association

Dryland fish farming, which aims to raise fish and shellfish in onshore ponds on dryland farms in Japan, is showing signs of accelerating. Companies from other fields are entering the business, and fish farming companies are emerging.

These companies are actively trying to move from a model of importing fish to domestic sourcing and adding additional value to fish raised in Japan.

However, the government’s efforts to restore self-sufficiency in seafood production are only halfway to their goal. The authorities must speed up the creation of a support framework for these enterprises.

The fish farming activity has developed by capitalizing on the natural environment of each region. There are seawater tuna, oyster and seaweed farms, while eels and carp are farmed in freshwater bodies such as lakes and rivers. The company has now become a mainstay in the fishing industry.

On the other hand, the Fisheries Agency does not have a clear definition of dryland fish farming. A representative told us that the Agency understands this to be “the practice of farming seafood in an arid zone saltwater facility, as opposed to freshwater aquaculture” .

In the Global Strategy for the Industrialization of Aquaculture Growth, published in July 2020, fish farming in arid environments is described as an activity whose technological development is progressing. The strategy recognizes that it requires further investigation in order to propose specific policies. At present, the Agency does not know the number of companies involved in this activity.

The white-roofed building is an upland aquaculture project at Tannowa Fishing Port in Misaki, Osaka Prefecture.

A revitalization strategy

JR West is known as a pioneering company that got into this industry early on. It became interested for the first time in fish farming in dry areas in 2013. The objective of the project is to enhance the localities served by the company’s rail network by revitalizing local sectors and revitalizing these territories.

In 2018, the railway established its own dryland fish farming brand, PROFISH. Short for Premium Organic Fish, the new company began offering products such as mackerel chub for raw consumption in sashimi. At the end of 2021, he started breeding his eighth type of fish ー filefish. Even today, he continues to create agricultural sites in cooperation with local companies.

In December 2021, Nikken Lease Kogyo introduced Miho Salmon, the trout salmon it farms at its own facilities in Shizuoka City. It uses a 30-meter-deep well dug into the ground to reach a layer naturally infiltrated by seawater from Suruga Bay. There, the fry or young fish grow up to two kilograms within six to eight months.

“We can only produce around 20 tonnes of fish a year, so the price is high,” said a Nikken Lease representative. “We are cooperating with the city of Shizuoka, its chamber of commerce, local distribution and catering establishments so that it becomes a high-quality brand that makes people want to visit Shizuoka.

Aquaculture fish farm in an arid zone where Osaka salmon swim. City of Misaki, Osaka Prefecture (Sankei).

Focused on salmon farming

Closed loop filtration systems have become the standard technology used in dryland fish farming as they have less impact on water resources. The systems control the water used for aquaculture by constantly filtering and recirculating it. Water temperature, quality and nourishment are carefully managed to reduce the risk of fish-specific allergies and parasites. In addition, seasonal changes do not affect the quality of the fish.

FRD Japan, Co., based in Iwatsuki-ku, Saitama Prefecture, is a venture company that aims to market dryland farmed fish. It produces 30 tons of salmon trout per year at its experimental facility in Chiba Prefecture and will start building a facility with a production capacity of 2,000 tons by March 2023, in a move to commercialization.

There are also foreign venture companies whose goal is large-scale domestic production of Atlantic salmon, a popular imported fish for sushi and sashimi. The Norwegian company Proximar Seafood launched the construction of a factory last year in the industrial complex of Oyama, in the prefecture of Shizuoka. With an area of ​​28 square kilometers and an annual production capacity of 6,300 tons, the total amount of investment is expected to reach 17 billion yen (about 140 million US dollars).

A dryland Atlantic salmon farm under construction by Proximar Seafood in Shizuoka Prefecture. (Courtesy of Proximar).

The egg hatching facility will be completed by summer 2022. The fry will grow into five-kilogram fish, and the company aims to begin shipping its product by summer 2024. A Japanese office representative told us that the reason for entering the market is that “there is a market for the consumption of raw Atlantic salmon in Japan, and the political situation is stable.”

Another foreign player is the Japanese subsidiary of the company Pure Salmon based in the United Arab Emirates. The Japanese subsidiary, called Soul of Japan Inc. (Minato-Ku, Tokyo), plans to build a fish farming facility capable of producing ten thousand tons of fish per year, as well as a processing plant. The project aims to start shipping in the fall of 2025. Soul of Japan CEO Mr. Erol Emed explains, “Our facility integrates primary and secondary industries.

Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd. started selling insurance for dryland aquaculture businesses from January 2022. It provides insurance against damage to property (i.e. farmed fish) caused by unexpected accidents. Tokio Marine Nichido says he has already received several quote requests.

Elsewhere, Japanese fishing giant Nippon Suisan Kaisha Ltd. has been carrying out experimental farms in dry land for several years of Spanish mackerel and whiteleg shrimp. He always keeps a conservative attitude in order to determine the costs related to the initial costs of the installation, the energy used during the fish farming and the overall profitability of the business.

FRD Japan’s demonstration facility produces 30 tons of salmon trout per year using closed loop water filtration. City of Kisarazu, Chiba Prefecture (photo courtesy of FRD).

Towards a large-scale economic model

Japan’s self-sufficiency rate in edible fish peaked at 113% in 1964 and has been declining ever since. In 2020, it was around 57%, two percentage points higher than the previous year. But overall, production and consumption have declined.

The next Fisheries Basic Plan, which the Fisheries Agency of Japan is developing, is expected to aim for 94% food fish self-sufficiency by 2032. The expansion of domestic fish production Salmon, a fish that currently has a high import is expected to be included, along with a reporting system that allows the agency to capture the real-time status of the dryland fish farming industry.

Meanwhile, global demand for seafood continues to rise. For example, there has been an increase in inquiries regarding fish surimi. And eating seafood is often considered part of a healthy lifestyle.

According to FAO statistics, farmed fish accounted for 46% of the world’s total catch in 2018. At the same time, some countries have started to address the problems caused by too large-scale offshore aquaculture projects. , fearing that they could contribute to the pollution of the oceans. and disease in farmed fish.

A look at the future of fish farming

As Mr. Yasufumi Miwa, an expert from the Center for Emergence Strategy, Japan Research Institute, said, “Right now, dryland fish farming is moving towards a large-scale commercial model, and it began to flourish based on its role as an industry that provides a source of animal protein.

Fish farming in arid zones is also part of the agro-food industry. And companies investing in it say it’s hard to achieve profitability without moving into mass production, a large-scale industry in which initial investments are small.

Considering the impact of climate change on the availability of species and quantities of fish, as well as the increase in demand due to a growing world population, Mr Miwa says: “From a food security perspective, it is crucial to establish another pillar. ensure a stable supply of marine products.

“For the sake of future investment, it would be best to work on promoting the dryland fish farming industry. The best way to achieve this is through a framework involving the deregulation of land use, favorable tax treatment and the injection of public funds,” he adds.


Author: Yukako Hino

(Click here to read the article in Japanese.)

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