RAS gives promise of more sustainable food production with healthier fish, lower consumption of fresh water, and shorter transport distances, as fish can be grown closer to the markets. By controlling the culture conditions, aquaculture production in a RAS facility can be established almost anywhere, regardless of local conditions. By moving the production on land, it can also mitigate the scarcity of available space and competition for access to sea areas. For example, Atlantic salmon can be produced in Dubai or Florida while warmwater shrimps can be grown in Northern Europe.
On the other hand, a RAS facility tends to be quite expensive. Investment costs are high, and the recirculation technology consumes vast amounts of energy and requires to be controlled and managed by a skilled workforce. Furthermore, the technology remains to prove its viability on large-scale production, especially concerning saline water environments. Fish welfare is not necessarily ensured in RAS, and several projects have experienced mass mortality, due to design errors or technical difficulties of the water recirculation. Lastly, without the correct management, fish grown in RAS can have a muddy or earthy off-flavour.
In a world characterised by growing population – and the need for increased food production – limited fisheries resources, environmental impact of traditional aquaculture production, and consumer’s demand for locally produced, environmentally friendly products, there is increasing interest in RAS. Several companies based or originating in the EU are leading the way in technological development.
This study aims to give a better understanding of the sector in the EU, its size and potential for growth. The study includes a mapping of the sector, also putting the technology in perspective and comparing it with traditional farming methods. Three case studies seek to assess the impact of the technology on competitiveness, the impact on operating costs and the differentiation strategies in sales and marketing.